WEST LAFAYETTE — Purdue tailback Akeem Shavers rushed for 126 yards and a touchdown and caught two passes for 99 yards and two scores while quarterback Robert Marve threw for 348 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Boilermakers to a 56-35 win over Indiana in front of 42,638 at Ross-Ade Stadium to maintain control of the Old Oaken Bucket.
The Boilermakers improve to 6-6 overall, 3-5 in the Big Ten and qualify for a bowl game for the second straight season. Indiana junior tailback Stephen Houston rushed for 158 yards and three touchdowns and also caught 12 passes for 95 yards, but the Hoosiers fell to 4-8, 2-6 and head into the offseason having admittedly lost a significant amount of the momentum the program had gained in late October and early November with wins over Iowa and Illinois.
“It’s really hard on us,” redshirt junior safety Greg Heban said. “Coming after the Illinois and Iowa game, we had some momentum. Coming back to Wisconsin, Penn State and this game, I feel like we just lost it all. We blame a lot of that on the defense.”
Considering the Hoosiers’ performances in those games, it’s hard not to. After Indiana’s 24-21 win over Iowa on Nov. 3, they gave up 45 points or more in each of their last three games and a total of 163 points in those three contests — an average of 54.3 per game. They surrendered at least 540 yards of offense in each of those games, giving up 558 to the Boilermakers on Saturday.
Purdue had something to do with that, but so did lots and lots of missed tackles at critical times.
“It’s just our technique and fundamentals,” Heban said. “Overpursuing on the ball, not staying where you need to be on his inside hip. It’s something I know we’re going to work on in the offseason a lot. It’s something that if we want to be successful as a defense, we have to tackle. We’ve had way too many missed tackles these past two or three weeks. … It’s something we have to stop.”
The Hoosiers also had issues taking care of the ball. Sophomore quarterback Cameron Coffman threw for 348 yards — the most every by an Indiana quarterback in the Old Oaken Bucket game — but he also threw three critical interceptions. The Hoosiers gave the ball away on another occasion with a fumble by sophomore tailback D’Angelo Roberts to finish with four turnovers.
“Stat wise, you can make some numbers look good,” IU coach Kevin Wilson said. “But bottom line, when you turn the ball over four times on the road, you’re not gonna win.”
Said Coffman: “You can’t win football games when you turn the ball over, especially in the second half. I couldn’t tell you for sure really what happened on all of them. I have to go back and watch the film, but you can’t win football games turning it over that many times.”
The most critical came shortly after the Hoosiers had lost the opportunity to claim momentum.
Indiana took a 21-14 lead into the second half, but surrendered three straight touchdowns — a 19-yard pass from Marve to wide receiver O.J. Ross, a 1-yard plunge by wildcat quarterback Rob Henry and a 25-yard pass to wide receiver Gary Bush from Henry — to allow the Boilermakers to take a 35-21 lead.
However, the Hoosiers tied the game early in the fourth with a 1-yard run by Coffman and a 6-yard scoring throw from Coffman to sophomore wideout Cody Latimer. On the ensuing kickoff, Purdue returner Raheem Mostert fumbled the kick and had to fall on the ball at the 1-yard line.
The Boilermakers got out of the shadow of their own end zone, however, and after they reached their on 27-yard line, Marve found Shavers wide open on a screen pass for a 73-yard touchdown to make it 42-35.
On the first play of the ensuing possession, a pass from Coffman ricocheted off the hands of junior tight end Ted Bolser and was picked off by Purdue safety Max Charlot at the Indiana 42. Five players later, Marve hit Shavers on another screen pass for a 26-yard touchdown to make it 49-35.
Coffman threw another interception on Indiana’s next drive. Safety Antoine Lewis returned it all the way to the Indiana 4-yard line and Shavers scored from 1 yard out to provide the final tally.
“Momentum’s a big thing in college football,” sophomore quarterback Cameron Coffman said. “Obviously, that got the momentum going their way a little bit. Like I said, it’s tough to win having turnovers.”