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Redemption comes in all formsPosted Monday, November 28, 2011, at 5:25 PM
BLOOMINGTON -- In sports redemption comes in various ways -- and for the Purdue Boilermakers and Indiana Hoosiers it comes in the shape of a bucket with many I's and P's strung together to make a chain. It's a chain that has seen the two teams battle on the gridiron for possession of the bucket 87 times, including this past Saturday.
That's when I took in my first Old Oaken Bucket Game here at Memorial Stadium.
Both teams came into the contest looking for some sort of redemption. For the Hoosiers it was a chance to salvage one win against their arch nemesis in a season full of missed chances and noticeable shortcomings and for the Boilermakers it was a chance to keep their fading bowl hopes alive and avenge last year's 34-31. win by the Hoosiers.
Indiana has struggled from the start of the year when they lost a 27-20 decision to Ball State inside Lucas Oil Stadium. Their only win amid the 10 losses came at the expense of South Carolina State in week three -- 38-21. Since then they've been anything but a force in the Big Ten Conference.
For the Boilermakers the dream of a bowl bid has been hampered by their own shortcomings on the scoreboard.
With wins over teams like Middle Tennessee State and Southeast Missouri State combined with losses to teams such as Michigan and Wisconsin, the road has been bumpy to say the least. And dropping a Bucket Battle to Indiana would surely have been the final straw for both the team and their fans, let alone third year coach Danny Hope.
But as the fates would have it, the Boilers were benefactors of redemption in an attempt to redeem their season.
The redemption came on the heels of a 23-17 first half score that turned into a 33-25 win.
Indiana scored first on a 52 yard run by Stephen Houston that put them ahead 7-0 when Mitch Ewald hit the PAT with six minutes and 50 seconds to play in the first quarter.
Purdue took their first step toward redemption when quarterback Caleb TerBush connected with Antavian Edison for 14 yards and paydirt.
Things could have settled down then, but instead they continued to be uncertain for either side as the Indiana offense responded with a D'Angelo Roberts 6 yard run that put them ahead for the final time in the game 14-7 with just over a minute to play in the first quarter.
As the curtain rose on the second act of Purdue's bid for redemption, they moved the football to the edge of the promised land but were thwarted and had to settle for what would end up being the first of four Carson Wiggs field goals, a number that would tie the school record by the way.
That cut the margin to 14-10 and left both sides still hopeful of redeeming their season's and themselves.
Wiggs was matched by Ewald as the Hoosier booted a 32 yard effort of his own to keep the margin at seven points before the Boilermakers made what would turn out to be their final run to glory.
First it was an 8 yard run from Ralph Bolden then two more Wiggs field goals before the half ended with the Boilermakers in front 23-17.
After a scoreless third quarter the final pieces of the puzzle came together.
Purdue edged closer as the final quarter slowly faded into memory.
First Wiggs drilled a 22 yarder, then Edison ran the ball in from 5 yards out and seemed to have pushed the lead far enough.
But what would happen next would surely leave any Indiana fan either watching on television, listening on the radio or viewing the game from the stands holding their collective breath for one last final bid for victory.
After Roberts scored his second TD and the Hoosiers added a two-point conversion, things were starting to look more like it would be the Cream and Crimson doing the final celebrating -- or at least forcing extra time to decide things -- when one final burst of redemption came for the Boilermakers.
Indiana held on third down and took the ball at their own 1.
Almost as if the football Gods were writing a script that was not to be believed, the Hoosiers were aided by a defensive holding call in their own end of the field that gave them new life.
Then quarterback Tre Roberson hauled the pigskin for 17 yards on a roll out to his left,
Still the Boilermaker defense played like they knew redemption was in sight.
An incomplete pass left just 4:11 on the clock and the biggest act of redemption for the Boilermakers.
It didn't come from anything more than a call that was ruled unreviewable by the officials.
Roberson found Nick Stoner over the middle at the Purdue 22 yard line. But he also found the waiting arms of Purdue's Josh Johnson.
To those watching on the replay, it appeared that both Johnson and Stoner had possession of the ball. And by rule if both a defender and an offensive player are on the ball, it belongs to the offense.
But the officials ruled an interception and after some words on both sidelines, the ref said the play was unreviewable.
That allowed the Boilermakers to run the final 4:11 off the clock and run themselves into a bowl game.
While I don't know for right now where they will go, it for sure they have earned some redemption despite almost seeing it go away.
As for the Hoosiers, they once again fell to a taste that will be as bitter as the flat soda that sat in front of me on the table as I writer this column.
They will look forward to another chance for redemption when they meet again next November.
Rick is a sports writer for the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached by telephone at (812) 847-4487 ext. 20. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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