Indiana rallies past Purdue 23-16 to keep Bucket
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Zander Diamont will definitely put Saturday’s touchdown run on his Bucket list.
Indiana’s fans won’t forget this one, either.
The much maligned freshman quarterback capped a second-half rally by scoring on a 1-yard run with 27 seconds left to give Indiana a 23-16 victory over rival Purdue.
“It’s hard to describe a moment like that, it’s something you dream about,” Diamont said after Indiana reclaimed the Old Oaken Bucket. “Getting to score and just kind of having this moment with my teammates to celebrate, it means the world. Especially after the season, it hasn’t been easy for us.”
It couldn’t have been a more fitting finale.
Last year’s Los Angeles City Player of the Year came to Indiana expecting to redshirt. When the Hoosiers’ top two quarterbacks both sustained season-ending injuries in mid-October, the 19-year-old was pressed into service. Over the next five weeks Diamont heard mostly critiques and catcalls.
A breakthrough performance at Ohio State last week provided some hope and Diamont followed that up with another solid showing Saturday. He finished 15 of 24 for 119 yards, ran 11 times for 34 yards and led the Hoosiers (4-8, 1-7 Big Ten) to scores on five of their final six possessions including his decisive score.
For Indiana, it was a banner day.
The Hoosiers snapped a six-game losing streak and earned the Bucket for the second straight season, a feat they last achieved in 1993-94.
Diamont got his first college win.
Tevin Coleman ran 29 times for 130 yards, becoming the first Indiana player and the 18th in Football Bowl Subdivision history to top the 2,000-yard mark in what could be the junior’s final college game. He finished the season with 2,036 yards rushing and said he would consider leaving early for the NFL.
Senior receiver Shane Wynn scored Indiana’s first touchdown on a 41-yard run, his only carry of the day, and caught six passes for 47 yards. He tied Damarlo Belcher for second on the school’s career reception list (189), falling two receptions short of James Hardy’s record.
But getting their hands on the Bucket one more time was all Indiana really wanted.
“I wasn’t even worried about the 2,000, I was worried about the win,” Coleman said. “That’s all I wanted and that’s all I wanted for my seniors and that’s all we did.”
Things sure didn’t look good early when Indiana couldn’t convert any of Purdue’s three first-half turnovers into points, had only four first downs at halftime and blew their first scoring chance when an ugly 38-yard field goal attempt into a blustery wind failed.
Purdue (3-9, 1-7) managed just two 26-yard field goals in the half — one coming on an 11-yard drive.
All that changed quickly in the second half.
Tegray Scales picked off Austin Appleby’s first pass of the third quarter, which Indiana turned that into a 23-yard field goal. Appleby was 19 of 35 for 123 yards with three interceptions.
On Purdue’s next play, Akeem Hunt found a hole in the middle of the line, cut right and, with blockers in front, sprinted down the sideline for an 82-yard score that made it 13-3 with 9:25 left in the third. Hunt finished with a career high 171 yards before leaving with a head injury.
“I don’t know what he rushed for, but he’s done a really nice job for us this year,” said coach Darrell Hazell, whose sixth straight loss made him the first Purdue coach since Fred Akers in 1987-88 to lose his first two Bucket games. “He’s a complete 180 from where he was last year, in my opinion.”
Indiana was just getting started, though.
Oakes answered with a 41-yard field goal and Wynn’s long scoring run tied it again at 13 with 2:25 left in the third.
Coleman’s fumble early in the fourth quarter led to Griggs’ third field goal, a 20-yarder that made it 16-13. But Oakes tied it again with a 34-yard field goal with 6:31 left, and after forcing a Purdue punt, Diamont methodically led the Hoosiers down the field, capping the eight-play, 65-yard drive with the memorable 1-yard keeper that will live in Bucket Game lore forever.
“It was just like we all knew it was time to go,” Diamont said. “So we just said `We’ve got to do it.”
*Photo courtesy of AP Photo/John Sommers II