When he arrived in January, offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer saw the same message posted on signs around IU’s football facility.
Quarterback Peyton Ramsey didn’t grow up in Indiana, but after four years in the program, seeing the same message on the wall every day, he knows how much this week means, and how every other week leads up to it.
“What have you done today to beat Purdue?”
DeBoer thought the signs were still up from the final week of the year, left from IU’s season ending loss to Purdue. But those signs never came down, and DeBoer learned quickly just how much this week means too.
It’s a message that the program has focused around for decades.
It’s the same message that drove Lee Corso and the 1979 Holiday Bowl champion team 40 years ago and it was the message written on their cards when they returned to Bloomington for their anniversary this fall.
It’s a message that has continued to push IU head coach Tom Allen’s team every day since losses to Purdue to keep IU out of a bowl game in two straight years. The Hoosiers have worked each day to beat Purdue, and get the bad taste, finally, out of their mouth.
“Absolutely something that has really bothered me these last two years,” Allen said. “Obviously there were a lot of things that happened when we lost that game, lost the opportunity to go to a bowl game the last two years. It was a very, very difficult offseason to have to sit there and kind of have that over your head, in your heart.”
Allen has stressed each week that the team’s sole focus is on the team coming up next. But with signs plastered around the building, Purdue is always in the back of their mind. Allen is from Indiana, he knows how important this game is and he just had to wait for the right time to emphasize it. That time is now.
With the two straight losses, let alone the implication of them, it isn’t hard to get his team up for this one. Even with the mindset the team has played with all season, not worrying about the Old Oaken Bucket until the week it can be won, everything has built up to IU’s shot at revenge.
#iufb lost their final home game of the season in a rain-soaked matchup against Michigan.@kurt_spitler was there to capture the sights and sounds of Bloomington on Senior Day. pic.twitter.com/IxjmB2FcgE
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) November 25, 2019
It’s the game that Coy Cronk has focused on all season. Whether it’s his last Bucket game is still uncertain, but even though he won’t play this weekend, it’s still of utmost importance to him.
Cronk is from Lafayette. His family is full of Boilermakers. It always makes for a different type of Thanksgiving, knowing the game is just days away. When Cronk looks up in the stands at Ross-Ade Stadium he sees scores of familiar faces, just as he does at Memorial Stadium.
He just wants to beat them. He’s emphasized that to his teammates all year, showing the new faces to this rivalry just what it means to those who have grown up in the midst of it.
“There’s always a little bit more on the line, and it’s always real personal for me,” Cronk said all the way back at Big Ten Media Day. “I’ve got a lot to prove in that game.”
The postseason implications may not be as high as they’ve been in years past. IU has already clinched bowl eligibility and Purdue has already clinched bowl ineligibility. But it’s still just as big for Indiana as it tries to win the Bucket back, and it’s still just as big for Purdue, trying to spoil Indiana’s season and send it tailspinning into a bowl game.
IU is facing a battered Purdue group, down to its third string quarterback and likely without Rondale Moore. It’s a 4-7 Purdue team up against IU’s 7-4. Coming off two straight losses, Allen wants to make sure his team has momentum going into the bowl game.
But a win not only is revenge for coming up short of a bowl game at the hands of Purdue two straight years, but a sign of what Allen has changed in year three. No longer is it a middling IU team entering this week desperate for a win simply to play one more game, but a team looking to win the Bucket, and high expectations beyond it before even stepping on the field.
“Finishing with a victory to get the Bucket back, get momentum going into our bowl game,” Allen said, “it’s huge for our program, for our future, and for what we’re building here.”