WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — All Tom Allen wanted to do was jump on top of the pile, follow the entirety of the IU sideline emptying out onto the field and sprinting toward the end zone, arms raised in the air, helmets tossed across the field and surrounding quarterback Peyton Ramsey, raising the Old Oaken Bucket high above their heads.
He’s hurt his back and he’s gotten black eyes doing that before. For IU’s eccentric head coach, for all his energy, passion and celebration, none of those wounds ever took the unadulterated joy off his face.
But through the chaos of the celebration surrounding him — the Old Oaken Bucket being paraded around Ross-Ade Stadium, Whop Philyor jumping on his back for a celebratory piggy back ride — Allen walked out to midfield with as much pride as ever, doing it all for the school that had given him a chance.
Allen choked up during his postgame press conference, music blaring from the doors of the locker room as the team celebrated inside. Amidst the celebration, Allen spoke of what the win — a 44-41 victory in double overtime against Purdue and the return of the Old Oaken Bucket — meant to him.
“I want to thank President McRobbie and Fred Glass for believing in me a couple years ago and taking a chance on a small town kid from this great state of Indiana,” Allen said as tears began to well. “Not many men would have done that. Living the dream has been pretty awesome.”
It was fitting, of course, that the celebration center around Ramsey. It was a Bucket game that had it all between driving rain, over 1,000 total yards of offense, and overtime. Through it all was the steady hand of the quarterback who has delivered Indiana to its best season in 25 years. After a season in which he lost the starting job, and chose to stay anyway, it was Ramsey who made the game-winning play in the biggest game of the year and he was the one carried across the field as a hero.
He’s been the quarterback taking the biggest hits, fighting for every inch on third down scrambles, and developing into a dynamic passer with an offensive coordinator in Kalen DeBoer who has utilized him better than anyone.
He rushed up to the line after completing a pass over the middle, a favorite play of DeBoer’s, to tight end Peyton Hendershot down to the one yard line. They wanted to play with tempo, which had worked throughout the game, so he snapped it quickly, pulling to his right and running into a Purdue defender. He kept his legs churning, and with a push from running back Ahrod Lloyd, fought across the goal line for the touchdown — the Old Oaken Bucket winning touchdown.
– Ramsey leads again
– Sampson James steps up when called on
– Let’s go bowling
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) November 30, 2019
Through the best and worst moments, Ramsey’s emotions are always even keeled. They weren’t with the biggest touchdown he’d ever scored. He kicked out his leg and his swung his fist, Nick Westbrook and Peyton Hendershot jumping with him as the offensive line and the rest of the jubilant team joined them.
“Those are the kind of things you dream about, making big plays in big games,” Ramsey said.
They were presented with the Bucket in the back of the end zone, and linebacker Reakwon Jones ran with it over to the IU fans behind the bench. He raised it up as he celebrated with the crowd, his teammates jumping into the stands. And he carried it all the way into the locker room as the party pressed on.
The streak was broken, and the Bucket was coming to Bloomington. The one word for Indiana in 2019 has bee ‘grit.’ IU finding a way to win — to finish — in West Lafayette in a game so many IU teams of years past would have lost, exemplified exactly the kind of grit Allen stressed all season.
As the rain poured down on Ross-Ade Stadium, the Big Ten’s best passing offense had to rely on its running game, and do so without Stevie Scott.
Sampson James stepped up.
Mud stained the freshman’s jersey, standing out on the sideline against the pristine, clean white of Scott’s number eight shirt pulled over a red sweatshirt. In his fist career start, James became a workhorse in the first half.
James had 89 yards on 15 carries in the first half. He bullied a Purdue defense already allowing nearly 200 yards on the ground per game. Early on in the third quarter, he secured his first 100-yard game. From the Purdue three-yard line, James was bottled up the middle, kept his legs churning and kept pushing through the entire Purdue defense, stretching the ball over the goal line for six in a run that not only represented his entire body of work against Purdue, but for the whole season.
He didn’t finish the game, totaling 118 yards, but he gave IU early momentum, even if his team couldn’t protect it. The defense couldn’t stop Purdue in the second half, allowing 589 total yards.
“We never blinked,” Philyor said.
Suddenly everything was on the shoulders of Ramsey, and even if it took until overtime, he got the job done. He had Philyor back from injury, and his eight catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns showed just what IU lacked against Penn State and Michigan. He’s lived through the growing pains, and put IU in a position to win nine.
“Peyton is dog, man,” Philyor said. “Without Peyton we wouldn’t have been where we’re at right now. I give him all the credit. That boy’s a dog. He’s tough as nails. You see him out there taking hits and everything for us.”
IU is 8-4, and for the first time since 1993. Indiana has a winning record in the Big Ten for the first time since 1993. After two years of falling short of a bowl game thanks to a loss to Purdue, the bucket is back, and IU heads into December preparing for a bowl game.
“We haven’t been 8-4 in a minute,” James said.
Allen has celebrated every milestone with his team, but they have never been satisfied. They’ve enjoyed it at first before moving on to the next opponent.
“They weren’t all throwing a party when they won six, they wanted more than that,” Allen said. “When they won seven they wanted more than that.”
They aren’t satisfied just yet, they still have sights set on winning a bowl game. But Allen never said he wants his team to flush this one, he certainly isn’t going to himself.