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Indiana looking to end another drought versus Boilers

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


AP Sports Writer

INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana opened the season hoping for a second straight bowl bid.

Instead, it will wind up trying to achieve a different goal: Winning a second straight Old Oaken Bucket.

"Obviously this year hasn't gone the way they had hoped, but we have a chance to do something about that on Saturday," coach Bill Lynch said. "So we're certainly looking forward to that. I know our guys are anxious and ready."

This was not how it was supposed to be this season.

The Hoosiers (3-8, 1-6) had big expectations after finally beating Purdue and ending their long bowl drought in 2007. They openly talked about becoming the first Indiana team since 1990 and 1991 to make the postseason in consecutive seasons, and sweeping an eight-game home schedule.

Neither happened.

Now, Lynch can become the first coach to win back-to-back Bucket games since Bill Mallory in 1993 and 1994. Since then, this fierce rivalry has become a lopsided affair with Purdue winning 11-of-13 since Joe Tiller took over in 1997.

Tiller closes out his coaching career Saturday in West Lafayette.

Purdue also has won 13 of the last 16 overall, so if the Hoosiers are to salvage anything from this derailed season it would be winning the Bucket.

"I think the memories of a game like this are out there, and I think anybody that's played football here at Indiana through the years, they remember the Bucket games," Lynch said. "No matter where they're at, they know it's Bucket week. I think that's what makes it so special."

Fortunately for Indiana, some of the things that have hurt them this season may not be as big an issue Saturday.

Quarterback Ben Chappell, who missed last week's game with a concussion, could play. Quarterback Kellen Lewis, who has been ineffective during the second half of each of the past two games, appears to have recovered enough from a high ankle sprain to be in the mix, too.

The offensive line, which had been riddled with injuries all season should have its two best players, Rodger Saffold and Justin Pagan, available. And Lynch believes running back Marcus Thigpen should be more effective after being slowed by a right ankle injury.

That means Lynch should have most of his key offensive contributors healthy for the first time in weeks, and the Hoosiers may change the game plan accordingly.

"Certainly, a healthy Kellen is something that adds something to our offense and if he can really move, that's something we can use," Lynch said. "I know he's healthier than he has been. But I think they (Chappell and Lewis) are both healthy enough that we can move Mitchell (Evans) outside."

It should help.

But the Hoosiers must still figure out a way to score points, particularly in the second half when opponents have dominated them 187-68.

The problem has been worse in November.

Indiana's last three opponents have outscored the Hoosiers 71-13 over the final two quarters, and Indiana hasn't scored a second-half touchdown since the third quarter against Central Michigan on Nov. 1.

Part of the explanation is the adjustments Lynch has made.

"We went from being a total spread attack, which is what we planned on doing, but when the injuries set in both on the offense, offensive line and with the quarterback spot, we had to change our plans a little bit," he said. "I think that your identity is surrounded by the guys that you have healthy enough to play, particularly at quarterback."

Still, after all that, Indiana has one chance to make amends.

Beat Purdue and the Hoosiers will return home with that all important trophy.

"Anytime you have a rivalry game like this the last week of the season it certainly, no matter what's gone on before it, it's a big football game," Lynch said. "I'm sure Purdue feels the same way."

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