To be honest, there bragging rights have typically been about the only thing riding on the annual battle for the Old Oaken Bucket. That's not to diminish the importance of this game, but only to state the fact that since 1967, the contest has been played between teams entering the game with over .500 records just five times or 11 percent of the time.
Simply put, Saturday's game is one of a handful were something other than vanity is at stake. Here's a look at those five games when both Indiana and Purdue could rightfully call it a successful season before the season finale was played.
1967: Indiana 19, Purdue 14
A dark day for Purdue fans, a banged up Boilermaker team, with a share of the Big Ten championship already clinched, went into Bloomington a 14-point favorite. IU, which had made a habit of pulling off miracle finishes that season under Coach John Pont, capitalized on Purdue mistakes.
The Boilermakers fumbled at the IU 1, and just weren't sharp for much of the day. And the Big Ten's best defense, broke in a couple of key places, especially on a 63-yard run by fullback Larry Cole. This game allowed Indiana to gain a share of the conference title with the Boilermakers and Minnesota, and also earned it a trip to Pasadena; something the Hoosiers would still be searching for had it not upset Purdue 45 years ago.
1968: Purdue 38, Indiana 35
This game marked one of the greatest comebacks in Purdue football history. The Boilermakers were swimming upstream for most of the day trailing 35-24 heading into the fourth quarter.
Yet, in the final quarter of his historic playing career, Leroy Keyes made it memorable. He was on the receiving end of one of the greatest passes ever in Ross-Ade Stadium. It occurred when quarterback Mike Phipps, playing on a bad ankle, tossed the football nearly 70 yards in the air to an awaiting Keyes who had beaten the IU defender to the goal line. Simply put, no one in Ross-Ade Stadium, or on the IU defense, thought that Phipps could make that throw.
Later in the quarter, it was Phipps who found seldom used (as a receiver) tight end Greg Fenner for a fateful play on the game-winning drive. The contest ended at dusk, with the Boilermakers, a preseason No. 1 team, finishing the season 8-2 and with a measure of pride in-tact.
1979: Purdue 37, Indiana 21
If memory serves, Purdue and Indiana's bowl destinations were decided before this game, but it was an important one still the same. Purdue was headed to Houston to the Bluebonnet Bowl while Indiana to San Diego for the Holiday Bowl.
In this game, the Boilermakers really dominated the game. On the unseasonably warm day in Bloomington, Purdue was having it was with Coach Lee Corso's best IU team leading 27-7 early in the third quarter. The Hoosiers rallied to cut the lead to 27-21 before the period ended, quarterback Mark Herrmann and the Boilermakers got the offense back in gear.
The junior quarterback was terrific in the game hitting 26-of-40 passes for 269 yards, but it was the Boilermaker ground game that proved Purdue's dominance. And Purdue did it with its second and third stringers at the position as injuries had forced Ben McCall and Mike Augustyniak into the limelight. McCall responded with 148 yards rushing and Augustyniak 76 yards and three touchdowns.
1980: Purdue 24, Indiana 23
Whether it was the emotion of one of Purdue's biggest Senior Days in Ross-Ade Stadium ever, or just the fact that Hoosiers' came to play, this one came down to the wire. Purdue fans had to say goodbye to some storied names in the program: Herrmann, Burrell, Young, Quinn to name a few.
Scoring 10 early points, the Hoosiers nearly shut the vaunted Boilermaker offense out in the first half, as Purdue managed just a Rick Anderson field goal with 18 seconds left before intermission. Third quarter touchdown by McCall and Burrell gave Purdue a 17-10 cushion, but the Hoosiers would not go away.
In the end, it a came down to the game's final seconds. With just 17 seconds left, Hoosier quarterback Tim Clifford found Corso's son Steve in the end zone to cut the margin to 24-23. Papa Corso decided to go for the win, when linebacker Mike Marks made his senior day one for the ages as he intercepted the two-point conversion pass to give Purdue the win.
2007: Indiana 27, Purdue 24
Neither the Boilermaker and Hoosier teams were quite as accomplished as the ones mentioned above, but this game was still a classic. With Indiana trying to secure an over .500 season for the first time since the Bill Mallory Era, and also trying to win for their late coach Terry Hoeppner, there was great drama in this contest.
Things looked to be easy for the Hoosiers as they led 24-3 in the third quarter. The Boilermakers, despite being comatose on offense for the first half, nearly pulled off their greatest comeback in school history (no Purdue team has come from three touchdowns down and won before or since) by rallying with three unanswered touchdowns.
But the heavens were smiling down on Hoeppner and the Hoosiers as Austin Starr converted on a dramatic 49-yard field goal with 30 seconds left to give the Hoosiers the win.
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