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November 23, 2012

Kickin' with Kitch: Indiana

Senior Day, The Bucket, and a bowl are all on the line Saturday for the Boilers.

I love it when the Bucket game has a little more meaning than just bringing it back to its rightful home inside Mollenkopf. With the Boilers leading the series 71-36-6, it's hard to say that it is really a rivalry by the win/loss ratio.

Usually the Boilers are playing FOR a bowl game and the Hoosiers are playing the game AS a bowl game. Don't get me wrong, keeping the Bucket in West Lafayette is a priority, but my most memorable Bucket game had very little to do with the Bucket itself. It's the fact that we filled the Bucket with roses back in 2000.

I have many gaps in my memory, but one that I do recall vividly is watching my best friend Brady Doe intercept a pass from Antwaan Randle El in the north end zone to seal the victory. I was so fired up for him and I ran to congratulate him. It was kind of surreal, after we hugged it out we both turned to the south end zone and it was just a sea of fans on the field. It was unbelievable how many people were on the field. We never did make it to the South end zone where all of the festivities were taking place. We just enjoyed hanging out and partying with our fellow students on the field. That was the best feeling I had as a college football player for sure.

I was talking with Pete Quinn about it earlier this season and he said it was the weirdest thing that the field was packed with fans, but when you looked around the stadium, it looked packed in the stands as well.

There are 20 seniors playing their last game inside of Ross-Ade Stadium tomorrow. They all have impacted the program in a special way, but there are three that I will be especially sad to see walk off the field for the last time. Peters Drey is a young man that has been wonderful to my kids. My boys get so fired up to see Peters at the Bridge Walk for every home game because he always takes the time to stop and talk to them and really pay attention to them.

We are big Peters Drey fans because he has really had to overcome a lot to play this season. He has had some similar back issues that I had and I give him a ton of respect for fighting through those and finishing his college career. If you watched us play Illinois last Saturday then you saw one of the best and most athletic blocks for an O-Lineman. On Akeem Hunt's 63-yard screen pass reception Peters was leading the way down field and made a great block 50 yards from the line of scrimmage to get Akeem in the end zone. For him to be leading the pack and then have the athleticism to throw a block on a safety was very impressive.

The other two seniors that I am going to point out are Ralph Boldin and Robert Marve. When you talk about toughness, fighting through adversity and what it takes to be a Boilermaker these two young men exemplify all of those traits and more. Between them they have had six ACL surgeries and Robert is actually playing with a torn ACL now. When I saw Ralph pull up after he was sprung for a huge run last week my heart sank and all I could think about was I hoped he did not injure that knee for a fourth time. When I saw him smile as he was coming off the field I felt much better.

Robert has been through more than just about any player in the history of college football. His story is remarkable and I am so happy to see him start for the Boilers and be playing good football. Robert should go down as one of Purdue fans favorite players. This guy has done everything asked of him, kept his nose clean, and had an unbelievable attitude throughout the entire process. He is a winner and will be successful in whatever he does in the future.

Coach Hope has decided to change up the pregame a bit, so that we can celebrate our seniors and still come out of the locker-room focused and ready for the game to start. Please show up early in the stands to celebrate these 20 seniors. I believe they deserve to hear thunderous applause from fans who are in the stadium. So plan ahead and maybe forgo that last beverage to thank our seniors.

Follow me on twitter and I will let you know what I see from the sideline tomorrow inside Ross-Ade @kelly_kitchel

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