When the Indiana Hoosiers lost to the Purdue Boilermakers 41-14 Saturday, it clinched two things. The Old Oaken Bucket returned to West Lafayette for the fourth straight season and the senior class at Indiana never held the Bucket in victory.
As the Indiana senior class walked off the field for the final time, watching the Boilermakers hoist the Bucket on their turf, it was a scene of celebration none of the Hoosiers could share a memory of.
"It's difficult that this is my last game and last time playing with these guys," said senior linebacker John Pannozzo. "It's tough, but you have to stay strong for the younger guys. Hopefully they see this and they're not going to want this for their senior year. Hopefully it'll mean something to them."
Indiana last won the Old Oaken Bucket in 2001, when Atwaan Randel El led the Hoosiers to a 13-7 win at Memorial Stadium. Only seven of the 17 current Hoosier seniors were a part of the program then, and they were just redshirt freshmen under then-head coach Cam Cameron, their first of three head coaches. Meaning no current Hoosier has actually ever played for and won the Bucket.
This graduating class for Indiana saw their most productive season under first-year head coach Terry Hoeppner. With four wins this season, the 2005 senior class won a total of 12 games while at Indiana, including four Big Ten games, and made no bowl game appearances.
"For him to take us in as if we were his own was something tremendous," said senior Victor Adeyanju about his one season under Hoeppner. "I mean even though he was here for only a short time, I feel like I've known him for a long time and for him to take us in like that really meant a lot to us seniors. He could have just as easily pushed us aside and gotten the young guys ready. I think he will be the guy to take this program to the next level."
In one season under Hoeppner, the Hoosiers were able to win more games than any team since that 2001 team that last won the Bucket won five games. But most importantly Hoeppner has laid down a foundation for a tradition not seen in Bloomington for quite some time.
"Just the walk alone was like a dream," said Adeyanju. "It was something that I have never seen before. It just brings a feeling and emotion to you. It just brings back that football atmosphere that was much needed in Bloomington and putting football back on the map in Indiana."
The senior class included starters defensive end Adeyanju, fullback/linebacker Pannozzo, lineman Adam Hines, defensive end Ben Ishola, linebacker Kyle Killion, corner Buster Larkins, defensive back Will Lumpkin, defensive tackle Russ Richardson, lineman Isaac Sowells, running back Chris Taylor, running back Yamar Washington and lineman Brandon Hatcher, as well as contributors and sometimes starters linebacker Josh Moore, receiver Rhett Kleinschmidt, defensive back Damien Jones, defensive back Courtney Clency and linebacker Mark Naaman.
"It's pretty tough to take that the seniors didn't get what they wanted," said sophomore quarterback Blake Powers. "They didn't get to go to a bowl game or get the Bucket back. It was really emotional to know that was the last time you're going to see those guys. It's just tough knowing that."
While the Indiana program will continue to evolve, each player leaves a stamp on the program and vice versa. The 17 seniors that played their last game Saturday may have not won the Bucket or a bowl game, but their careers at Indiana will be something they will never forget.
"It really hasn't hit me completely yet," said Adeyanju after the loss. "It hit this morning that this was my last game when I woke up. I guess when Monday afternoon or Tuesday rolls around, when I'm sitting at my place with nowhere to go it's really going to hit me then. I love these guys to death and I've been through a lot with them. It's going to be tough to put this place behind me. Bloomington has been very good to me and I love this place, it's going to be very hard to leave it."
No Bucket for Seniors
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