Valiant IU effort not enough at Purdue

The last time IU headed to West Lafayette for a football game their athletic director called their effort "embarrassing" in a 63-24 loss in 2004. How far the Hoosiers have come in just two years under Coach Terry Hoeppner. This time around the IU football team will receive only words of praise from Hoosier Nation after giving an inspiring effort, but coming up just short in a 28-19 loss.

The last time Indiana headed to West Lafayette for a football game their athletic director called their effort "embarrassing" in an uncompetitive 63-24 loss in 2004.

How far the Hoosiers have come in just two years under Coach Terry Hoeppner.

This time around the IU football team will receive only words of praise from AD Rick Greenspan and the rest of the Hoosier Nation after giving an inspiring effort, but coming up just short in a tough 28-19 loss at Purdue to end their season.

"I'm proud of them and I just told them that," Hoeppner said of his players. "I also told them that in football in and in life you don't get what you want and maybe you don't even get what you deserve. But I'm especially proud of these seniors. I'm real sorry we don't get to play another game together with them."

The Hoosiers won't reach their goal of "Playing 13" and breaking a 13 year bowl game drought due to another solid day from the Purdue offense. Quarterback Curtis Painter passed for 260 yards and a touchdown, overcoming a career-high four interceptions, the most taken by a Hoosier team since September 1998. Despite their five turnovers in the game, the Boilers rolled up 429 yards of offense and had balance thanks to a 17-carry, 94 yard rushing performance from tailback Jaycen Taylor.

That was enough to secure the victory due to an IU team that also couldn't hold onto the ball. The Hoosiers largely wasted 500 yards of total offense on the day due to four turnovers of their own, including a costly fumble on the one-yard line by Demetrius McCray.

"Mistakes cost us today and that was the story of the game," said Hoeppner. "So many turnovers and missed opportunities."

The miscues were enough to negate a dazzling performance from redshirt freshman quarterback Kellen Lewis. The Hoosiers may not have got the win, but they got another positive sign for the future from Lewis, who had 393 yards total offense thanks to 103 rushing yards and 290 passing yards on 26-42 passing. The Florida native had several electric runs, including an untouched 15-yard rushing touchdown, and completed a key seven-yard touchdown pass to James Hardy late in the game. His rapid development as an IU signal-caller was obvious to all in attendance on this day.

"He continues to get better and I think he will continue to get better," Hoeppner said of Lewis. "To do what we did today with being so thin on the offensive line with all the injuries we had…we just came up a little short and we will live to fight another day, though."

But they won't play again until next fall due to missed opportunities Saturday. Once a crazy first half concluded with IU trailing just 7-3, the Hoosiers had their chances even after falling behind 21-10 early in the second half due to a pair of Purdue touchdowns. The Hoosiers didn't lie down like two years ago, though, and fiercely battled back.

It started with a 31-yard field goal by Austin Starr late in the third quarter, but the sophomore kicker couldn't get his next attempt, a 26-yarder from a tough angle, that would have cut the lead to just five points. But IU wasn't dead by any means. On the very next offensive play Painter threw a deep bomb over the head of Selwyn Lymon and into the waiting hands of IU cornerback Tracy Porter. Porter, who had a huge day that included a 71-yard fumble return, took the interception to the IU 45. On the very next play IU's McCray exploded 53 yards down the right side of the field before being pushed out at the Purdue two-yard line.

The Hoosiers were then stopped cold on their next three plays setting up a critical 4th and goal at the two-yard line, trailing 21-13. The Hoosiers attempted to quickly line-up in the swinging gate formation for a fake field goal, but Purdue called a timeout just before the snap. After the break, the Hoosiers decided to go for it and it paid off in a big way when Lewis lofted a perfect pass to receiver James Hardy in the back of the endzone. Hardy went up and over Boiler linebacker Stanford Keglar for the seven-yard touchdown. Hardy would finish the day with nine catches for 151 yards. Indiana then went for the two-point conversion, but a draw play for Lewis was sniffed out and stopped short by Purdue.

Still, the Hoosiers now trailed just 21-19 with over nine minutes left to play. However, the Boilers once again had an answer as they did all second half. Painter coordinated a nine-play scoring drive that culminated with a bit of trickery. Purdue ran a double reverse to receiver Dorien Bryant and although IU defensive end Kenny Kendal read the play perfectly, he couldn't make the tackle and neither could Porter as Bryant scooted into the endzone. The score gave the Boilers a 28-19 lead with just five minutes left in the game.

Knowing they had to score quickly, IU went to their two-minute offense and Lewis quickly moved the Hoosiers to midfield. But on 3rd and 1 at the Purdue 45-yard line a deep bomb to Hardy was caught just out-of-bounds setting up a do-or-die 4th down. Indiana opted to hand the ball off to Thigpen, who rushed to the right side and came up just inches short of the first down. The play was reviewed, but the Hoosiers lost their third official replay review of the game and the Boilers took over at midfield. Purdue then used a series of running plays to run out the clock and end the Hoosiers' dream of "Playing 13".

"I told them they are all going to have IU degrees, you will have a lot of great years ahead of you, and we will never forget you," said Hoeppner trying to console his graduating seniors. "I'm very proud and just wish we had one more to play with these guys."

Probably because their last game was so intriguing. The first half of play featured more action than a Jackie Chan flick. After stalling on their first drive, Purdue was churning down the field until Painter was intercepted by IU senior Will Meyers, who returned it 25 yards out of the Boiler red zone. The Hoosiers were unable to capitalize, though, as they couldn't move the ball and had a punt blocked. The Hoosiers managed just three yards on their first three drives in what was a very one-sided offensive contest early. After the blocked punt, Purdue marched just 33 yards for a 7-0 lead thanks to a three-yard touchdown run by tailback Taylor.

However, the Hoosier offense, led by the electric play of Lewis, came alive. The dual-threat quarterback countered the Purdue score by orchestrating a 15-play drive that spanned two quarters. The Hoosiers methodically worked the ball past midfield, but then faced a 4th and 1 at the Purdue 41. Hoeppner decided to go for it and fullback Josiah Sears barely eked out the first down to keep the drive alive.

Two plays later Lewis hung tough in the pocket to complete a 16-yard pass to receiver Jahkeen Gilmore, but he paid the price by taking a crushing hit from Purdue defensive end Anthony Spencer. Lewis was forced to the sidelines as Blake Powers entered the game at quarterback, but quickly returned on the next play. He immediately completed his next two passes to set up a Hoosier first and goal situation from the five-yard line. At this point in the game Lewis was a red-hot 8-9 passing, but the Hoosiers luck would soon turn. On second and goal McCray rushed to the brink of the goalline, but fumbled the ball away to Purdue at the one-yard line. Purdue's George Hall jumped on the ball for Boilers.

"If we could have put together a couple of scoring drives…you fumble at the one-yard line and that's a tough one there," said Hoeppner. "We had other opportunities, too. The score could have been completely different at halftime or in the third quarter."

Purdue then had another promising scoring drive going as they easily moved the ball into IU territory thanks to a 42-yard playaction pass from Painter to receiver Greg Orton. That completion put the Boilers near another score, but Painter was then intercepted on his next pass, which went through Lymon's hands and into the grasp of Meyers for his second pick of the day.

"The defense really stepped up in the first half," said Hoeppner of his unit.

On the ensuing Hoosier drive Lewis broke free for a 62-yard run to the Purdue 11-yard line, but the Hoosiers would have to settle for a difficult angled 31-yard field goal from Starr. That closed the gap to 7-3 and would prove to be the last score of the half, but more incredulous action followed.

After Indiana's Ray Fisher coughed a ball up to end a drive, Purdue quickly responded with a turnover of their own as a Painter pass was tipped by Porter and into the hands of Troy Grosfield. On the Hoosiers next drive, though, Thigpen was called for a fumble after an official review overturned the ruling on the field. That gave each team three turnovers apiece in the first half alone, but they weren't done yet as the craziest play of the day came on the next drive.

Purdue's Taylor took a run off the left side, but fumbled the ball away to Porter. The fleet-footed junior then made an incredible, weaving 75 yard return deep into Purdue territory and seemed to be headed for a score. However, Purdue's Jake Standeford poked the ball out at the 15-yard line and through the Hoosier endzone. It was ruled a safety and Purdue was awarded the ball on their own 20-yard line. Neither team could score on their last drives of the first half and went into the lockerroom exhausted and in a tight 7-3 game.

The second half brought no relief for the Hoosiers as they were simply outlasted by the Boilers on their home turf. Still, Hoeppner admitted that he saw a lot of progress from his team not only in this game, but over the course of a very tough year.

"We did (take major strides this year)," said Hoeppner. "This would have been really special for this senior class that has played well, led well, been so loyal.

"We move on now and we will learn from this and keep fighting."

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