BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Purdue coach Darrell Hazell didn’t sugarcoat things Saturday. He saw the glaring mistakes all over the stat sheet.
Four turnovers. Three interceptions. Three red-zone trips, each resulting in a field goal. A defense that couldn’t get off the field in the second half.
Zander Diamont led rival Indiana to five scores on its final six possessions, the last coming on Diamont’s 1-yard touchdown run with 27 seconds left to give the Hoosiers a 23-16 victory and the Old Oaken Bucket.
“I have to take a step back and evaluate everything,” Hazell said. “I think we’re making some strides, I really do. Unfortunately, we’ve got to get better in a lot of different areas, so we’ll look at every single thing after we get off the road here.”
Not much went right for the Boilermakers (3-9, 1-7 Big Ten).
They finished the season by losing six straight. Hazell became the first Purdue coach to lose his first two Bucket games since Fred Akers in 1987 and 1988. It’s the first time Purdue has lost the Bucket in consecutive years since 1993 and 1994. Linebacker Danny Ezechukwu was even ejected in the third quarter because his arm made contact with an official’s face after a scrum for a fumble.
The one Purdue player who did excel Saturday, Akeem Hunt, couldn’t finish the game because of a head injury. He rushed 19 times for a career high 171 yards — 82 coming on a touchdown run that gave Purdue a 13-3 lead early in the third quarter.
But with Appleby going just 19 of 35 for 123 yards with three interceptions, and the Hoosiers scoring on five of their last six possessions, things fell apart for Purdue.
It couldn’t have been a more fitting finale for Diamont.
Last year’s Los Angeles City Player of the Year came to Indiana expecting to redshirt. When the Hoosiers’ top two quarterbacks both sustained season-ending injuries in mid-October, the 19-year-old was pressed into service. Over the next five weeks Diamont heard mostly critiques and catcalls.
After his breakthrough performance at Ohio State, Diamont delivered another solid showing Saturday. He finished 15 of 24 for 119 yards, ran 11 times for 34 yards and led the Hoosiers (4-8, 1-7 Big Ten) to scores on five of their final six possessions including his decisive score.
“It’s hard to describe a moment like that, it’s something you dream about,” Diamont said after Indiana reclaimed the Old Oaken Bucket. “Getting to score and just kind of having this moment with my teammates to celebrate, it means the world. Especially after the season, it hasn’t been easy for us.”
For Indiana, it was a banner day.
The Hoosiers snapped a six-game losing streak.
Diamont got his first college win.
Tevin Coleman ran 29 times for 130 yards, becoming the first Indiana player and the 18th in Football Bowl Subdivision history to top the 2,000-yard mark in what could be the junior’s final college game. He finished the season with 2,036 yards rushing and said he would consider leaving early for the NFL.
“I wasn’t even worried about the 2,000, I was worried about the win,” Coleman said. “That’s all I wanted and that’s all I wanted for my seniors and that’s all we did.”
Things sure didn’t look good early when Indiana couldn’t convert any of Purdue’s three first-half turnovers into points and had only four first downs at halftime.
That changed quickly in the second half. Tegray Scales picked off Appleby’s first pass of the third quarter, which Indiana turned that into a 23-yard field goal.
On Purdue’s next play, Hunt found a hole in the middle of the line, cut right and, with blockers in front, sprinted down the sideline to make it 13-3.
Indiana was just getting started.
Oakes answered with a 41-yard field goal and Wynn’s long scoring run tied it again at 13 with 2:25 left in the third.
After Purdue made it 16-13, Oakes tied it again with a 34-yard field goal with 6:31 left, and after forcing a Purdue punt, Diamont methodically led the Hoosiers down the field, capping the eight-play, 65-yard drive with the memorable 1-yard keeper that will live in Bucket Game lore forever.
“It was just like we all knew it was time to go,” Diamont said. “So we just said `We’ve got to do it.”‘
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