'Those Games Are Special': Purdue Football Looks Ahead to Matchup With Indiana

The Old Oaken Bucket Game between Purdue and Indiana will return during the 2021 season. The Boilermakers will fight to reclaim the Bucket after losing a close game in West Lafayette two seasons ago.
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INDIANAPOLIS — The Old Oaken Bucket Game is back this year. 

The annual matchup between Purdue and Indiana was canceled twice in 2020 as college football was faced with handling the COVID-19 pandemic. It was the first time since the 1918-19 season that the in-state rivals weren't able to meet on the field. 

Players, coaches and fans are sharing their excitement for the game's return on Nov. 27 at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette. 

"It’s one of our biggest, if not the biggest game of the year," Purdue defensive end George Karlaftis said. "It’s something we all look forward to, and those games are special. You don’t get too many of those in your lifetime as a player and it means a lot."

In the past few seasons, before the Hoosiers' recent surge of success, the Bucket Game had heavy implications for both programs. Aside from bragging rights, bids to bowl games were on the line at times. 

In each of the last four matchups, the game has been decided by a touchdown or less.

"Playing the Bucket Game, it means a great deal to our team, to our fan base, to our program," Purdue coach Jeff Brohm said. "It's something that has a lot of history and tradition. And normally for us, and even Indiana, there's a lot of riding on the game beyond that."

The last time Purdue played Indiana, the teams played on a rain-soaked field at Ross-Ade Stadium. The Boilermakers mounted a comeback to force double overtime, but it was the Hoosiers that won 44-41 on a quarterback draw. 

Purdue put up more total yards, passing yards and yards per play while only punting one time. Despite the offensive explosion, it wasn't enough to keep hold of the Old Oaken Bucket. 

The Boilermakers two-year streak was broken in the defeat. 

"I think we let one slip away," Purdue wide receiver David Bell said. "I think that we were right on the edge, but we obviously weren’t the better team that day. They ended up winning, ended up getting key stops and scoring on key drives to put us in situations that we weren’t familiar with."

With Indiana coming in with one of the top football teams in the nation next season, there will be plenty of motivation for Purdue to knock off their rival. Fans will be in the stands to cheer the Boilermakers on as they try to reclaim the Old Oaken Bucket. 

Defeating its in-state rival is a massive milestone for Purdue. As of now, the Boilermakers lead the all-time series 74-42-6, but the Hoosiers have the Old Oaken Bucket in Bloomington. 

"It's just a lot of fun. It's something that you work hard in the off-season to prepare for, and then you got to get to your regular opponents. But you normally have a pre-season plan going into it when you get to that week because there's normally a lot riding on the game beyond bragging rights and we look forward to that tradition every year."

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