WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — Akeem Shavers’ big fourth quarter helped Purdue hold onto the Old Oaken Bucket.
The senior running back scored three times in 4 1/2 minutes, twice on long pass plays, to break open a close game, giving the Boilermakers a 56-35 victory over archrival Indiana on Saturday.
The win made Purdue (6-6, 3-5 Big Ten) bowl eligible for the second straight year, the first time that has happened since 2006-07, and helped Purdue hold onto the Bucket — the trophy in this annual in-state series.
But the bigger question — whether coach Danny Hope will keep his job –may not be answered for at least 24 hours.
Speculation about Hope’s future has been swirling since the Boilermakers went on a five-game losing streak at the start of conference play. Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke had said earlier that he would wait until the end of the season before making a decision.
If Saturday’s game is a factor, it could be good news for Hope, who replaced Joe Tiller four years ago. The game was the highest-scoring contest in this 115-game series. The 91 combined points broke the previous record of 87 set in Purdue’s 63-24 victory in 2004.
Sixth-year senior and oft-injured quarterback Robert Marve threw for a career-high 348 yards and four touchdowns.
Indiana (4-8, 2-6) was led by Cameron Coffman, who was 31 of 53 for 348 yards, one score and three interceptions. He also ran for a touchdown. Stephen Houston had 28 carries for 158 yards and three TDs and 12 catches for 95 yards. It still wasn’t enough on a day Shavers ran 27 times for 126 yards and caught two scoring passes for 99 yards.
But Saturday’s game typified a season full of miscues and misfortune.
Shavers had scoring runs of 71 and 58 yards brought back by holding calls. The Boilermakers blew one scoring chance after taking over at their own 45, another when Marve was picked off in the red zone and a third when Raheem Mostert’s chance at a 96-yard kickoff return was upended when teammate Chris Quinn inadvertently tackled him at the Indiana 37 while trying to make a block. All but Shavers’ potential 58-yard scoring run happened in the first half.
Indiana had its own troubles — especially in the second half.
Between the mistakes, the two pass-happy teams traded big-play jabs. It was that kind of day. But Shavers turned the game with his late scoring flurry.
He capped a 99-yard drive with a 73-yard TD reception, running over Hoosiers safety Mark Murphy on his way to the end zone, with 10:40 to go. He scored again on a 26-yard reception from Marve just five plays after Cody Latimer mishandled a pass that was picked off by Max Charlot. And he scored for the third time after Antoine Lewis returned an interception to the Indiana 4. That made it 56-35 and sealed the victory.
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