November 30, 2013 / 10:39 pm

Indiana Takes Down Purdue in Season Finale, Ready to Take Next Step

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — It ended on a high note.

The 2013 Indiana Hoosier football team fell short of expectations. Finishing at a 5-7 record, they failed to make a bowl game for the sixth consecutive year.

But on Saturday, against arch-rival Purdue, they put together a solid effort to take down the Boilermakers, 56-36, in the final game of the year.  The win places the Old Oaken Bucket in Bloomington after Indiana fell in the last two meetings.

The game didn’t have as much luster as a rivalry like this should. When there are two teams sitting at the bottom of the Big Ten, that will happen. Purdue finishes a dismal year with only one win, a 6-point victory over FCS opponent Indiana State.

Indiana needed to end the season with this victory. Not only because Purdue had such a down year, but because there needed to be some sort of positive momentum heading into the offseason, and the hard-working seniors deserved to have this feel-good moment before they head out.

Players like Kofi Hughes, Ted Bolser, Mitch Ewald, and Greg Heban; they’ve been through a lot of bad during their time at IU. A coaching change after 2010, no winning seasons, and missed opportunities will define their careers. For the 21 seniors, winning in their final game and taking down Purdue once again will be a positive they can take away.

“It was great. I held (the Bucket) and touched it my first year here. To have it back in Bloomington where it belongs is a great feeling,” said Heban.

The improvements that this class made over their careers were noticeable. It was reflective of where many feel this program has made strides since Coach Wilson’s first season.

“I know that the wins and losses don’t really show the production and how far this team has come, but behind the scenes I think that these seniors really set the standard really, really high,” said Hughes. “I’m really excited to see how this team does next year because I think that there is going to be a lot of good momentum going into next season.”

Looking forward to 2014, some questions need to be answered:

Will there be coaching changes on the defensive side of the ball?

Does Tre Roberson’s six-touchdown performance in the final game make him the starter going forward?

Will this team show enough strength to finally pull out victories in the close games?

Starting with the first, there absolutely has to be changes. Even Purdue, who didn’t score more than 24 points in a game all season and was at the bottom of many conference offensive categories, managed to put up over 500 yards and 36 points on the IU defense. This unit has somehow found ways to get worse. The fundamentals don’t look strong, and the schemes haven’t worked, against any opponent. With just an average defense, this team would’ve been looking at 8 wins this year.

In terms of the quarterback controversy, Nate Sudfeld has one strong arm for him to be sitting on the bench. Tre Roberson has shown the ability to lead scoring drives and make plays with his feet. Indications would lead one to believe both would play similar roles next season.

The bottom line is, IU has to find a way to make the postseason in 2014. They’ve been close so many times, but after three full seasons at the helm, Kevin Wilson needs to prove he belongs at his position and take the team where it needs to go. Time will tell.

For now, the victory flag will hang high at Memorial Stadium for a few months. State bragging rights and the Bucket can belong to the Hoosiers.

But it’s time for this program to take the next step, and not have to call next year’s Bucket Game the season finale.