Bits & pieces from big week for Boilermakers

By Kenny Thompson

It’s not often that (a) a senior preseason All-American candidate comes off the bench for a major college basketball power and (b) earns his conference’s player of the week award as a reserve.

Trevion Williams accomplished both, earning Big Ten Player of the Week honors for his performances in the Hall of Fame Tipoff Classic and in a victory against Wright State. Not bad considering teammates Jaden Ivey and Zach Edey made the all-tournament team.

Third-ranked Purdue became the first repeat winner in the tournament’s history Sunday by overcoming then-No. 5 Villanova 80-74 in the title game after outrunning then-No. 18 North Carolina 93-84 in the semifinals.

Williams averaged 16.3 points and seven rebounds in those three victories. His best performance probably came against North Carolina when he put up 20 points and four rebounds in just 13 minutes.

Forward Caleb Furst was selected Big Ten Freshman of the Week for averaging 11.3 points and 6.7 rebounds. Furst was 5 of 5 shooting against Villanova, including a 3-pointer with 2:30 to play that gave Purdue a 69-62 lead.

The Villanova victory, though, ended a streak. Purdue had scored 90-plus points in its first four games for the first time in school history. The most prolific scoring team in Boilermaker history, the Rick Mount-led 1968-69 national runners-up, had a streak of five 90-point games that season.

In all, future professionals Mount, Billy Keller and Herman Gilliam led Purdue to 90 or more points 18 times. One of them is the Boilermaker standard to this day, a 120-76 victory against Indiana in the regular season finale. Its lowest scoring game that season was the 92-72 loss to UCLA in the NCAA championship game.

Purdue’s Bell a finalist

The Big Ten Conference’s leading wide receiver is one of three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award.

Junior David Bell tops the Big Ten in both receiving yards and receptions (120.7 yards and 8.7 catches per game). Going into Saturday’s game against Indiana, Bell has 87 receptions for 1,207 yards and five touchdowns.

Bell is the second Boilermaker to be a Biletnikoff finalist, following Taylor Stubblefield in 2004. He needs 101 yards against the Hoosiers to break John Standeford’s single-season receiving yard mark set in 2002.

The winner will be announced Dec. 9 on ESPN.

Old Oaken Bucket history

Today marks the 96th game between Purdue and Indiana since the introduction of the Old Oaken Bucket in 1925.

Chicago alumni groups of both schools decided the annual football game should have a traditional trophy presented to the winner. Russell Gray of Purdue and Dr. Clarence Jones of Indiana recommended that an old oaken bucket should be taken from a well somewhere in Indiana.

The bucket chosen was found on the old Bruner farm between Kent and Hanover by Fritz Ernst of Purdue and Whiley J. Huddle of Indiana. Legend has it that the bucket was used during an incursion into Indiana during the Civil War.

Fittingly, the first game ended in a tie and an “I-P” link was added to the chain on the bucket. Over the years, the bucket has added 60 “P” links, 32 “I” links and two more “I-P” links.

Here’s 10 of the more memorable Purdue victories in the Bucket series:

1943: The Boilermakers completed their most recent undefeated season by riding a first quarter touchdown pass from Sam Vacanti to Frank Bauman for a 7-0 victory in Bloomington. The win earned Purdue a share of the Big Ten championship with Michigan.

1952: Rex Brock’s 24-yard touchdown run with 4:22 to play rallied Purdue to a 21-16 victory and a share of the Big Ten title with Wisconsin. The Badgers won the vote of conference athletic directors to get the Rose Bowl berth, where they proceeded to become the first Big Ten team to lose in Pasadena.

1968: Smarting from a 19-14 loss to Indiana the year before that sent the Hoosiers to their only Rose Bowl and denied Purdue an outright Big Ten title, Leroy Keyes made sure his final game in gold and black would be remembered.

His fourth touchdown was the game winner and capped a day that saw him amass 289 yards rushing and receiving in a 38-35 victory.

1972: Otis Armstrong’s farewell game was one for the record book. His final carry was a 53-yard touchdown that gave Armstrong a single-game mark of 272 yards, the all-time Big Ten rushing record to go with three scores in a 42-7 victory. “Thank God, we’ve seen the last of him,” Indiana coach John Pont said afterward.

1979: For one of the few times in this series, both teams would play in bowl games regardless of the outcome. Purdue inched closer to the only 10-win season in school history with a 37-21 victory. The Boilermakers accepted a Bluebonnet Bowl invitation afterward, while the Hoosiers were off to the Holiday Bowl.

1980: The largest crowd to watch a college football game in Indiana (71,529) watched Mark Herrmann complete 19 of 23 passes for 323 yards in his final home game. But it took a pass deflection by linebacker Mike Marks on a two-point conversion try that preserved a 24-23 victory.

1989: The T-shirts read “No Heisman. No Bucket. No bowl. No (bleep).” That succinctly sums up Purdue’s 15-14 victory at Bloomington. Indiana star Anthony Thompson was held to 97 yards and no TDs on 28 carries. Some believe that was the difference in losing the Heisman Trophy to Houston’s Andre Ware. The loss left the Hoosiers at 5-6 and cost them not only the Old Oaken Bucket but a berth in the Freedom Bowl against Washington.

1995: Mike Alstott ran through Indiana for 264 yards and three touchdowns in his final Purdue game, a 51-14 victory in Bloomington. Alstott added the single-season rushing record (1,436 yards) to his Purdue career mark of 3,635 yards.

2000: “A bucket full of roses” was the headline after Purdue’s 41-13 victory sent the Big Ten champions to the second Rose Bowl in school history. Montrell Lowe rushed for 208 yards and four touchdowns.

2017: Expectations were non-existent at Purdue after just nine victories over the past four seasons. Energized by coach Jeff Brohm’s trick-filled playbook and quarterback Elijah Sindelar playing on a torn ACL, Purdue earned a bowl berth with a 31-24 victory. Markell Jones rushed for 217 yards to help snap Indiana’s four-game winning streak in the series.

Bowl forecast

The Big Ten Conference will have nine bowl eligible teams with the winner of Saturday’s Maryland-Rutgers game earning a postseason berth. Assuming Ohio State extends its winning streak over Michigan, here’s a guess on bowl assignments:

  • College Football Playoff (Dec. 31): Ohio State
  • New Year’s Six bowl game (Jan. 1): Michigan State
  • Rose Bowl (Pasadena, Calif.) Jan. 1: Michigan
  • Outback Bowl (Tampa) Jan. 1: Wisconsin
  • Citrus Bowl (Orlando) Jan. 1: Iowa
  • Music City Bowl (Nashville, Tenn.) Dec. 30: Penn State
  • Las Vegas Bowl Dec. 30: Purdue
  • Guaranteed Rate Bowl (Phoenix) Dec. 28: Minnesota
  • Pinstripe Bowl (New York City) Dec. 27: Rutgers

Media speculation has Illinois getting a berth in the Quick Lane Bowl at Detroit if it defeats Northwestern to finish 5-7. That speculation is based on the probability that not enough teams with a .500 or better record will be able to fill all the bowl slots.

In that case, schools with the best academic progress rate (APR) and a 5-7 record can be chosen. According to, the pecking order would be Middle Tennessee, Rutgers, California, Texas, Florida and Illinois. All but the Fighting Illini still have a shot at a 6-6 record.

Football notes

While Purdue football no longer has a path to Indianapolis and another chance to get whipped by Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game, it still has a long shot chance to share the West Division title.

All it would take in addition to a victory against Indiana is Iowa losing at Nebraska and Wisconsin losing at Minnesota. The Hawkeyes would win the championship game berth under that scenario. A Wisconsin victory sends the Badgers yet again to the title game regardless of what Iowa does.

Minnesota can earn a share of the West title by beating Wisconsin, Nebraska topping Iowa and Purdue defeating Indiana. …

Thanks to the rise of Aidan O’Connell to Cradle of Quarterbacks level of play, Purdue owns the nation’s seventh-best passing attack at nearly 346 yards per game. Ohio State is sixth with a 362.3 average.

O’Connell is on pace to soar past David Blough’s single-season record for completion percentage at Purdue. At 72.7 percent, O’Connell (253 of 362) is well ahead of Blough’s 66 percent (305-462) in 2018. …

Purdue’s 32-14 victory against Northwestern at Wrigley Field was the fourth win away from Ross-Ade Stadium this season, the most by the program since the 1943 Boilermakers won five road games on their way to a 9-0 finish.

Kenny Thompson is the former sports editor for the Lafayette Journal & Courier and an award-winning journalist. He has covered Purdue athletics for many years.