Saturday will be the last day playing at Ross-Ade for many seniors on the Purdue football offense.
The Boilermaker (7-4, 5-3 Big Ten) offense has achieved feats many did not believe were conceivable. The unit has outscored the likes of Michigan State and Iowa and even on their worst days, they put up the second-most points against Ohio State that any team has been able to all year.
It could be easy to point to one person or coach as the reason this offense has been effective as of late, but it goes beyond one individual. They are a family, they say, and every unit from fifth year wideout Jackson Anthrop to junior receiver David Bell has given everything to this team.
Which is going to make it even harder when these seniors step out onto Ross-Ade for the last time.
“It’s definitely a sad experience; I love the fan base, I love the school, I love our coaches. This definitely means a lot to me,” senior offensive lineman Greg Long said.
Likewise, this will be the first and last Bucket game for many players on the team. Two years ago, the rivalry game was pushed into double overtime. Purdue ended up losing in a heartbreaker after two failed running plays and an Indiana touchdown.
This time around, head coach Jeff Brohm is looking at an offense with the same running issues. The Boilers are dead last in the Big Ten in rushing with 35 yards per game fewer than the next team.
From the passing game, senior quarterback Aidan O’Connell will also most likely be suiting up for his last game in West Lafayette. But for this game, the team has a much improved O’Connell who has thrown 12 touchdowns and zero interceptions in his last four games.
The strides he has made this year are a big reason why Purdue is predicted to beat the Hoosiers (2-9, 0-8 Big Ten), with Vegas setting the Boilers as 15-point favorites.
“Because it’s a trophy game and a rivalry game, we want to go get that bucket and celebrate with our fans,” O’Connell said.
Another significant component of the passing game, Bell, was just named a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award, given out to college football’s best wide receiver. Sadly, Bell might also be playing his last game at Purdue, as he is predicted to go in the first round of the NFL draft this upcoming spring.
But there is no player more invested in the game than receiver Jackson Anthrop. Anthrop has been on the team longer than Brohm.
“That young man, he’s grown to me as close as a son could possibly be,” wide receivers coach JaMarcus Shephard said. “He bleeds black and gold. I don’t know if I have anybody who bleeds black and gold the way this man does.”
The man has played a multitude of positions for the offense including running back, wide receiver and has even thrown passes on trick plays. He has been the rock of this offense for so many years and when asked about seeing his mom and dad in the stands Saturday, Anthrop was brought to the verge of tears with just the thought of it.
It will be an emotional game for many of the players come Saturday. But this offense looks to give its best as the seniors play their last snaps at Ross-Ade.
Greg Long summed it up well.
“All year they have been yelling ‘IU sucks,’” Long said. “Well let’s see if we can keep that same energy.”
Purdue kicks off against IU at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Ross-Ade. The game will air on FS1.