WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue’s Carson Wiggs has been named the Nov. 28 Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week after booting four field goals in Purdue’s 33-25 win over Indiana in Bloomington last Saturday.
He is the fifth Boilermaker recognized with weekly honors by the conference this season, including the third for special teams play. The honor is the first of the year for the senior from Grand Prairie, Texas, and the second of his career (also Oct. 18, 2009).
Wiggs was a perfect 4 for 4 on field goal attempts against the Hoosiers, matching his career high by hitting from 48, 43, 29 and 22 yards out, and also connected on all three PAT attempts to account for 15 of Purdue’s 33 points in the game. Wiggs’ effort helped Purdue recapture the Old Oaken Bucket and earn bowl eligibility for the first time since 2007.
Wiggs in the most-accurate kicker in school history (73.6 percent, 53 for 72) and has the second-most field goals ever at Purdue (53).
The 6-6 Boilermakers will have to wait to hear their postseason fate until Dec. 4, when the bowls announce their respective lineups. The Big Ten has agreements with the Rose, Capital One, Outback, Insight, Taxslayer.com Gator, Meinke Car Care of Texas, TicketCity and Little Caesars Pizza bowls.
Indiana took the Assembly Hall floor on Sunday night for the most important game of the season and one of the more meaningful games of the Tom Crean era.
This year’s Butler team is not the squad that has reached back-to-back National Title games – Gordon Hayward, Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard are all gone, and the Bulldogs are now trying to raise a young stable of talent in their place. Regardless, Butler has clearly been the best team in the state the past two years, something that irks hopeful Hoosier fans to no end. The Bulldogs’ young coach Brad Stevens has been widely speculated to be a prospective candidate for the Indiana coaching job if Crean’s great rebuild fails.
In a less macro sense, Butler was the first perceived test for the Hoosiers. A home setback against a team that failed to beat Evansville and struggled to beat teams that IU blew out would have been a major setback for both fan perception and team confidence.
For all reasons mentioned above, there was plenty of pressure on the team to perform well on Sunday night and for a while, it didn’t look like that was going to happen. Indiana’s offense was dismal in the first half, as IU shot 32% from the floor – making only three shots inside the arc – turned the ball over eight times and didn’t have a single player reach double figures. But during that first half, there were positives to glean as well.
In their final test of the season, Indiana returns home to Bloomington on Thanksgiving weekend to play their biggest rival for right to keep the Old Oaken Bucket. Last season ended in a difficult upset win for the Hoosiers, and it won’t be any easier this time around.
The Opponent: Purdue Boilermakers
While Indiana has traditionally struggled more than Purdue as a football program, the Boilers haven’t been great recently either. In Joe Tiller’s final season and in Danny Hope’s first two, Purdue has failed to qualify for postseason play. After a loss to Iowa last weekend, the Boilermakers are behind the eight ball again and need a win in Memorial Stadium in order to qualify for a bowl game. There have been rumblings that Hope needs a win on Saturday to save his job, and even though he claims not to be thinking about it, that fact may give his players a little extra motivation.
Purdue is relatively balanced as an offensive unit, and focuses on running to set up the pass. First-year starter Caleb TerBush got the chance to start after Rob Henry tore his ACL before the season and has done a serviceable job as a caretaker. Miami transfer Robert Marve has also seen the field and though he hasn’t been quite as effective, he was the man who keyed Purdue’s win over Ohio State two weeks ago, so it’s hard to blame Hope for giving him opportunities.
Indiana faced down their closest contest of the season on Monday night and still managed to come away with a 24-point victory. That says about all that anyone needs to know about the Hoosiers’ game against the Gardner-Webb Bulldogs.
The Hoosiers recorded a 73-49 victory – their fifth of the season, all by more than 20 points – over Gardner-Webb as they put another ‘cupcake’ team down for the count. IU’s play wasn’t particularly impressive early, particularly on offense, as they scored only 34 first half points and didn’t play the up-tempo game that they had played in the first four contests. Their defensive presence and intensity made up for it though, as Indiana held the Bulldogs to a paltry 23 points in the first half and locked down even tighter in the second.
Victor Oladipo keyed the defense all game long, particularly in the second half when he recorded the majority of his season-high 17 deflections (a statistic that the coaching staff keeps religiously) and provided a jolt of energy for both his team and the crowd as the lead ballooned from 11 to 20 in little more than five minutes. Oladipo tied with Cody Zeller for second on the team in scoring with 13 points, and added five rebounds, five assists and only one turnover.
With only two games left to make a positive final impression on the 2011 season, the Indiana Hoosiers (1-9, 0-6) will be looking to bring their best effort in this weekend’s contest. Unfortunately for IU, their foe appears a more than worthy one.
The Opponent- Michigan State Spartans
Michigan State (8-2, 5-1) has suffered a couple of hiccups this season to rather talented teams (31-13 to Notre Dame and 24-3 to Nebraska) but has been remarkably consistent and has put itself in a decent position to claim a share of the Legends division title. As such, the Spartans should be just as motivated to put forth a stellar performance this Saturday.
Michigan State’s success stems largely from their balance. They haven’t been an outstanding offensive team this year, but they have been effective enough to win the majority of their games. Senior quarterback Kirk Cousins has been effectual as the trigger-man this year and has limited his turnovers, throwing 16 touchdowns against only five interceptions all season.