- Image 1 of 2
- Image 2 of 2
Indiana coach Kevin Wilson has been prodding players to approach each game the same way.
He wants them to focus and pay attention to detail. He expects them to show up each week ready to go. And he urges them to leave previous results in the past.
"It's really about this being our best week and more about the preparation and the week and everything we try to do, which is constant, consistent improvement," Wilson said ahead of Saturday's Old Oaken Bucket game against Purdue. "If you do that, some of those things will start to happen."
The Hoosiers (3-8, 0-7 Big Ten) remain a work in progress after losing their top two quarterbacks in mid-October and their bowl hopes this month.
If they can't stop a six-game losing streak against their biggest rival, Indiana would go down as the 12th team in the past 100 years to go winless in conference play. Only two coaches over that span have done it twice — Ewald Stiehm in 1916 and 1919 and Bill Mallory in 1984 and 1995. Wilson is trying to avoid joining them in that club.
But Indiana has shown some progress over the past month, and Purdue coach Darrell Hazell has noticed.
"The quarterback hasn't played many games, but you can see him get better and better each week," Hazell said, referring to Indiana freshman Zander Diamont. "One of the things that concerns you about is he's not afraid to pull it down and run it, so we've got to make sure we do a good job of tackling him when he does do that."
Hazell is facing a similar predicament.
The Boilermakers (3-8, 1-6) have lost five straight and also are out of bowl contention. Neither team has won since Oct. 4.
And Hazell is trying to avoid becoming the first Purdue coach since Fred Akers in 1987 and 1988 to lose his first two Old Oaken Bucket games.
With the prized trophy at stake, coaches and players insist there is plenty of motivation.
"Our whole focus this week is to enjoy the week, have the best week we can, because this is the last time this '14 crowd will totally be together," Wilson said. "Some kids will move on, dynamics change, new guys come in. This is our last week. Let's make it the most fun and the best we can, and that's how, to me, we approach it."
Here are some other things to watch Saturday.
THE CHASE: Hoosiers running back Tevin Coleman has set a school season record for yards rushing with 1,906. On Saturday he can become the 18th player in Division I history to run for 2,000 yards in a season.
THE SALVAGE EFFORT: Nothing has gone right for the Hoosiers or the Boilermakers since early October. But winning The Bucket would be a nice consolation prize.
THE DASH: In recent years, the most watched celebration of the season has been the all-out sprint by winning team's players to grab the trophy. It could happen again Saturday, especially if Purdue wins back the trophy.
THE RECORD: Indiana receiver Shane Wynn is one of the smallest and fastest starters in the Big Ten. This weekend, he could take a big leap. The senior enters this game with 183 career receptions, eight short of James Hardy's career record.
THE NEW YEAR: Saturday's game will be about a lot more than a trophy or sending out the seniors on a positive note. It could provide momentum heading into next season.