The Purdue vs Indiana game of 1968 is what college football is all about.
Sure, there’s national championships and getting drafted into the NFL. There’s conference championships and being an All American, but a game like this is all about pride and it’s all about bragging rights. It’s just good clean fun and this game that happened 50 years ago was fun to watch again.
Purdue started the season ranked #1 based on returning talent and they certainly fulfilled that ranking in early games with a big win over Notre Dame. But, they were stunned by Ohio State and Minnesota and their record was 7-2 coming in. The Buckeyes had the Big 10 title wrapped up and the Boilermakers were out of the running for the Big 10. This was supposed to be their season. This was
the year they were supposed to win it all.
Instead, they came in ranked 12th.
Indiana was coming off of their first ever Rose Bowl trip after tying with Purdue and Minnesota for the Big 10 title in 1967. The Hoosiers had begun the season ranked 15th and they were 13th in their second game when they lost to 12th ranked Kansas.
After falling out of the polls, they climbed back in after two wins and then lost to 18th ranked Michigan. They won 3 games in a row after their 5 point loss to the Wolverines and the last win was over 17th ranked Michigan State. They lost to Minnesota to come into this game with a 6-3 record.
There were no bowl games for second place finishers in the Big 10 back then. Only the champion got to play in the Rose Bowl and even then the champion sometimes stayed home because of the no repeat rule.
This was the bowl game for both of these teams. This was for the Old Oaken Bucket and for state pride. Purdue had already beaten Notre Dame, so this game was a pretty big deal and especially for the seniors like Leroy Keyes and Perry Williams.
It was a cold and windy day back in November 23rd, 1968 but the Hoosiers had come to play.
On their second touch of the game, Indiana’s Bob Pernell took it 64 yards for a touchdown, totally untouched.
After stopping the Boilermakers, the Hoosiers were at it again but they fumbled the ball away. That was all quarterback Mike Phipps and running back Leroy Keyes needed to get it going and Keyes finished the drive with a 42 yard touchdown run.
Indiana quarterback Harry Gonso may have out shined All American Quarterback Mike Phipps on this day because he was impressive. About all of his passes and runs were on rollouts. Phipps had more yards passing, but Gonso had several really good throws and he led his Hoosiers down for
The Boilers responded with a field goal, but the Hoosiers seemed to be taking control of the game after they scored another touchdown on another pretty pass to Jade Butcher. It was 21-10 in favor of the Hoosiers at half time.
Nothing good can ever come from a 10 yard punt, and Purdue’s miserable punt into the wind set up the Hoosiers at the Purdue 20 yard line. It was barely in the third quarter and Indiana was threatening to score again.
The Boilermakers, out of obvious good will, thought they would help the Hoosiers some more, so they jumped offsides giving Indiana 5 less yards to drive the ball.
Gonso threw his third touchdown pass of the game and took a somewhat commanding lead, 28-10.
Nah, man, this wouldn’t be a post if Purdue didn’t come back would it?
There was no quit in Purdue on this day with Phipps leading his team downfield on a 75 yard drive. Keyes showed why he was a two time All American when he made an adjustment to the ball in mid air on a pass from Phipps. It was a windy day and the ball was all over the place at times.
Senior fullback, Perry Williams took it in for a touchdown and to close the Hoosier lead down to 28-17.
Purdue’s defense rose up and stopped the Hoosiers and the potent Boilermaker offense was on the move again. Phipps’ pass was picked off at the goal line to end a promising drive.
The home crowd in West Lafayette was nervous when the 4th quarter came around and Indiana still
But, Phipps led his team downfield and hit his guy Bob Dillingham, the star of the Notre Dame game, to the 3 yard line. Mr All American Leroy Keyes took it in from there to close the gap to 28-24. Mike Phipps was under heavy pressure all day from the Hoosier defensive line and linebackers on some occasions, but he held up and kept making big plays.
Indiana wasn’t ready to let Purdue back in the game and Gonso made some nice runs rolling out and a beautiful pass to the Purdue 33 set them up again for another score. Gonso threw another nice touchdown pass against the wind to take Indiana back up to 35-24.
Purdue must have been wondering what must be done to stop the Indiana attack. But, stop it they did when it counted the most.
With the ball back at the Indiana 45 yard line, Phipps was sacked by that relentless Hoosier pass rush to lose big yardage. With the game on the line and another super heavy pass rush, Phipps rolled out and on the run threw a beautiful pass to Leroy Keyes down on the 3 yard line and Keyes fell into the end zone to bring the Boilermakers back within 4 points of the lead.
It was an outstanding play and one that would have been shown over and over on Sports Center if it had been around back in those years. It would have been a Heisman moment if not for USC’s O.J. Simpson.
Indiana still led 35-31 and with time running out.
The Purdue defense arose again and stopped the deadly Hoosier offense. With the ball back on their own 24, the Boilermakers cooly drove the ball down the field with the key play coming from their tight end who caught the ball from Phipps and ran it all the way down to the one yard line where
Leroy Keyes scored again.
It was Purdue’s first lead of the game at 38-35 and it was enough to win the game.
At the end of the game and with the ball back, Purdue coach Jack Mollenkopf pulled his senior stars. Leroy Keyes came out first, followed by Perry Williams and then leading receiver Bob Gillingham. What a classy thing to do.
Anyone reading this might think so what, Purdue won a football game. But, bear in mind, this was 1968 and offenses just didn’t run up and down the field. Compared to most games of the day, this was an absolute barn burner.
Purdue won the Old Oaken Bucket, but they had to score the last two touchdowns against a tough Indiana squad to do it.
What a game and again this is what college football is all about.