Purdue caps Tiller era with colossal rout of Indiana

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Joe Tiller savored every moment from Saturday's send-off.

He raised his arms in victory after twice getting doused with ice cubes. He conducted the Purdue band as it played the school fight song one last time. He cherished the opportunity to speak to players and fans from the field, inviting them to visit him in Wyoming and even shedding a few tears.

Yes, it was a fitting tribute for the man who spent a dozen seasons restoring Purdue's pride, and the Boilermakers made sure nothing would detract from Tiller's farewell party.

Curtis Painter threw for 448 yards and five touchdowns, and Purdue opened with 10 straight scoring drives as the retiring coach reclaimed the Old Oaken Bucket with a 62-10 rout over Indiana.

"Does it get any better than this, I don't know? What a way of finishing the season and finishing a career," Tiller said. "They got me with the bath. My shorts are stuck to me right now, I actually need to go take a shower."

It looked like a throwback to Tiller's early days when the innovative spread offense confounded Big Ten defenses -- except Saturday's finale was far sweeter.

Purdue produced the fourth-highest point total in the history of a 111-game series, and the 52-point margin was the largest between the teams since the turn of the century -- the 20th century. The last time a Bucket game was this lopsided: Purdue 64, Indiana 0 in 1893.

Tiller wasn't the only one celebrating.

Running back Kory Sheets ran 15 times for 61 yards, passing Otis Armstrong for second on the school's career list in yardage. He also broke the school's single-season record for rushing touchdowns, scoring twice in the first half to surpass the 14 scored by Tony Butkovich, Leroy Keyes and Mike Alstott. Sheets added No. 16 on a 17-yard run late in the third quarter.

Painter was 38-of-54, throwing for a season-high in yards and moving into third on the Big Ten's career list for total offense.

And Tiller finished with win No. 87 -- three more than Jack Mollenkopf won during his 14 seasons in West Lafayette.

Most didn't expect the end of Tiller's tenure to come until December or January.

But after starting 2-1, Purdue lost seven of its next eight to fall into a last-place tie with Indiana (3-9, 1-7) and out of bowl contention.

The saving grace: Purdue (4-8, 2-6) won back a trophy that had been virtually locked down in West Lafayette since Tiller arrived in 1997. He finished 10-2 against the Hoosiers, led the Boilermakers to 10 bowl games in 12 seasons and created an enduring loyalty among his players.

"He gave us all a chance and we owe him everything," linebacker Anthony Heygood said. "This is a great way to send him out."

The Boilermakers were almost perfect.

Painter opened the game with a 9-yard TD pass to Desmond Tardy, followed that with a 79-yard TD pass to Aaron Valentin and then the Boilermakers recovered a pooch kick that Indiana couldn't get to. The miscue led to a 24-yard field goal from Carson Wiggs to make it 17-0 just 8:54 into the game, and the rout was on.

But the Boilermakers were only getting started.

Before the quarter ended, Painter hooked up with Brandon Whittington for a 5-yard TD and before the half ended, Sheets had scored two more times.

Indiana's answer was a 27-yard field goal, not nearly enough with Purdue building a 41-3 halftime lead.

"I think they played a great football game," Indiana coach Bill Lynch said. "They certainly executed well on offense. They did what they had to do, we just didn't do enough on offense to keep them off the field."

After adding two more TDs in the third quarter, the party really kicked into high gear.

Purdue's players listened attentively as Tiller's wife, Arnette, addressed the crowd between quarters and when music played, the defensive players danced.

Indiana did get a 16-yard TD pass from Kellen Lewis to Ray Fisher, but that only made it 55-10.

Keith Smith caught 12 passes for 136 yards, while Tardy finished with nine receptions for 114 yards and the band played "Happy Trails to You" as Tiller walked off the field for the final time, with his family.

"It just means I'm going to have one more Miller Lite," Tiller said. "I was going to limit myself to 12 or 13. This game won't change my mind [on coming back]. I'm done with coaching."