No rivalry has defined my life more than Indiana vs Purdue.
I am a child of Bloomington with a deep-seeded hatred for all things gold and black who ultimately, as the ironic twists of fate would have it, ended up moving to West Lafayette for 8th grade and high school. Because of this, I have lived and breathed Indiana and Purdue sports – the Old Oaken Bucket game, the Knight-Keady rivalry, etc. – for as long as I can remember.
So despite my lack of a specific rooting interest in last night’s Super Bowl, the way it turned out made it a memorable one to me as supporter, in general, of all things Big Ten.
Purdue grad Drew Brees turned in one of the most efficient and impressive Super Bowls ever by a QB and was rightfully named Super Bowl MVP. I can provide no greater personal testament to Brees’ on- and off-field greatness than the fact that he has become one of my favorite NFL players.
A Purdue grad is one my favorite athletes.
That just doesn’t sound right, but Brees is special…not that anyone needs to be told that after the past two weeks.
Indiana grad Tracy Porter turned in the biggest individual play of the night, an interception return for a touchdown that sealed the victory. And before you call it a fluke, remember that Porter is also the guy who picked off Brett Favre in the 4th quarter of the Saints NFC Championship Game victory over the Vikings. Someone tweeted last night that he’s become a “legend killer”. It’s true.
Fellow Indiana grad Courtney Roby played well on special teams for the Saints, returning four kickoffs for a solid average of 25.5 yards.
These three guys, and especially the first two, Brees and Porter, truly made the Saints’ victory over (ironically) the Indianapolis Colts an Old Oaken Upset.
And it wasn’t just IU and Purdue guys getting in on the act last night for the Saints. Other notable Saints contributors from the Big Ten:
- Illinois grad Pierre Thomas, who scored a TD and had 85 total yards on 15 touches, which far surpassed the output of the more heralded but less valuable Reggie Bush.
- Ohio State grad Malcolm Jenkins, who has struggled to live up to his first round draft status, had five tackles, a tackle for loss, and a pass break up. It was one of his better games of the season. Fellow Buckeye Will Smith had only one tackle, but is always a factor simply because of the attention opposing offenses must pay him.
- On the offensive line, Michigan grad Jonathan Goodwin and Northwestern grad Zach Strief helped provide the protection that allowed Brees to complete 80+ percent of his passes.
Update: As a kind reader reminded me this afternoon, Jonathan Casillas of Wisconsin is also a member of the Saints. Casillas did not show up on the stat sheet last night, but is a valuable member of the Saints’ special teams.
To be fair, the Colts have their fair share of Big Ten alums, with Iowa grad Dallas Clark being the most notable, but most of their Big Ten players are either backups (Curtis Painter, Jim Sorgi, Mike Hart) or were injured (Marlin Jackson, Bob Sanders). It is hard to criticize anything the Colts do from a personnel standpoint, but for at least this one night we can say that perhaps the Colts need to do a little bit better job of scouting their own back yard.
The Big Ten often gets criticized for producing players that are too slow, too unathletic, too this, or too that, but Big Ten alums owned the biggest stage in sports last night. And no schools should be prouder than Indiana and Purdue.
It seems fitting to me that IU and Purdue owned the Super Bowl at the end of the same week in which the IU-Purdue basketball rivalry rekindled its competitive spirit. We all harkened back to the classic battles of yesteryear and were reminded of why IU and Purdue being on the same field or court of battle is such a special event.
And last night we found out that Indiana and Purdue don’t always have to mix like oil and water. The Boilermaker star of the Saints’ offense and the Hoosier star of the Saints’ defense led the New Orleans Saints to their first Super Bowl in franchise history.
The city of Indianapolis is undoubtedly despondent today, and with good reason. But for all of the Colts fans who double as IU, Purdue, or Big Ten fans, Drew Brees, Tracy Porter, and the rest of the Saints’ Big Ten stars gave you something to feel proud about.
I know that won’t lessen the sting of losing, at least now you have a little more ammo that next time an arrogant SEC fan starts jawing.
* – Drew Brees photo credit: AP via ESPN.com
* – Tracy Porter photo credit: AJ Mast/Icon SMI via SI.com