- David Ubben, College Football
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Well, this is what most expected, no? Your ESPN Bowl Mania confidence points paid off big, I'm guessing. Purdue was the big underdog and Oklahoma State looked the part of big favorite. Let's take a look at some instant analysis for the Big 12's lone bowl game of the day.
It was over when: The bowl matchup was set? The Pokes were 17-point favorites, but I'd point to Daytawion Lowe's 37-yard fumble return on Purdue's opening possession of the second half. You never know what can happen in the second half, but that play, forced by Justin Gilbert, set the tone for the rest of the game, and made it clear Purdue would be making no comeback attempts on this day.
Game ball goes to: Josh Stewart, WR, Oklahoma State. Stewart did a little bit of everything for the Pokes, highlighted by a 64-yard punt return to set up Oklahoma State's first touchdown. He caught five passes for 56 yards, rushed for 21 yards on his only carry of the game and even completed a 15-yard pass. Not a bad day's work for the sophomore.
Unsung hero of the game: Oklahoma State's defense. Forcing turnovers was a struggle all season for this unit, which forced just 17 takeaways after forcing 44 a year ago. Credit Purdue's less-than-stellar offense if you want (it was a factor), but the Pokes' defense put together a strong performance and made life easy for the offense, which will get maybe a little too much credit for the win. The defense forced five turnovers and scored a touchdown. The first turnover helped set up the game's second touchdown, too, and get OSU off on the right foot. Purdue didn't score until the game was well out of hand at 45-0.
Stat of the game: Oklahoma State won the turnover battle 5-0. That's all you need to know. OSU was by far the better team in this one, but Purdue played poorly and played sloppily, which is how you get beat by 44 in a game like this. Ugly from start to finish. For Oklahoma State, it was the first time all season it forced more than three turnovers. Conversely, the Pokes forced more than three turnovers in six of 13 games last season.
Second-guessing: Purdue's early strategy. The Boilermakers faked a punt deep in their own territory on their first drive, which would seem to signify they came to play. However, facing a fourth-and-4 at Oklahoma State's 17-yard line while trailing 14-0 in the first quarter, Boilermakers interim coach Patrick Higgins elected to kick a field goal. Sam McCartney missed the 34-yarder and OSU scored on the following drive to take a commanding 21-0 lead. Is Purdue playing to win or not? With Oklahoma State's high-octane offense, that's sending mixed messages.
What it means: Not a whole lot. Oklahoma State was better than its 7-5 record with a handful of blowout victories against good teams this season, like Texas Tech, West Virginia and Iowa State. The Pokes were within reach of a BCS bowl with just five quarters to play in the season, but landed in the Big 12's No. 8 bowl tie-in against an overmatched Boilermakers squad playing up in a bowl game because Ohio State and Penn State were both ineligible. Purdue barely managed six wins in a down Big Ten.