NCF Nation: Heart of Dallas Bowl-2012


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.

Heart of Dallas Bowl keys: Purdue

December, 30, 2012
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Three keys for Purdue in Tuesday's Heart of Dallas Bowl against Oklahoma State:

1. Dominate the trenches: Purdue's strength this season was supposed to be its defensive line, led by All-Big Ten defensive tackle Kawann Short. When Short and others dealt with injuries in the middle of the season, the Boilermakers got steamrolled in league play. Not coincidentally, the team won its final three games after those guys started to get healthy, and a month-long break should have the defensive line in its best shape since early September. The 315-pound Short can change a game when he's blowing up the middle of the line of scrimmage, and fellow tackle Bruce Gaston is an underrated force. Ryan Russell is a promising young pass-rusher who has also healed from some bumps and bruises. Purdue absolutely must disrupt the timing and rhythm of Oklahoma State's high-powered offense while keeping running back Joseph Randle in check. If they can do that, the Boilers will have a chance.

2. Run, run, run the ball: Akeem Shavers was the MVP of last year's Little Caesars Pizza Bowl with 149 rushing yards. While Oklahoma State's defense is much better than Western Michigan's was a year ago, Shavers ended this season with 225 rushing yards in his final two games. Ralph Bolden is also expected back following a late-season hamstring injury, and Akeem Hunt gives the team a home run hitter with his sprinter's speed. Purdue has to get its running game charged up to help out quarterback Robert Marve and, more importantly, keep the Cowboys' offense on the sidelines.

3. Stay clean: One of the reasons Danny Hope didn't make it to this bowl game is that the Boilers often played sloppily under their former head coach. Penalties, turnovers and special teams blunders always seemed to rear their heads at the wrong times. That can't happen in a game like this, in which Purdue is such a huge underdog. Marve gave the team a spark when he was thrust into the starting lineup, but he still has a tendency to force throws into coverage. He and the Boilers can't afford to give Oklahoma State extra possessions, and Purdue has to maximize opportunities in the kicking game to win the field-position battle. This team has enough talent to pull off the upset, especially against an Oklahoma State squad that might be overlooking this game. But the Boilermakers can only put themselves in that position if they first avoid beating themselves.

Heart of Dallas Bowl keys

December, 30, 2012
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Let's take a look at three keys for an Oklahoma State victory in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

1. Don't let Purdue in the game. Don't mess around here. Oklahoma State is a demonstrably better team with a better résumé than the Boilermakers. There are two ways to lose games as a heavy favorite, like Oklahoma State will be in Dallas: Turning the ball over and giving up big plays. Purdue doesn't have a very explosive offense, so the latter will take defensive busts. OSU has been susceptible to turnovers at times this year, too. Prevent both of those things, and Purdue's going to need something miraculous to win this game.

2. No shame in chucking it. Joseph Randle is the Big 12's leading rusher, but his success hasn't exactly correlated to wins this season. Excluding the Savannah State blowout, OSU is just 3-4 when he goes for 100 yards rushing and 3-1 when he's held to below 100 yards, including blowout wins over Texas Tech and TCU. Both of those teams are better than Purdue, but if OSU gets a little locked in on the passing game and Clint Chelf throws the ball 50-plus times, that's no big problem.

3. Don't overthink it on the headset. Todd Monken is gone, and things might get a little awkward. Exactly how Oklahoma State will handle playcalling duties sounds a little cloudy. Either way, it's not going to be Monken, but these coaches have seen this team plenty. They know what works and what doesn't. Overthinking it and doing more than a few uncharacteristic things is a good way to make mistakes and lose this game. You can't emphasize it enough: OSU is the much, much better team in this game. Do what it does, and it wins easily. Make mistakes, and it gets interesting.

Pregame: Heart of Dallas Bowl

December, 30, 2012
12/30/12
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Oklahoma State (7-5, 5-4 Big 12) vs. Purdue (6-6, 3-5 Big Ten)

WHO TO WATCH: Oklahoma State receiver Josh Stewart may be the most underrated player in the Big 12. He caught 96 passes for 1,154 yards to notch his first 1,000-yard season as a sophomore, despite the Cowboys starting three different quarterbacks throughout the season because of injuries. The 5-foot-10, 178-pound Denton, Texas, native had a huge encore after a strong freshman season as Justin Blackmon's protege, and has at least 147 receiving yards in three of his past four games.

WHAT TO WATCH: To get the answer to two questions: Can Oklahoma State prove it wants to be in this game, and can Purdue overcome one of the biggest Vegas lines of the bowl season, at well over two touchdowns? With an 11-point lead in Bedlam, the 7-3 Cowboys had somewhat of a shot to crash the BCS. The Pokes blew that lead to rival Oklahoma and lost to Baylor a week later, tumbling all the way down to the Big 12's No. 8 bowl tie-in -- muddled at 7-5 with four other Big 12 teams. Meanwhile, Purdue had to win its final three games of the season just to reach a bowl, though all three wins came against non-bowl teams with a combined four Big Ten wins. Purdue's got the edge in the "Want To Be Here" rating, but the Pokes are the better team on paper. Can they prove it on the field?

WHY TO WATCH: Hey, you have to watch. It's the Big 12's only New Year's Day Game, even though the Big Ten has five bowl games the same day. You've always got to be careful with big underdogs in bowl games. They love to play fast and loose in the last game of the year with nothing to lose. Purdue might make this entertaining, and teams with interim coaches (Patrick Higgins steps in for the fired Danny Hope at Purdue) have done OK this bowl season. Ask Cincinnati, San Jose State and Utah State about that trend.

PREDICTION: Oklahoma State 37, Purdue 17. Upset potential aside, I'm going with the safe bet for the Pokes here, who will win this game with another solid game from Clint Chelf and open up a really interesting spring quarterback derby in Stillwater. Purdue's Robert Marve finished the season in style, despite playing on a torn ACL, but that ends against Oklahoma State, who finally gets an interception from one of the starting corners, Justin Gilbert or Brodrick Brown.

Bonus predictions from Big Ten bloggers Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett!

Brian Bennett: There's a reason why the Boilers were the biggest underdog on the board in bowl season. They've got an interim coach in Patrick Higgins and have been exposed by some of the better offenses on their schedule, which is a frightening prospect against the high-flying Cowboys. I believe a healthier defensive line will give Purdue a chance in this one, and Oklahoma State is not going to be really pumped up to be in this game a year after playing in a BCS bowl. Robert Marve tosses a couple of scores and Akeem Shavers runs for 135 yards. But in the end, the Pokes -- led by 175 receiving yards from Josh Stewart -- have a little too much for Purdue in a wild one. ...Oklahoma State 31, Purdue 27

Adam Rittenberg: Again, the Big Ten team might be more motivated than the Big 12 squad, but can Purdue keep up on the scoreboard? I don't think so. Although cornerbacks Josh Johnson and Ricardo Allen give the Boilers' a chance against the pass-happy Pokes, Purdue isn't consistent enough or dangerous enough on offense to pace Oklahoma State. I agree Marve has a nice performance in his final college game and Antavian Edison scores twice, but Purdue will be playing catch up after a rough first half and falls short. ... Oklahoma State 38, Purdue 28

Purdue embraces underdog role

December, 27, 2012
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If any team can play the "nobody-believed-in-us" card this bowl season, it's Purdue.

The Boilermakers are the biggest underdog in the 35 bowls, according to the oddsmakers, in their matchup against Oklahoma State in the Jan. 1 Heart of Dallas Bowl. It's the kind of thing players say they don't pay attention to, except that they do.

"I don't really look at that stuff," senior defensive tackle Kawann Short told ESPN.com. "But a lot of people around here have told me that the spread is highest in the bowls. So it's on us to go out there and make a statement. We feel like we can play with any team in the nation right now."

People are understandably low on the Boilermakers, who had to win their final three games just to finish 6-6. Even that wasn't enough to save the job of head coach Danny Hope, who was fired one day after the regular-season finale. Receivers coach Patrick Higgins is coaching the bowl game before turning the program over to Darrell Hazell.

Purdue also got blasted in some big games this year, losing 44-13 to Michigan, 38-14 to Wisconsin, 44-28 to Minnesota and 34-9 to Penn State. No wonder, then, that Oklahoma State is a big favorite with an offense that averages 44.7 points per game.

[+] EnlargeKawann Short
AP Photo/Michael ConroyKawann Short's versatility could make him too attractive for NFL teams to pass up in the draft's first round.
But there are a couple of reasons to maybe believe in the Boilers. They only lost by a field goal on the road to Notre Dame, now the nation's No. 1 team, in September. And they had undefeated Ohio State on the ropes in Columbus before the Buckeyes made a miracle comeback in the final minute and won in overtime. So this team has some experience rising to the occasion.

And Purdue has something going for it now that was absent during its five-game losing streak in the middle of the season: health on the defensive line. That unit was expected to be one of the best in the Big Ten but didn't play like it when several key members of the group were banged up in midseason.

"Kawann and Bruce Gaston are two of the best defensive tackles in the Big Ten; I'd still argue that," said defensive end Ryan Russell, who was a member of the walking wounded. "As a whole, the D-line prided ourselves on having lot of depth this year, and when those injuries happened, there wasn't as much depth. So I'm glad we finally got an opportunity to rest, heal up and show what we're really about."

Short, an all-Big Ten performer and potential first-round pick next April, dealt with a high ankle sprain in the middle of the year. By the Minnesota game, he said, he was "not even 80 percent." He battled through it though and said quarterback Robert Marve -- who played on a torn anterior cruciate ligament without undergoing surgery -- jokingly gave him a hard time whenever Short tried to complain about his ankle.

Short regained his effectiveness toward the end of the season, and with a month off to heal expects to be fully healthy for the bowl game. He was dominant against Notre Dame and is a difference-making force inside when right.

"I'm very excited that a lot of people are back and healthy," Short said. "We're going out there with a chip on our shoulder. Things didn't go our way this season, but right now I feel like we can bring a lot of stuff to the table."

Purdue's best chance of slowing down the Cowboys' spread offense -- which gained nearly 550 yards per game this season, fifth-best in the country -- is probably to disrupt its timing right at the line of scrimmage.

"You have to get lined up and know your assignments quick and fast," Russell said. "They definitely have a lot of weapons. It's about matching their pace and enforcing your will, instead of going with the flow and letting them do what they love to do."

And while Oklahoma State has a prolific offense, the Cowboys went just 7-5 and lost their last two games of the regular season. Purdue players don't quite see why they're being painted as giant underdogs to an opponent whose best victories came against Texas Tech and Iowa State.

"People are not respecting us very much," offensive lineman Trevor Foy said. "I'm looking forward to taking advantage of that, because I know they're going to look over us and we're going to come after them."

And if the Boilermakers do pull off the upset, they can correctly make the "nobody-believed-in-us" claim.

Purdue deals with transition game

December, 12, 2012
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Purdue interim coach Patrick Higgins has given his players some unusual assignments before they start their bowl practices.

Higgins has asked every member of the team to answer a few questions such as: What is the most important thing in your life? What things do you want to do before you die? What do you want on your tombstone? What's your favorite animal? Players had to answer in front of the whole team, as well as make some drawings.

"At first it seemed kind of kiddie," offensive lineman Trevor Foy told ESPN.com. "But when everyone is going up there, all the players and even the coaches, it's really cool."

[+] EnlargeTrevor Foy
AP Photo/David DurochikTrevor Foy (78) and the Boilermakers will play for Patrick Higgins before new head coach Darrell Hazell takes over.
This may seem like an odd time of year for such get-to-know-you tactics. But it might be just what the Boilermakers need after a tumultuous few weeks.

Head coach Danny Hope was fired on Nov. 25, one day after Purdue finished a 6-6 regular season. Higgins was named the interim coach for the team's Heart of Dallas Bowl game matchup against Oklahoma State. Higgins had been the Boilers' wide receivers coach, but he took over play-calling duties for the final three games when offensive coordinator Gary Nord was sidelined by a back injury. The school tabbed Darrell Hazell as its next head coach last week, but because Hazell will coach Kent State in its bowl game, he has only briefly met with his future players.

With all of that transition, a little team bonding seems like a good idea.

"Everyone handle stress differently, so it's great to come together on common ground and get to know each other a little better," defensive end Ryan Russell told ESPN.com. "We can't control what happened to the coaches, but this is about us and about the seniors. So it's great to put the focus back on the players a little bit when the media and everybody else has been taking it out of our hands."

Purdue has already shown the ability to rally together and block out the turmoil. The Boilers were 3-6 after losing to Penn State 34-9 at home on Nov. 3, their fifth straight loss. Rumors of Hope's firing were swirling, and except for a crushing overtime defeat at Ohio State, every loss had come by at least 16 points.

This hardly looked like a bowl team at that time. Yet it won its final three games, at Iowa, at Illinois and in the finale at home against rival Indiana, to clinch a postseason bid for the second straight year.

"It was all about us, the coaches and the players," Foy said. "You can't listen to the media and fans. We had to tune all that out and realize we're here for each other. That was basically the attitude we took, from the [Penn State] game on."

Russell said the players were hopeful that winning those final three games would save Hope's job. Those who had been recruited by Hope, like Russell and Foy, were hurt when it did not.

Now they'll gear up to play for Higgins, who hadn't interacted closely with many members of the team as receivers coach. But he earned respect by serving as offensive coordinator for those final three victories.

"That really made it easy for guys to accept him," Foy said. "Coach Higgins is real positive guy. He does a good job of keeping everybody together and focused."

In a few weeks, Hazell will take over the program. He introduced himself to the players before last week's introductory news conference but has been splitting his time between coaching Kent State and recruiting for Purdue. Russell said he researched what Hazell did at Kent State and watched that news conference and came away impressed.

"He's saying all the right things and you can definitely see the determination in his eyes," Russell said. "I'm ready to start a new era, and I'm going to help battle with him. With no head coach, you kind of feel like you failed. So to have someone step in and believe in you and say he wants to be captain of the ship, that's definitely a great feeling."

Having three head coaches and two offensive coordinators in a short amount of time has taken Purdue on an emotional ride. Maybe coming together and getting to know each other a little better can make that journey more enjoyable.

Heart of Dallas Bowl

December, 2, 2012
12/02/12
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Purdue Boilermakers (6-6) vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys (7-5)

Jan. 1, 12 p.m. ET, Dallas (ESPNU)

Purdue take from Big Ten blogger Brian Bennett: Purdue will be playing in its second straight postseason when it kicks off the Heart of Dallas Bowl, but that wasn't enough to save head coach Danny Hope's job. Hope was fired on Nov. 25 after a 6-6 season, and assistant Patrick Higgins will serve as interim coach for this game.

Hope was confident this would be his best team at Purdue, and the Boilers got off to a decent 3-1 start that included a close loss at Notre Dame. But with an excellent opportunity to make noise in a probation-ravaged Big Ten Leaders Division, the Boilermakers lost their first five conference games, including multi-touchdown losses to Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Penn State.

The team did rally to win its final three games to salvage a bowl trip, sparked by Robert Marve returning as the starting quarterback. Fans had been calling for that move for weeks, and Marve delivered despite tearing his ACL in the second week of the season and eschewing surgery.

Hope did make some inroads in increasing the overall team speed, and the offense boasts some exciting playmakers such as running backs Akeem Shavers and Akeem Hunt and receiver Antavian Edison. Defensive tackle Kawann Short is a potential first-round NFL pick, and Ricardo Allen and Josh Johnson form one of the Big Ten's top cornerback tandems -- and they will be needed against Oklahoma State's high-powered passing game.

This team was talented enough to push Ohio State to the absolute brink in Columbus yet unfocused enough to fall behind 44-7 at Minnesota. How the Boilermakers respond and play against the Cowboys without their head coach is anyone's guess.




Oklahoma State take from SoonerNation's Brandon Chatmon: OSU coach Mike Gundy has done one of the best coaching jobs of his career as the Cowboys made Big 12 history with three quarterbacks throwing for 1,000 yards or more. Wes Lunt, J.W. Walsh and Clint Chelf each had their moments this season as the starting quarterback for the Pokes and each signal-caller led OSU to a double-digit win over a Big 12 opponent.

The constant in the Cowboys’ offensive attack is running back Joseph Randle, the Big 12’s leading rusher with 1,351 rushing yards. His toughness, versatility and playmaking set the tone for OSU’s offense. It could be the final game for the junior, who may elect to leave early for the NFL after three seasons as a key member of OSU’s offense.

OSU’s defense had an up-and-down season, holding four Big 12 opponents to 21 points or fewer before allowing more than 600 yards of total offense to Oklahoma and Baylor in its final two games. Defensive tackles Calvin Barnett and James Castleman have been the tone-setters for the Cowboys' defense. When they play well, OSU’s defense is noticeably better.

Keep an eye on the Cowboys' defense on third down. In the losses to OU and Baylor, the Cowboys allowed more than 50 percent of third downs to be converted.

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