DALLAS – A curious and unsettling mix of the past and the future was present Tuesday at the venerable Cotton Bowl stadium. This might or might not have been a factor as Purdue suffered a beating for the ages.
With recently fired coach Danny Hope in the stands and newly hired Darrell Hazell watching from a suite, the Boilermakers disintegrated quickly in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, reduced to helpless spectators themselves as Oklahoma State stampeded to a 58-14 victory.
The defeat was by far the worst in Purdues bowl history – the previous low was a 24-7 loss to Maryland in the 2006 Champs Sports Bowl – and the 58 points allowed surpassed the 48 scored by Central Michigan in Purdues 51-48 win in the 2007 Motor City Bowl. And it was a crushing blow for a group of players hoping to honor their old coach and impress their new one with a strong performance.
It kills, cornerback Ricardo Allen said. We worked so hard for this game. Its been a month of practicing and you come out and do an embarrassing thing like this. We embarrassed Purdue, and we embarrassed our community.
(Hope) came to the game, and then we disappointed him. Because this is not the team that represents coach Hope.
It was especially embarrassing give the presence of the coaches. Hazell, who watched with university officials, left at halftime with the Boilermakers trailing 28-0. Hope, who visited the locker room before the game for just kind of a hug and goodbye, quarterback Robert Marve said, was also gone long before the finish.
Having them both on hand was especially difficult for the man in the middle – receivers coach Patrick Higgins, a member of Hopes staff who was head coach for the bowl.
This whole situation has been awkward, he said. Theres nothing normal about when the head coach gets let go and the new coach is already there. Im kind of just like the finger in the dike. Im holding the water out until the new guy comes in.
The dam broke Tuesday.
The Boilers (6-7), who had rallied from a 3-6 hole with three consecutive wins just to earn the bowl bid, fell flat in every part of the game Tuesday. The offense fumbled six times and committed five turnovers, and the defense had no answer for the Cowboys high-speed air attack, allowing five touchdown passes. Even the special teams got into the act with a missed field goal and allowing a 64-yard punt return by Josh Stewart to set up Oklahoma States first score.
The Cowboys (8-5) left the Purdue defense flatfooted with multiple formations and personnel, trick plays – five OSU players completed passes, including running back Joseph Randle and receiver Stewart – and, mostly, a lightning-quick, no-huddle scheme that left the Boilermakers gasping and confused.
The substitution became an issue with people not knowing when to come in or come off, defensive end Ryan Russell said. It got out of hand at times. People didnt know what position they were playing or where to line up.
They had schemes to beat everything. They knew what defenses and coverages we were in and they outexecuted us.
The offense had similar issues. While Purdue had some success running the ball, with Akeem Shavers gaining 93 yards and averaging 6.6 yards per rush, Marve, playing the final game of an injury-riddled six-year career, struggled most of the day and threw two interceptions against an Oklahoma State defense that was always a step ahead.
The ball didnt bounce our way, whether it was a bad throw or a dropped ball or a lack of communication, Marve said. You could tell theyve been watching a ton of film – they were jumping a lot of our stuff – and we didnt make the plays when they were there.
Now its on to the Hazell era, but if the new coach was hoping to find some momentum left from the winning streak to catapult the team into next season, those hopes were flattened Tuesday.
Its a real small catapult right now, Higgins said. But its a positive. Anytime you can play in a bowl game, it helps you to have progress. There were some positives. Im sure when we sit down and look at the film, were going to find a bunch of positive things we did in the game.
Like Ive said, this has been a Christmas present for me. These guys have been fantastic. Its been a joy, and Im going to keep it that way. Im not upset. Im not down.