What does the interim/lame-duck coaching staff have in store for tomorrow's Heart of Dallas Bowl tilt against the well-rounded, Cowboys of Okie State? Will they come out stiff? Or bouncing all over the place?
That's very hard to say. Hell, it was hard to say when there was a.....normal-duck coaching staff in place.
However, we're firm in our confidence that we have the ability to predict the fun for you. So read on...and get some skin in the game.
Many years ago, in the days when we took stone textbooks to class and built fires in our dorm caves to keep warm, Purdue football meant disappointment and sadness, and actually watching Purdue in a bowl game was something we had only heard about from our ancestors.
Then this new coach came to town, and he showed us that Purdue could, in fact, beat middle-of-the-pack teams on a regular basis ... and do so often enough to get to a bowl game. In that season, fifteen years ago, Purdue met another program that thought it was experiencing a similar renaissance: Oklahoma State. The Cowboys had endured six(!) miserable seasons under Pat Jones and then two more under Bob Simmons before finally cracking the .500 mark and getting into the Alamo Bowl to face the Boilers.
The 33-20 win marked a turning point for both programs, though not in the same direction. We know Tiller's story: in contrast, Oklahoma State would not break .500 again under Simmons, and they would win just one bowl game in four years under Les Miles (yes, that Les Miles).
But just as Purdue's fortunes changed as Tiller left, so too did Oklahoma State's after Miles. Under Mike Gundy (you know, "I'm 40!"), the Cowboys are making their seventh consecutive bowl appearance. Fortunately for the Boilers, this isn't the same team that was a touchdown away from a perfect season, the one that knocked off Andrew Luck's Stanford team in the Fiesta Bowl.
Unfortunately, they're still a class above Purdue. All five of Oklahoma State's losses came against bowl-bound teams, and two of those five won their bowl games (the other three have yet to play). The Cowboys feature an offense that gets a first down or a touchdown on seven of every nine drives, 11th-best in the country. (The median offense - Northwestern's - does so six times in nine. Purdue's rate is .588, 109th of 124 I-A teams.) They score almost 45 points a game, fourth best in the nation. It'll be a tough test for a team that's allowed 35 or more points in half its games this year.
To be fair, this would be a challenge for any team undergoing a coaching change ... but Hope was never able to get a consistent defensive effort from this team, so it isn't as though keeping him around would have made any difference (and it would likely have cost Purdue any chance at Hazell). Instead, it'll be Patrick Higgins taking one for the team - he'll become the first Purdue coach in 105 years to end his tenure without a win. (Those were dark days indeed: Purdue posted consecutive 0-5 records in 1906 and 1907, both times including a loss to Wabash. Yes, that Wabash.)
Oklahoma State 44
Who was the best team the Boilers beat this year? That sloppy, thuggish Marshall squad? The reeling Hawkeyes? Could you actually make an argument that their best win was over....IU? I think you might-could.
Eastern Kentucky actually had the best record of any team that Purdue beat this season at 8-3, but they're not even FBS-level. No, folks, Purdue didn't beat a single, bowl-eligible opponent in their 6-6 season that Danny Hope termed "extremely successful" after the Bucket game. And there's yet another example of where the mindset has been within the walls of Purdue football.
We've made no secret of the fact that we're thrilled with the Darrell Hazell hire and truly excited for Purdue football for the first time in a while. (And not just in the Danny Hope "excited" sense.) But for now, there's one more game under the old regime...sort of.
Patrick Higgins has done an admirable job keeping the guys focused and, truth be told, he has been a big improvement over Gary Nord as OC, winning the final three games while using Robert Marve almost exclusively. Higgins should get a look at some head coaching positions, I think, and it appears that even the state-run Purdue athletics media agrees and is trying to pump him up to potential suitors. A UTEP blog was also clumsily trying to say earlier this month that he might/maybe/possibly will come back to the Miners as OC/WR coach, which seems like an odd move, but hey, who knows? Regardless, we appreciate that Coach Higgins has tried to keep the guys focused and is clearly trying to send off the seniors on a high note. The guy deserves a good job somewhere.
Sadly, I don't think that tomorrow is going to go very well for the good guys. Even if Gary Nord is (hopefully) not even granted a credential to get into the building, the remnants of the Hope/Nord era remain on this team. They don't seem to focus all that well, they don't seem to grasp the tasks at hand and they tend to play up/down to their competition far too often. This will lead to near-misses against ND and OSU, but also far-too-close games against Marshall and Illinois. We've read some deeply concerned quotes from some of the players in recent days that look as though they were written as bulletin-board material by a blog looking to troll a team. As I said, a serious lack of comprehension of what's going on around them.
This was a bad, 3-6 football team that cobbled together suspect victories over truly bad Iowa and Illinois teams and then had a fun day at home against the hapless Hoosiers. When they played good teams, they were embarrassingly overmatched. Oklahoma State is a good team, make no mistake about that. Their 7-5 record belies the fact that they can score in bunches, have terrific athletes and are well-coached by a man over 40.
I think that Robert Marve will put on his superman pajamas one more time and his heart will keep the Boilers in the game. If you like scoring, this one will have scoring. The Boilermakers just won't have quite enough to keep up with the pokes.
|Not a man, nor is|
I've read everything that's out there about our transitional Boilers...Shorter, more-intense practices, team-building and a ton of positivity...that's all good. No one (besides Kingsley Ike) who practiced with the Boilers for much of the season has missed bowl prep...another positive. Sean Robinson has healed faster than many thought he would and has been upgraded to positive- the defense will need all hands on deck...so that's another positive. Even Ralph Bolden looks good to go; a super-positive for me as he's one of my favorite Boilers on the roster.
Gary Nord is still on the mend, Danny Hope has moved out of God's Country...the coaching staff is abridged but focused. Marve is as healthy as a guy with one working ACL can be. The stable of running backs is hungry, the receivers are dialed in to play an opponent that's much better than any of the teams our Boilers beat this season.
Is this team capable of playing with or beating good teams? Hells yes! They showed that v. aOSU and UND. Is this team capable of getting dismantled by high powered offense? No diggety, no doubt.
Okie State's 7-5 is deceptive- they beat some very good teams...and still have one of the best coaches in America, in spite of rumors that circled around Coach Gundy just a month ago.
Reading what the players have said both in Purdue outlets and other papers, it seems the players are very confident...that was never good news under Coach Hope. And in spite of Hope's exit, the remnants of his program remain, and old habits die hard.
Here's to Robert Marve going out on top and proving me very wrong. I think the Cowboys just have too much firepower for the defense to stop and for the offense to keep up with.
OK St. 52