The Purdue Boilermakers and Oklahoma State Cowboys will meet up in Dallas, Texas for the Heart of Dallas Bowl at Cotton Bowl Stadium on New Year's Day.
Purdue is playing in back-to-back bowl games for the first time since 2006-07. However, a five-game losing streak derailed the Boilermakers' 2012 season, resulting in the dismissal of head coach Danny Hope in late-November. Hope was replaced by Kent State coach Darrell Hazell, the 2012 MAC Coach of the Year who led the Golden Flashes to an 11-2 season and their first bowl game in 40 years. The Boilermakers, who sat at 3-6 following a home loss to Penn State on Nov. 3, won their last three games to close out the regular season and earn bowl eligibility.
Despite a season that had its share of low points to go along with the highs, Oklahoma State is playing in a school-record seventh straight bowl game. The Cowboys, who beat Stanford in overtime in last season's Fiesta Bowl, closed out their schedule with back-to-back road losses at Oklahoma and at Baylor.
In the only other meeting between the two schools, Purdue beat a 24th-ranked Cowboys team 33-20 in the 1997 Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, Texas.
Purdue wide receivers coach Patrick Higgins took over as interim offensive coordinator for the final three games of the regular season after Gary Nord was sidelined with a severe back injury. And when Hope was fired, Higgins was named interim head coach for the rest of the season. Suffice to say, the players have responded well to his direction, with the offense averaging better than 34 points during the season-long three-game winning streak.
"I'm interim everything," Higgins quipped. "I'm all in. This is a good time"
Robert Marve took over for Caleb TerBush at quarterback midway through the season for Purdue, and his last outing was his best of the year. Marve completed 20-of-29 passes for 348 yards and three TDs to beat Indiana and become bowl eligible. Akeem Shavers headlines the rushing attack with 64.8 yards per game (4.7 ypc) and six scores, while Antavian Edison is fifth in the Big Ten with 57 catches and has caught eight touchdowns.
Purdue's defense is anchored by All-American tackle Kawann Short, who racked up 14.5 tackles for loss, six sacks, four blocked kicks, a forced fumble and two recoveries. Short finished the regular season tied for fourth in the Big Ten in tackles for loss and tied for fifth in sacks. Over the course of his career, he has blocked more field goals (six) than any other player in school history.
Overall, the Boilermakers rank 70th in the country in total defense (407.3 ypg) and 71st in scoring defense (29.0 ppg). Sophomore safety Landon Feichter leads the team with 76 tackles and four interceptions to go along with seven passes defended. Senior cornerback Josh Johnson (58 tackles) is among the most productive players at his position in college football, as he has notched three interceptions, 16 pass breakups and 19 passes defended. Johnson has also forced three fumbles.
Oklahoma State boasts the nation's No. 4 scoring offense (44.7 ppg) and No. 7 passing offense (333.4 ypg) despite having three different players start at quarterback over the course of the season. In fact, the Cowboys are the first team in Big 12 history and the first in the NCAA since 1996 with three 1,000- yard passers in a season. OSU's 4,001 passing yards mark the second-best total in school history, trailing only the 5,034 yards of a year ago with Brandon Weeden running the offense. Junior Clint Chelf began the season third on the depth chart and did not see action until the eighth game when Wes Lunt got hurt. He has started each of the last four games and has thrown for 1,340 yards with 11 touchdowns and four interceptions.
With a string of injuries impacting the quarterback position, OSU's offense has hardly missed a beat thanks to a couple of impact players at the skill positions. Sophomore wideout Josh Stewart ranked seventh nationally with 96 receptions and 17th with 1,154 receiving yards. Junior running back Joseph Randle led the Big 12 with 112.6 rushing yards per game running behind an offensive line anchored by right guard Lane Taylor, who did not allow a single sack in more than 850 snaps. Taylor, Randle and Stewart all earned first-team All-Big 12 honors this season. The Cowboys also boast a potent weapon in kicker/punter Quinn Sharp, who led the nation in kicker scoring and would have been among the national leaders in punting if he had enough attempts to qualify.
Consistency on defense has been an issue throughout the season for the Cowboys, and they are coming off back-to-back subpar effort. A week after giving up 51 points at Oklahoma, the Cowboys let Baylor put 41 points on the board in the regular-season finale. On the season, they rank 81st in the nation in total defense (426.3 ypg) and are 112th in pass defense (285.7 ypg). Linebacker Alex Elkins paces the squad with 73 tackles
At the team's pre-game press conference, Cowboys defensive coordinator Bill Young spoke about his team's preparation for Purdue.
"The offensive coordinator is the same guy that has called the plays all year," Young said. "There's no doubt that they're going to do what was successful. We've looked at every play of every game and they haven't changed that much during the season. They have a great run game, then they have the spread so you have to prepare for everything."