Mike Rose remembers the feeling well.
As a starting sophomore linebacker for Purdue the last (and only) time it faced Oklahoma State, he remembered how good he and his teammates felt after beating the Cowboys decisively in the 1997 Alamo Bowl.
"I can't underestimate the importance of winning the bowl, or how good it felt," said Rose in a telephone interview from his home in the Dayton, Ohio area. "I know beating Oklahoma State helped us get invited to the Pigskin Classic (to play USC) the following year and really set the tone in the offseason for us."
Rose was one of the key players in the Boilermakers' turnaround season in 1997. He was one of the main reasons Purdue was among the nation's elite in takeaways.
Rose had two pick-sixes and a fumble returned for a score in '97 as the Boilermakers were a plus 14 for the season, a huge departure from the year before. It was Purdue's recipe for success as much as the "basketball on grass" offense employed by first-year coach Joe Tiller.
He knows, the Boilermakers will have to be opportunistic on Tuesday to have a chance. But Rose looks at the game, kind of like he played, without much fear.
"What was their record this year, 7-5?," Rose said rhetorically when looking at Purdue's opponent. "Other teams have beaten them, so can Purdue. A win probably won't catapult Purdue into the top-25 to start next year, but it is still important (to get the win. With Coach (Darrell) Hazell watching, these guys have a lot to play for and they should be more motivated than ever."
Looking back, he remembered the week prior to the '97 Alamo Bowl as "the time of his life." Rose, and his teammates, many of whom didn't get shortchanged on fun during college, said that the atmosphere leading into bowl games can make teams sluggish. Purdue started slowly offensively in the '97 Alamo Bowl, waiting until the third quarter to explode offensively scoring three touchdowns to build a 33-13 lead.
"What a lot of people don't realize is that your schedule changes so much for the bowl game," said Rose who had five tackles against Oklahoma State, one behind team leader Lee Brush. "The reasons the team might be a little sluggish is all the social factors and the fact they might be out of mental and physical shape when they are at a bowl game.
"You go home to see your families for Christmas, your eating and workout patterns change. Then when you get to the bowl game, you are social there as well."
The last sentence is a little bit of an understatement admitted Rose.
Rose said that it was the pent-up bowl demand experienced by a fan base that had endured 13 straight losing seasons that also made the game in San Antonio memorable.
"I think it was probably the fact that we hadn't been to a bowl game in so long that made it such a rush for everyone," Rose said. "It seemed like back then the bowls meant more because there didn't seem to be as many. Oklahoma State was a little like us in that few folks expected them to be there either. They were not a power team and they just were happy to be there, too."
Rose recalled quarterback Billy Dicken's memorable performance, but wasn't aware of the severity of Dicken's injury (he separated his shoulder in the first half, yet continued playing) during the intermission.
"The offense and defensive units were pretty separate during the break," Rose said. "I remembered the medical staff working on Billy, but didn't think too much of it.
"He was a tough guy."
Dicken, according to Rose, was also the reason the Kettering, Ohio native chose Purdue.
"He was my host during my visit," Rose said. "With the help of Greg Smith and Leo Perez, let's just say they helped this 18-year old boy become a man that night. It was the best recruiting visit ever."
It also helped Rose that Dicken was a baseball player too.
"I was really looking for a school that would let me play both sports, and Billy helped me realize it could be done here," Rose said.
But while Rose credits the offense, it was the defenses job forcing four Cowboys turnovers that allowed the Boilermakers to roll.
"We knew we had to slow down their star R.W. McQuarters," Rose recalled. "We made a key adjustment at halftime bringing (Adrian) Beasley a little closer to the line of scrimmage, and that slowed all the misdirection they were running at us."
"It worked well."
That it did as the team clad in orange managed just 368 yards in offense, a good portion of which came on its last scoring driving in the game's final minutes.
Like many former players, Rose was supportive of Coach Danny Hope's efforts to incorporate Purdue's football alumni, and he admits to being disappointed things didn't work out for Hope.
"I am a Danny Hope fan and I as a former player I am proud that they made it to a second straight bowl game and kept The Bucket in West Lafayette," Rose said. "There is no disputing his track record as a position coach. The man was inspiring to be around.
"I remember as a linebacker early in camp when I was getting into it with Matt Light. Now Matt and I are friends to this day, but on that day the punches were flying, and who do I find defending myself from some punches? Danny Hope. He as in coaching gear and he was in there swinging defending his offensive lineman. That's the kind of guy he was and is."
Yet, also like most Boilermakers, Rose is fired up for the new coach and thought the process of using former Boilermakers turned NFL general managers Rick Smith and Ryan Grigson worked great.
"I am excited. In some ways it is very similar to 1996 when Coach Tiller replaced Coach (Jim) Colletto." Rose said. "There is tremendous opportunity for the guys when a new coach comes in. We were just glad back then that we took advantage of it."
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