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December 2, 2012
Robert Marve just wants to keep rolling.
Purdue's "roller coaster" season - as Marve described it - is finally going in the right direction.
After winning the last three games to reach 6-6 and bowl eligibility for the second consecutive year, the Boilermakers found out Sunday that they'll play Oklahoma State (7-5) in the Heart of Dallas Bowl at noon on Jan. 1. in the Cotton Bowl.
Though the Heart of Dallas Bowl was the Big Ten's seventh tie-in game in terms of pecking order, it's still on New Year's Day, making it Purdue's first New Year's Day bowl since the Capital One Bowl at the conclusion of the 2003 season.
"To be in this opportunity now is a blessing," Marve said. "We kind of got the ball moving a little bit in the three games we won in a row, so hopefully we get the fourth. We're looking for the W. We're extremely happy about the bowl game and to be in this position and there's no other way we'd rather go out than with the win.
"I'm really looking forward to it. Ever since I was a kid, I've been imagining playing in January."
Purdue was able to reach this point in large part to its offensive resurgence when receivers coach Patrick Higgins took over play-calling duties for the injured Gary Nord.
In the final three games of the season, the Boilermakers averaged 34.3 points and 482 yards per game.
Marve was masterful in that stretch, completing 72 percent of his 88 passes for 787 yards, seven touchdowns and only one interception, which came when a pass was batted around three or four times before being snatched.
Marve's sterling final stretch helped him finish the season with a school single-season record for completion percentage (.662).
And he credits a lot of his production to Higgins.
"He's done a great job of getting on me when I need to straighten up a bit but at the same time putting me in a lot of great situations to get the ball out of my hands," Marve said. "We talked about getting a couple players going (late in the season). I don't feel like it was just me and Coach Higgins. A guy like (Akeem) Shavers steps and runs very strong and the O-line jelling together.
"(Higgins) is very clean cut on what he wants and what he needs, so that makes it easy as a quarterback to go out there and just kind of sling it around, understand where I can be free in the system at the same playing within the system to get the ball and get first downs."
Notice Marve's phrasing there - playing "within the system." It was only a year ago that he seemed to be offended by such a statement.
But this season, Marve has really taken the reins of the offense when he's been allowed and managed the team.
In the last three victories - Marve's starting streak began in a 34-9 loss to Penn State - Purdue had seven scoring drives of at least 65 yards and four that took at least 11 plays.
Higgins has been up in the box calling the offense, but it's likely he will be on the sidelines for the bowl game as interim head coach. But the relationship already has been built between interim play-caller and QB.
"I understand what he likes and he understands what I like, so it's a combination of them both going together," Higgins said in explaining Marve and the unit's success of late. "Then we just pared down what we're going to do in certain situations and we get to practice them more and we get to find out, OK, take your shot here, if not, dump it off but we're just trying to stay within the system. (I tell him), 'We don't need you to win the game.'
"Robert relayed this to me the other day, he said, 'When I got to start full time and to know that I'm not coming out of the game, I don't have to go in the game and try to make a play every time you're in there.' You have the whole game to make that play. So you have time to grow and mature within the concept of the game. I think that helps a lot."
The Boilermakers will need their offense revved up to compete with the Cowboys.
Oklahoma State has one of the nation's highest-scoring offenses, averaging 44.7 points and scoring fewer than 30 points in a game only once this season.
Running back Joseph Randle has a team-high 1,351 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns. Josh Stewart has 96 catches for 1,154 yards and seven TDs.
Purdue will start gearing up for its opponent on Tuesday with the first of 15 bowl practices that will be spread over nearly four weeks, Higgins said.
Oklahoma State will be the likely favorite. The Cowboys were one of nine Big 12 teams that were eligible in the 10-team league. OSU joins four other Big 12 teams with identical 7-5 records. With its 5-4 league record, the Cowboys tied with Texas for third place behind co-champions Oklahoma and Kansas State, who both finished 8-1.
OSU faced five ranked teams this season winning two (Sept. 29: No. 12 Texas at home, a 41-36 loss; Oct. 20: No. 24 Iowa State at home, a 31-10 win; Nov. 3: at No. 2 Kansas State, a 44-30 loss; Nov. 17: No. 23 Texas Tech at home, a 59-21 win; Nov. 24: at No. 13 Oklahoma a 51-48 loss in overtime).
The only game OSU was held under 30 points was a 20-14 win over Kansas on Oct. 13 in Lawrence. OSU opened the season on Sept. 1 with a much publicized 84-0 win over Savannah State.
OSU had three quarterbacks with over 1,000 yards passing in 2012 and as a unit they ranked seventh nationally with a 333.4 per game average. True freshman Wes Lundt started the season but replaced after two games, but still amassed 1,096 passing yards with six TDs and seven INTs. J.W. Walsh, also a freshman, replaced Lundt as a starter a threw for 1,478 yards with 11 TDs and three INTs. Clint Chelf finished the regular season as the starter tossing for 333 yards against Baylor in the 'Pokes last game. For the season, Chelf tossed 1,391 yards with 12 TDs and six INTs.
The Cowboys are balanced offensively ranking 22nd. Randle has rushed for over 1,000 yards in two consecutive seasons.
Not surprisingly, defensively it has been a little different story. OSU ranked 73rd nationally in points against with 29.4 average. It relinquishes 426.3 yards per game, which is 84th in the nation. The Cowboys have struggled defending the pass giving up 285.7 yards per contest, good for 116th in the country. They give up 140.6 rushing yards on average, 37th in the country.
One other interesting sidelight is that both teams might be playing without their regular season head coach. Mike Gundy is rumored to be a strong candidate for the Tennessee and Arkansas jobs.
This will be Purdue's third trip to the Cotton Bowl since 1965. Purdue was ranked No. 1 in the coaches poll, but could only manage a tie against Hayden Fry's SMU squad on Oct, 2, 1965. Two years later, sophomore quarterback Mike Phipps, playing in his first college game, led Purdue to a 24-20 win over Texas A&M to open the season on Sept. 23, 1967.
The Boilermakers played Oklahoma State in the Alamo Bowl in 1997 and won 33-20. Game story here.
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