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January 1, 2013
DALLAS - A Texas native, Akeem Shavers was looking forward to playing in the historic Cotton Bowl.
It turned into more of a nightmare, however, than a dream.
Despite Shavers rushing for 93 yards and adding 54 receiving, the Boilermakers lost 58-14 to Oklahoma State Tuesday in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. Not only that, but Shavers' day ended in the fourth quarter, when he went down awkwardly with a left knee injury.
"We didn't want it to end this way," the senior running back said of the loss, "but everything comes to an end at some point. We tried to make the best of this opportunity."
Shavers' career ends with one of his better days, the latest of his best stretch of games. After having nearly 100 yards rushing and 100 yards receiving vs. Indiana in the regular season finale, he totaled 147 all-purpose yards in the bowl.
"He did a pretty good job until the injury, which is sad," fellow running back Ralph Bolden said. "Akeem is a good guy, he's going to go hard every time."
Shavers was injured at the tail end of a pass reception, when he nabbed a Robert Marve throwback in traffic and raced up the field. But he was upended by a Cowboy and immediately grabbed at the back of his left knee.
He thinks he'll be OK.
"Everything looks good," he said, "but we have to get an MRI to be 100-percent (sure)."
"You get an immediate sense of quality and character about the guy," said Daniels, who takes over at Purdue later this month. "And obviously he is a fine football mind. I've now heard from a lot of people, far more knowledgeable than I about football, and every one of them thinks Purdue has a real steal in Coach Hazell."
Daniels, who is wrapping his second term as Indiana's governor, says that he tried not to become too heavily involved in Purdue's coaching search.
"I didn't feel I should meddle in any way," he said. "I will say that I checked with a couple expert people that I knew, just as the names came through, just in case there was any name that people would caution us about. But there really wasn't. Everybody that Morgan (Burke) was talking to had good marks. But I sought out a couple people just as a check, but it all came back pluses, especially (Hazell)."
Orton, the Dallas Cowboys' backup QB, liked his conversation with Hazell.
"I talked to him for quite a bit and talked scheme and everything with him," said Orton, whose season ended Sunday. "It was fun and I think Purdue's in good shape with Coach Hazell coming in and it should be good years coming up for Purdue.
"He seems like a very sharp guy and a good coach. I think Purdue is a good fit for him, it's a good school and has a good tradition of offensive football."
Hazell did interviews with network TV and radio, but was not made available to print media despite requests.
The junior punter executed two more fakes, the first deep in his own territory on Purdue's first possession, converting each of them into first downs.
"We always have that option, to keep or kick," said Webster, who converted his only other previous fake vs. Ohio State earlier this season. "It's up to me to determine whether it's there or not. We watch film on them and we thought we could get them in the box and could get outside with our shield and that's what we did. I read the shield and cut back.
"I think the coaches have a lot of trust in me to make the decision. So that's always good."
Webster's second fake extended a drive that resulted in Purdue's last touchdown. The first didn't turn out as well. Six plays after Webster's run, he was forced to punt, but it was returned 64 yards to set up Oklahoma State's first touchdown.
"That hurt," he said. "I didn't think I did my job on that. I didn't have enough hang time. We talked about this whole bowl prep that I needed to get more hang time and I didn't on that."
And before the game, he was in the locker room, spending some time with his former Boilermaker players before they played the Cowboys.
"It wasn't anything very long," Robert Marve said. "It was just kind of a hug and good-bye sort of thing. It really didn't shake anybody up or anything like that, but it was nice to see him again."
Hope, who is reportedly a finalist for the open Florida International job, was not in his same seat for the second half of the game.
"This was the team that he coached the whole year," interim coach Patrick Higgins said. "It was good for him to be in there with the team today. They enjoyed it when they saw him."
"There's nothing normal about where the head coach gets let go, the new coach is there," he said. "... I'm holding the water (back) 'til the new guy comes in."
Higgins, who is Purdue's wide receivers coach, its offensive play-caller and interim head coach, was asked what the future holds for him. It's unlikely he - or anyone else on Hope's remaining staff - will be retained by Hazell.
"I know I'm going to take a shower and get my meal and hop on a plane. That's what I know right now," he said.
"We've put a lot of effort into this game and I said it from the beginning, it's about these (players). Whatever happens (to me), it's part of the profession. Wherever I end up, I've been coaching long enough, I'm sure I'll land on my feet.
"This has been a Christmas present for me. These guys have been fantastic. It's been a joy. I'm going to keep it that way. I'm not upset. I'm not down.
"You have the opportunity to be a coach for six weeks at a Big Ten school, coach in a bowl game. What an honor. I wish I would have done a better job with these guys so we have done a better job today."
Purdue also had three university presidents (recent, current and future) in attendance, with France Cordova, Tim Sands and Daniels.
The outcome was the worst in bowl history for Purdue. The previous had been the 24-7 loss to Maryland in the Champs Sports Bowl in 2006.
Linebacker Sean Robinson, who is battling an ankle/foot injury, did not dress. Backup defensive tackle Brandon Taylor, who has been out a couple games with a high-ankle sprain, was active and played as a reserve.
Purdue junior cornerback Ricardo Allen has submitted his name to the NFL's advisory board, to gauge his draft stock.
"But I am returning to Purdue for sure," Allen said. "I have lot to work on."
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