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December 24, 2011

Boilermaker bowl history: No. 4

As we close in on Purdue's matchup with Western Michigan in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl on Dec. 27, we count down the top bowl games in Purdue football history.

Here's No. 4:

1997 Alamo Bowl: Purdue 33, Oklahoma State 20

Purdue coach Joe Tiller had promised to turn Purdue into a winner a quickly. Just over a year after taking the job at Purdue, the rookie Boilermaker coach had completed one of the greatest turnarounds in school football history with a 33-20 win over Oklahoma State.

The Boilermakers, who entered the game a slight favorite, struggled to get their high-powered offense untracked in the first half. Oklahoma State scored first on a 34-yard field goal with 5:13 left in the first quarter.

The first of two interceptions by safety Adrian Beasley helped the Boilermakers to their first score with 1:19 left in the first quarter. Quarterback Billy Dicken hooked up with All-Big Ten receiver Brian Alford on an 18-yard scoring pass to put Purdue ahead to stay, 7-3.

Both teams traded field goals in the second quarter, but it was Shane Ryan's 42-yarder 10 seconds before halftime that gave Purdue a little momentum and a 10-6 lead heading into the locker rooms.

Dicken, who had one pass intercepted in the end zone early in the game, was beginning to heat up the Purdue offense in the second quarter. In the third quarter, however, Purdue exploded in a manner that became the trademark of the '97 team. It was the defense, however, that was the impetus for the onslaught.

Beasley, who was named defensive MVP of the game, picked off another Cowboys' pass on the first possession of the second half and returned it 36 yards to the OSU 5. Dicken scored on a one-yard plunge giving Purdue a 16-6 lead. The Cowboys answered right back with a touchdown at the 9:01 mark, but freshman receiver Vinny Sutherland returned the Boilers working margin to 11 points on a 16-yard scoring run on a reverse.

Just over three minutes later, the Boilermakers' sealed the deal with a 69-yard touchdown bomb from Dicken to Chris Daniels, the longest pass play in the five year history of the Alamo Bowl.

With Purdue ahead 30-13, the defense did the rest in the fourth quarter. The Boilermakers' opportunistic unit, which had a turnover margin of +14, the highest in the Big Ten and tied for ninth best in the country, kept the Cowboys in-check the rest of the way.

Dicken, who separated his shoulder in the first half, set a then Purdue bowl record with 325 yards passing on 18 of 34 completions.

The rationale behind the ranking
Purdue's return to football relevance came full circle with a romp over Oklahoma State in the Boilermakers' first bowl appear- ance in 13 years. Bowl-starved fans came to San Antonio in droves that made for a great bowl experience on San Antonio's River Walk. While this game wasn't one that had fans on the edge of their seats, it was the epitome of the Boilermakers' "basketball on grass" thanks to the play of quarterback and game offensive MVP Billy Dicken. But it was also representa- tive of a new will in Boilermaker football as Dicken played the second half with a partially separated shoulder, yet led Purdue to three third-quarter scores to break open the game.

Previous games:
No. 8: 2007 Motor City Bowl
No. 7: 1978 Peach Bowl
No. 6: 1980 Liberty Bowl
No: 5: 2002 Sun Bowl

Check back each day as we count down our list to the top bowl game in Boilermaker history next Monday morning, in preparation for Purdue's appearance later that day against Western Michigan in Detroit.

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