Even the most optimistic of Purdue fans knew the Boilermakers could be in trouble on New Year’s Day. But very few expected to see 58-14 on the board when the final whistle blew at the Cotton Bowl. In a bowl renamed this past year to the Heart of Dallas Bowl, Purdue showed little of it in putting up a fight when the game mattered, and Oklahoma State showed none in taking their foot off of the gas pedal leading by five touchdowns in the second half.
In a season where Purdue fans endured a five week stretch of nuclear winter that sealed Danny Hope’s fate as the head coach of the Boilers, this postseason tilt serves as a reminder of just how large of a hill to climb this program has under new leadership. That new leadership is the only bit of good news from the game. Regardless of the outcome, all attention for Purdue now shifts to what will happen going forward with new head coach Darrell Hazell.
The only other bit of consolation for Purdue is that the fact the game was easily fourth on the depth chart of games being played in the early New Year’s Day window. The game was buried on ESPNU the way the Boilers were buried during the game itself. And, it was an intimate gathering of friends that watched the game unfold in Dallas.
To put the numbers in perspective, even in four embarrassing blowout losses during the aforementioned five-game skid, at least Purdue scored in the first half of each of those other losses. The most points allowed in previous lopsided games this season was 44 to Michigan and Minnesota. The 58 scored by Oklahoma State was one shy of the most ever allowed by a Boilermaker team. The record was set in a 59-56 loss to Minnesota in 1993.
The bowl loss was easily the most lopsided postseason loss in school history. The previous record was set in a 24-7 loss to Maryland in the 2006 Champs Sports Bowl.
While Purdue couldn’t get out of its own way with turnovers, dropped passes, and miscues, the only misstep for Oklahoma State was its play calling with the game well in hand. While leading 38-0, the Cowboys ran a hurry-up offense before throwing a 37-yard touchdown pass to push their lead up another seven points. That was followed by a double-reverse pass early in the fourth quarter while leading 45-7. Apparently, T. Boone Pickens’ billions can buy great facilities in Stillwater, but not an ounce of class for head coach Mike Gundy.
The taste of this loss will be sour for Purdue football for some time, but the focus should shift to Darrell Hazell quickly. He was in attendance, and appeared on the TV broadcast early in the third quarter. I respect the fact the he’s coaching his soon-to-be former squad in Kent State in their first bowl game in 40 years on Sunday in Mobile, AL. However, I do think it takes away from work that appears to be much needed in West Lafayette.
It’s good news/bad news concerning what returns next season for Purdue. When you finish 6-7, and five losses were in games in which you weren’t really competitive, maybe it’s a good thing you’re almost starting over at several positions. Rob Henry has the only game experience at quarterback, and the experiment to use multiple players there this season was nothing short of a disaster. Henry accounted for 355 yards of offense this season combining his rushing, receiving, and passing stats. It will be three years separating stints as the starting quarterback if he leads this team on the field next fall.
The running back rotation loses Akeem Shavers and Ralph Bolden. Antavian Edison is now finished with his Purdue career, as are defensive stalwarts Kawann Short, Robert Maci, and Josh Johnson. There’s not the need for a program rebuild, or a facility rebuild, but there is a need for a roster rebuild for Hazell.
The schedule is also unkind to Purdue next year. They’ll open at a 10-win Cincinnati team led by Tommy Tuberville. They’ll host Notre Dame and Northern Illinois in non-conference home games. Even the home game with Indiana State is far from a guaranteed win. In league games, Purdue will see Ohio State and Nebraska at home, while traveling to Michigan State and Wisconsin amongst others.
Offering a final analysis of this season, this team looked every bit like the ninth best team in the Big Ten.. Their league wins were against the three teams that finished below them in the league. Purdue didn’t beat a single team that finished with a winning record this season at the FBS level. The Boilermakers played in a bowl game with a Big Ten tie-in, let alone a New Year’s Day bowl, only because Penn State and Ohio State couldn’t play in the postseason. They may have found a bowl game more suited for their level of talent had those two been eligible. Or maybe they wouldn’t have played in a bowl game at all.
Today was ugly. And that’s being exceedingly kind. While I think Hazell was a great hire, and I think he’ll do good things at Purdue, I think the ugliness continues into the fall. This team underachieved to finish the regular season with six wins to qualify for postseason play. Given the returning talent, and daunting schedule, I think Hazell’s first Purdue team would overachieve tremendously to get to a similar win total.