STILLWATER — Following the announcement that Oklahoma State would be pegged against Purdue in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, Cowboy coach Mike Gundy admitted he didn't know much about the opponent.
No past with anyone on the Boilermaker coaching staff. Little familiarity with the course of Purdue's season, other than that it finished 6-6 and fired coach Danny Hope, who has since been replaced by Darrell Hazell.
So let's bring in someone who has followed the Boilermakers closely all season.
Mike Carmin is the Purdue beat writer for the Lafayette Journal and Courier. This week, he answered five questions from The Oklahoman about the Boilermakers to help Cowboy fans get to know their foe.
Purdue's coaching search is over with the hiring of former Kent State coach Darrell Hazell. But Patrick Higgins will coach the bowl game. How do you expect the transition period over the next month will go? What originally made Higgins the natural choice for the interim tag?
“Higgins began serving as the interim offensive coordinator when assistant head coach/offensive coordinator Gary Nord suffered a back injury the week of the Nov. 10 game against Iowa. The offense picked up during the last three weeks and when Purdue decided to make a change, so he was the natural fit. He's been here longer than defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar, and that played a role in the decision.”
Other than level of competition, what most contributed to Purdue's rally to get bowl eligible with three consecutive victories to close the regular season?
“Just better execution, better tackling. It's hard to discount the level of competition, because Purdue came off a stretch of playing Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Minnesota and Penn State. Iowa, Illinois and Indiana are three of the worst teams in the Big Ten. Plus, knowing Robert Marve would be the starting quarterback and play the whole game gave the offense some confidence.”
You mentioned Robert Marve. Many college football fans will recognize that name — and will probably be surprised to know that he is, indeed, still in college. What's it been like covering his journey since he arrived at Purdue, and what has he shown this season?
“It's been strange. He came here full of hype from Miami. Big things were expected from the beginning, but a knee injury sidelined him after four games in 2010 and he never fully recovered. He started this season as healthy as he's been, but injured his knee again at Notre Dame in the second game. He's playing on one good knee. Marve has really matured and stepped up his leadership role, pushing this team into a bowl game. He ran about 60 yards chasing down an Indiana defender following an interception to make tackle, again on one good knee. I think the players have always responded better to him and this last month has really showed.”
Who's the anchor of this Boilermaker defense? Is it lineman Kawann Short, a first-team All-Big Ten selection? What makes him such a force?
“Short is the anchor. He worked hard the last two offseasons to get himself in the best shape possible. He usually takes on double teams, but has quick feet and is able to move past offensive lineman. That comes from playing basketball, where he was standout in high school. Keep an eye on Josh Johnson, who is a physical cornerback.”
Purdue has opened as a significant underdog against the Cowboys. At first glance, where could the Boilermakers potentially exploit OSU? Is there an X Factor player to watch?
“Based on the numbers, Purdue should have success through the air. The Boilermakers use a lot of screens and short passes to utilize their speed. Purdue doesn't feature a big downfield passing attack. A strong running game would help its chances. One player to watch is Akeem Hunt. He has five touchdowns of 50 yards or more, including 100-yard kickoff return.”