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Purdue University

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Purdue vs. Oklahoma State
When: Noon, Jan. 1
TV: ESPNU

Boilers defense faces tough test in ‘Big D’

The collective heart of Purdue’s football team rose to the forefront late this season when the Boilermakers recovered from a 3-6 record to win their final three games and finish with a bowl-eligible record of 6-6.

So it’s only fitting that Sunday, Purdue accepted an invitation to play in the Heart of Dallas Bowl on New Year’s Day.

Purdue, which fired head coach Danny Hope a week ago and is under the guidance of interim head coach Patrick Higgins, will face Oklahoma State (7-5) at the Cotton Bowl Stadium at noon. The game will be televised by ESPNU.

Oklahoma State finished tied for third place with Texas in the Big 12 with a 5-4 league record.

It will be the second time that Purdue has faced the Cowboys. The Boilermakers defeated Oklahoma State 33-20 in the 1997 Alamo Bowl.

It will be the third occasion in which a Purdue football team has played in the venerable Cotton Bowl Stadium. The Boilermakers tied Southern Methodist at 14 in 1965, and defeated Texas A&M 24-20 in 1967.

Purdue’s last bowl game in Texas resulted in a 27-23 loss to Arizona State in the 2004 Sun Bowl in El Paso.

A five-game losing streak, including going 0-for-October, forced the 2012 Boilermakers into must-wins situations in their final three games of the regular season. The Boilers’ bowl hopes stayed alive with three-point victories at Iowa and Illinois. Still needing a victory on the final scheduled game against rival Indiana, Purdue beat the Hoosiers 56-35 for the Old Oaken Bucket and bowl eligibility.

“We are overly excited to be invited to Dallas and play in the Heart of (Dallas) game,” Higgins said in a Sunday evening teleconference. “With these guys (senior quarterback Robert Marve and senior defensive tackle Kawann Short) next to me, this is the reason why you play the game. For them, it’s going to be a great experience, and we can’t wait to go down there and start the day off against a quality opponent. We’re going to have such a great time, we’re going to have smiles on our faces all the way down and all the way back.”

Oklahoma State has the fourth highest-scoring offense in the nation at 44.7 points per game. Running back Joseph Randle averages 112.6 yards rushing and has 14 TDs, and quarterback Clint Chelf averages 198.7 yards with 12 scores.

“It’s going to be a challenge,” Short said in the teleconference. “It’s going to be up to the defense to step up and try to hold these guys down to minimum points, and keep giving the offense the ball and keep giving momentum and drive down the field. As a defense, we feel like we can match up any given Saturday – any given day, pretty much.”

stwarden@jg.net

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