Purdue isn't alone in its football coaching drama. Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy faces speculation that he's in the running for two openings -- Arkansas and Tennessee.
Why should the Boilers, with interim head coach Patrick Higgins running the team after Danny Hope's firing, be concerned? Because they will face Oklahoma State in the Jan. 1 Heart of Dallas Bowl and a Cowboys' coaching change could impact the game.
For now, it remains speculation. During Sunday night's bowl teleconference Gundy declined comment on the subject.
“I would never talk about any other job or give any confirmation of anything that's gone on,” Gundy said. “My only concern is Oklahoma State. I would prefer not to talk about anything other than Oklahoma State or the bowl game.”
Volquest.com, an on-line publication that covers the Volunteers, has reported that Gundy interviewed with Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart on Sunday.
The Cowboys (7-5) were hoping for a more prestigious postseason berth than the Heart of Dallas Bowl, which is last in the Big 12 bowl order and was previously known as the TicketCity Bowl. They finished tied for third in the Big 12 with a 5-4 record, and had been projected to go to the Cotton Bowl, Alamo Bowl or Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
Instead, they'll get to play in the Cotton Bowl (it's the site of the Heart of Dallas Bowl).
“The speculation that was going on for weeks (about which bowl Oklahoma State would get) didn't hold to be true,” Gundy said. “The conference sent us to this bowl. A bowl is all about competing. Teams that play well in bowl games are the ones who really want to be there.”
Gundy said he liked the Jan. 1 date because it allowed the team to have a few more days of practice. Teams are allowed 15 practices spread out over the next four weeks.
“It gives us an opportunity to work some younger players and get ready for the bowl,” he said.
Dallas also is a prime recruiting area for Oklahoma State.
“We thrive in Dallas and central Texas and the Houston area,” Gundy said. “So we'll be down there for a number of days and we have a lot of people that will come support us. We will be visible in that area, which will be marketing Oklahoma State.”
As far as the game itself, Heart of Dallas Bowl board member Kern Egan said in a release that, “This will be an interesting and entertaining game at the historic Cotton Bowl on New Year's Day. Purdue ended the season on a roll with three straight wins, while Oklahoma State has one of the nation's best offenses.”
How good is the Cowboys' offense. They average 44.7 points, which ranks fourth nationally. Louisiana Tech is first at 51.5 points.
In fact, the Big 12 has four of the nation's top 12 scoring offenses with No. 5 Baylor (44.1 points), No. 10 Kansas State (40.7) and No. 12 Oklahoma (40.3).
“We'll find out during the bowl season if the (conference) offenses are as good as people say they are,” Gundy said.
Oklahoma State ranks seventh nationally in passing offense (333.4 yards) despite playing three quarterbacks this season. Quarterback Clint Chelf is expected to start against Purdue. He's thrown for 1,391 yards, 12 touchdowns and six interceptions.
The top receiver is Josh Steward, who has 96 catches for 1,154 yards and seven touchdowns. Charlie Moore has 31 catches for 500 yards and five TDs. Blake Jackson has 28 catches for 565 yards. That's a team-leading 20.2 yards a catch.
In all, nine players have at least 12 catches for at least 166 yards.
The running game is led by Joseph Randle, who's rushed for a Big 12-leading 1,351 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Oklahoma State struggled defensively down the stretch against Oklahoma and Baylor (giving up a combined 92 points in those games). They allow 29.4 points. They give up 285.7 passing yards, which ranks 111th out of 120 major college teams.
Purdue (6-6) begins its bowl practices today. Higgins said the focus is on the team and winning the bowl.
“These guys are the reason why you play the game,” Higgins said. “It will be a great experience. We can't wait to go down there against a quality opponent.”
As far as the Boilers' coaching search, No. 1 target Butch Jones, the Cincinnati coach, reportedly visited Colorado on Monday after checking out Purdue's facilities on Sunday. Cincinnati is reworking Jones' contract in an effort to keep him. He's likely to make a decision fast, perhaps as soon as today. He has a 50-27 coaching record, 23-14 in three years at Cincinnati.
Another possibility is Kent State coach Darrell Hazell, whose name had been linked to the California job. The former Ohio State receivers coach led Kent State to an 11-2 record this season and its first bowl game in 40 years, the GoDaddy.com Bowl against Arkansas State.
Feichter gets defensive honor
Safety Landon Feichter, a walk-on and former Bishop Dwenger standout, earned defensive MVP honors with defensive tackle Kawann Short during Purdue's annual team banquet.
Feichter shares the Big Ten interception lead with four. That included returning an interception for a touchdown in the season-opening win against Eastern Kentucky. He also has a team-leading 76 tackles. He is set to go on scholarship starting with the spring semester.
Short led Purdue with 14.5 tackles for loss and six sacks. He totaled 42 tackles, four pass break ups, two fumbles recovered, one forced fumble and four blocked kicks (three field goals, one extra point). He has six career blocked field goals and ranks eighth in school history in career tackles for loss (48) and sacks (18.5). He is Purdue's only first team All-Big Ten pick. It's the second straight year he was named a defensive MVP.
Offensive players honored were running back Akeem Shavers (team-leading 788 rushing yards) and center Rick Schmeig.
Also, freshman receiver Danny Anthrop and junior linebacker Sean Robinson were voted special teams MVPs.