Heart of Dallas Bowl: It's Game Time

DALLAS – The rain wasn't torrential but it was steady in Dallas on Monday and as a result the Oklahoma State Cowboys did not make it to the Cotton Bowl for their scheduled walk-through and official bowl team picture. Maybe the Cowboys will have reason to take an informal and celebratory team photo about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Cotton Bowl after beating Purdue in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy was joined by Cowboys running back Joe Randle and seniors Cooper Bassett, Lane Taylor and Quinn Sharp for Monday's noon press conference. Purdue was represented by interim head coach Patrick Higgins and Bolilermakers players including quarterback Robert Marve and standout nose tackle Kawann Short.

Gundy early in the news conference paid his respects to a Purdue team that finished the season 6-6, had to win its last three games to get bowl eligible, and then when the Boilermakers did fired head coach Danny Hope and hired Kent State coach Darrell Hazell.

It has been a tough time for Purdue, which is a massive two-plus touchdown underdog to the Cowboys. Gundy said he didn't have that opinion after watching Purdue on video.

"Well, it was interesting watching their games a month ago or however long it's been. At times, Purdue played very, very well against really good opponents," explained Gundy.

"They probably feel the same way that we do; that they wish they would have had some games back. But there were some very quality opponents that they went up against in the season and played very good. And they can make plays on offense, they spread you out and obviously they will try to run the football.

"Defensively, run, attack, blitz and force the offense to make plays," continued Gundy. "I think it's very interesting, the game tomorrow, the concept of kind of where we are at as a football team, and obviously where Purdue may be, and as you watch the bowl games over the last week, there's no question that ... I'm not sure anybody really knows how the teams are going to play. But as I said earlier, we are looking forward to the game."

Purdue running back Akeem Shavers is from Texas and played his high school football in Texarkana thinking of playing in the Cotton Bowl. The Cowboys must stop Shavers in his chance to play on hallowed football ground in his home state.

"I have been to some Texas-Oklahoma games and to the State Fair Classic when Grambling played Prairie View. This is a dream-come-true," said Shavers.

"Growing up in Texas, just about everyone in our area wanted to be a (Texas) Longhorn or (Arkansas) Razorback. This will be the first time I actually played in Cotton Bowl Stadium. It's a little surreal, but we have been having a great time with all the events.

"We think we can play with anybody in the country after our Big Ten schedule, and we have the attitude nothing can stop us now. We have to keep the ball with our running attack and keep it away from Oklahoma State's offense. We have had some good balance in the running game, and we have even been playing three backs quite a bit of the time.

"When we spread out the carries, everybody stays fresh. Oklahoma State is strong across the board, and their corners on tape really come up and play the run well. We have to be physically and emotionally ready for the game, but we feel good about it at this point," said Shavers.

Shavers' counterpart is Randle, the OSU junior who will return to Stillwater to be greeted by his NFL Draft Evaluation, which he said he will look at seriously. He will talk to his coaches and family about possibly coming out early for the draft.

He said he is completely happy with staying at OSU for his senior season, noting that the Cowboys should be really good next season. Randle said he's thinking that the sky may be the limit for the 2013 Cowboys.

Meanwhile, he wants the 2012 season to end on a high note.

"It's always important to win the last game of the season, so you can go into the offseason with momentum," said Randle. "Every time we get on the field we're excited to play. We have so many guys on this team who just love playing football. We're not worried too much about all the other stuff. We just love football, and we want to play as many games as we can.

"We're just going to go out there and try to eliminate mistakes and have a good time. Usually when you eliminate mistakes and have fun, you win games. But it will be tough. We've watched a lot of tape on Purdue. They're a lot bigger than most of the teams we've played."

Gundy says his team has had a great week, had fun, prepared well and is eager to play, and play well. They want to be in Dallas.

"I feel like our players, we are excited to be around each other for another month and playing a game," said Gundy, who was asked how being in this game compared after winning the Fiesta Bowl as season ago.

"I mentioned this when those questions were asked several weeks ago; that I coached 11 years and never had an opportunity to play in a bowl game, and so I tried to stress the feelings and the opportunity for our players, and certainly our coaches. I feel like that they have handled it very well.

"I don't think there's any question when we start the season, we all have goals that we would like to reach, but in college football, there's only a few of those teams that reach those goals. I think it's important as coaches that we continue to instill in our players that the competition and the development of them as not only football players, but young men, is very important.

"I think they have handled it really well, and they have watched film and they have seen Purdue on tape and they know the challenge that we have at hand. So for that reason, I think they have prepared well and they are looking forward to the game."

The answer will come Tuesday in the Cotton Bowl. The Cowboys will do the same thing that they have in other bowl games as late Monday afternoon the travel squad boarded buses to travel to a secret hotel destination for a quieter New Year's Eve than those in the Omni Hotel, the team's headquarters for most of the week.

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