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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 27, Digital 6

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GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 27, ISSUE 6 61 son-opening loss at Toledo, and that the players expected a tongue-lashing after being beaten by two touchdowns by a MAC school. "We already knew Coach could be tough, he had shown it in spring and through the summer, but when he calmly told us after Toledo that we would build from this, that set us at ease," running back Ed Watson, a senior on the team, said. "He still believed in us, so why shouldn't we believe in ourselves? There was no reason for panic, and as a team, we didn't." The staff also had shown it was able to deal with per- sonal tragedy, as offensive coordinator Larry Korpitz, who came over with most of Tiller's staff from Wyo- ming and coached in spring ball, succumbed to brain cancer. "Looking back, it had to be tough on the coaches, but as players we never sensed it," Dicken said. "Obviously it was tragic, but that brought us Coach (Greg) Olsen and he filled in. And while the staff had to be grieving, it al- lowed us players to move on." Sophomore linebacker Mike Rose remembered a time where Tiller's calm, dry, matter-of-fact demeanor instilled confidence in him. Rose had just embarked on one of the greatest games a linebacker has had at Purdue, with the first of three interceptions in the '97 Big Ten opener against defend- ing champ Northwestern. The only problem was, after a lengthy return, Rose fumbled the ball, giving it back to the Wildcats. "Tiller never was involved in the defense in the game as he let Spack handle it," Rose said. "After that play, he nonchalantly came over and said, 'Rose, get your head up. You're going to intercept another ball and this time, you're not going to fumble.' "And, sure enough, I did, and I scored. You couldn't help believe in the guy." Lesson No. 3: Toughen Up Yes, the Boilermakers were expected to be tough un- der Tiller. The coaching staff instilled that philosophy from Day 1. After the Boilermakers finished the regular season with an 8-3 record, they earned their first bowl trip in 13 years, a date with Oklahoma State in the Alamo Bowl. In the contest, which was viewed by oddsmakers as a toss- up, two of Purdue's stars were injured. It was a negative lightning bolt in what Purdue hoped would be its moment in the sun. On the second play of the game, safety Adrian Beasley collided with the OSU fullback and dislocated his shoul- der. He told the trainers he had a stinger, and they put him back in the game. "I thought, 'Oh come on, this cannot be happening to me,' " Beasley said. "I come to the sideline and the trainer looks at it — I knew what was wrong but in my mind I was like, 'There's no way I'm coming out of this game.'" And he didn't, getting an interception and doing much, much more. The same held true for Dicken, who cracked his shoul- der blade in the first quarter after being hit on a quarter- back run. "It really didn't hurt that much," Dicken said. Really? "They gave me a shot at halftime," he said, "and I kept playing. It didn't seem that bad." The result? It was no coincidence Dicken and Beasley were named offensive and defensive MVP, respectively, in the Boilermakers' 33-20 win, the first postseason vic- tory in 17 years. Toughness is what toughness does. Dicken and Bea- sley were among many examples of that throughout the season. Tom Campbell Ross-Ade Stadium was host to two massive postgame celebrations in 1997, once after Purdue knocked off Notre Dame, and this one after the improbable comeback win over Michigan State.

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