The interim coach called for a fake punt just 13 yards from his end zone on the Boilermakers' first possession, and it worked. He just never got another chance to influence the outcome.
Clint Chelf threw three of Oklahoma State's five touchdown passes and the Cowboys shook off a tough Big 12 finish by rolling up 524 yards and forcing five Purdue turnovers in a dominating 58-14 victory in the Heart of Dallas Bowl on Tuesday.
"When you turn the ball over five times, you don't take advantage of your opportunities, the game can turn out like this," Higgins said.
Higgins might have unintentionally awakened the Cowboys soon after the late-morning kickoff on a cold, overcast day when he called for the fake and punter Cody Webster easily picked up the first down on a 16-yard run.
Webster ended up punting anyway five plays later, and Josh Stewart returned it 64 yards to the Purdue 19 to set up Oklahoma State's first score on a 4-yard pass from Chelf to Charlie Moore. Robert Marve threw his first interception on the next possession, and a 26-yard drive ended with Chelf's 7-yard pass to Blake Jackson.
"When they faked that punt on their own 13, they certainly got our attention they'd be willing to do anything," Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said.
Higgins welcomed fired coach Danny Hope into the locker room and said he hadn't seen new coach Darrell Hazell, who attended the game just shy of a month after he was hired from Kent State. Higgins still doesn't know what's next for him.
"This whole situation has been awkward, you know," Higgins said. "There's nothing normal about where the head coach gets let go, the new coach is there. I'm holding the water out till the new guy comes in."
Gundy didn't hide the disappointment of Oklahoma State sliding down the bowl priority list with an overtime loss to Oklahoma when the rival Sooners scored in the final seconds of regulation, followed by another narrow defeat at Baylor to finish the regular season.
The Cowboys (8-5), a year removed from finishing the best season in school history with a win in the Fiesta Bowl, sure didn't seem to lack motivation. They put together the biggest bowl win for Oklahoma State since Gundy was the quarterback in a 62-14 rout of Wyoming in the 1988 Holiday Bowl.
"Some of the seniors, those guys, would like to have been in a better bowl," said Chelf, who was 17 of 22 for 197 yards with no interceptions. "We're a highly motivated group. I think everybody wanted to go out there and prove people wrong, show them we could win a game like this."
With former Purdue quarterbacks Drew Brees and Kyle Orton watching, Marve didn't get to 100 yards passing until Oklahoma State led 45-0 as the Boilermakers (6-7) fell to 0-4 on New Year's Day.
Leading 28-0 at halftime, Oklahoma State erased any lingering doubt three plays into the second half when Justin Gilbert stripped Purdue receiver O.J. Ross on a short completion. The loose ball shot straight to Daytawion Lowe, who ran 37 yards down the sideline in front of the Purdue bench for a 35-0 lead.
Lowe's score was the third fumble return for a touchdown at historic Cotton Bowl Stadium dating to the namesake bowl game that started in 1937 and moved to Cowboys Stadium in 2009.
Oklahoma State's 58 points were the most in a bowl game at the Fair Park stadium, topping the 55 scored by Keyshawn Johnson and Southern California against Texas Tech in 1995.
The Cowboys pushed the lead to 45-0 on Chelf's third touchdown pass, a leaping 37-yard grab in the end zone by Isaiah Anderson, who had 78 yards receiving.
J.W. Walsh had two touchdown passes for Oklahoma State after replacing Chelf in the third quarter. Freshman Wes Lunt, who won the quarterback job in summer workouts before getting hurt during the season, played the last half of the fourth.
Purdue finally scored late in the third quarter when Marve found a wide open Brandon Cottom for a 32-yard touchdown. Marve finished 21 of 34 for 212 yards and two touchdowns and two interceptions, but was just 11 of 20 for 80 yards before the first scoring drive.
Down 14-0, the Boilermakers had their best chance to score in the first quarter when Akeem Shavers, who had 93 yards rushing, ran 24 yards to the Oklahoma State 23. Shamiel Gary, who earlier intercepted Marve on a tipped pass, made a strong tackle in the open field on third down, and Sam McCartney missed a 34-yard field goal.
Trailing 21-0, the Boilermakers were in scoring range again when Marve threw high on fourth-and-2 to an open Kurt Freytag, who got a hand on the ball but couldn't make a juggling catch.