HOUSTON - Everything is bigger in Texas, including the number of Purdue's missed opportunities against Rice. The Boilermakers failed to seize a plethora of chances to run away with a victory, far before Carson Wiggs' 31 yard field goal attempt as time expired.
Purdue had a golden opportunity to score on the first play of the game, when quarterback Caleb TerBush barely threw the ball over OJ Ross' outstretched fingertips.
"That was a play that was there for us, but we didn't connect on it," Hope said. "I don't if we overthrew it or if we were a little shy on the route. We'll look at it on the film to find out. It was wide open. It would have been a touchdown on the first play of the game. We've been waiting all week long to call that on the first play. It was there, we just didn't hook up on it."
Ross came dangerously close to making a game-breaking play once again with 10:38 left in the fourth quarter when he caught a screen pass at the Rice 41 and shook a defender before tripping and stumbling out of bounds at the Rice 13 with a clear path ahead of him. Purdue ended up settling for a field goal on the possession.
"I lost my footing and my shoe started come fall off," Ross said. "I lost my balance, so I just stepped out."
With Rice driving deep in Purdue territory in the fourth quarter with a five point lead, in danger of putting the game away with a score of any sort, Purdue forced a crucial turnover when defensive end Robert Maci stripped Rice quarterback Taylor McHargue. Kawann Short fell on the ball with a group of Boilermakers around him, when the opportunity to scoop up the ball and head to the end zone looked extremely promising.
"I was trying to (score)," Short said. "I don't know what happened though, but I thought I was gone. I saw nobody in front of me. It was my drive to scoop and score, but I got tackled or tripped or whatever."
In the middle of a seven point game in the middle of the third quarter, Coach Hope opted to play it safe on a fourth down from Rice's 34. Instead of letting Carson Wiggs attempt a 51 yard field goal, which would be his ninth over fifty yards in his Purdue career, Hope chose to afflict Rice with bad field position.
"I didn't want to miss and give them the ball at midfield," Hope said. "They were having success offensively, and I didn't want to give them the ball at midfield. In my mind, that was a tougher call than the other one. I think he could have made it, but if he didn't now they have the ball at midfield. If we punt it, they have to drive the ball 99 yards. That's a big difference."
The plan did work just how Hope drew it up however, as Wiggs pinned Rice down to its own one yard line, and Joe Holland and Short were able to force a safety on the following play .
"I'd like to say getting the safety was part of the master plan, but I'd be factitious for that," Hope said. "But the end result, it wasn't a difference maker in the ball game. It was a decision that will be scrutinized and criticized, but I know why I made the call.
On a fourth and one at the Rice two yard line with 1:18 remaining in the third quarter, Purdue elected to feed Akeem Shavers up the middle rather than run out Carson Wiggs for a 19 yard field goal was stuffed on a run up the middle.
"That was a tough call," Hope said. " I'm glad it wasn't a difference maker at the end of the ball game or else I'd probably have a lot of questions about it. A lot of people say take the points, but sometimes you're trying to build momentum. If we would have gotten the first down or scored and tied the ball game up and stopped them with the wind at our back, then we would have been in the position to take the lead."