March 4, 1998
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue's football team has accepted an invitation to play Southern California in the Pigskin Classic in Los Angeles, Calif., on Sunday, Aug. 30. The game will kick off at 11:30 a.m. PDT (1:30 p.m. Lafayette time) in the Coliseum. It will be televised live nationally by ABC. The Pigskin Classic, now in its ninth year, is sponsored by NACDA.
The teams have met only three times previously. Purdue won 14-13 in the 1967 Rose Bowl, and the Trojans prevailed 19-6 in Los Angeles in 1975 and 31-13 in West Lafayette in 1976.
"This is an honor to be picked to play in such a prestigious game," Purdue coach Joe Tiller said. "We look forward to the opportunity to play a tradition-rich program like USC. This will be an opportunity to showcase our team on national television when no one else is playing. The college football world will be tuned in to this game."
The Boilermakers will return 11 starters and 41 lettermen from a squad which finished 1997 with a 9-3 record, second-place Big Ten tie (6-2 mark), final ranking of 15th in the national polls and a victory in the Builders Square Alamo Bowl. It was the Old Gold and Black's first winning season and bowl appearance since 1984, and highest national finish since 1979. The 9-3 record was the nation's second-best turnaround (from a 3-8 record in 1996). Tiller won National and Big Ten Coach-of-the-Year honors last season.
Purdue led the Big Ten in passing (285.2 yards per game) and total offense (459.2) in 1997. It ranked seventh in the NCAA in total offense, 13th in passing and 22nd in scoring (33.0). The opportunistic defense helped the team lead the conference and rank ninth in the country in turnover margin with a school-record plus-14 total. Boiler fans took notice in a big way, averaging 51,690 fans per home game, an increase of 14.1 percent over 1996 and the highest average since 1988.
Featured players include defensive end Rosevelt Colvin (second team All-Big Ten), middle linebacker Willie Fells (ranked third in the Big Ten in tackles), outside linebacker Willie Burroughs (198 career tackles), cornerback Mike Hawthorne (team's best cover man), free safety Adrian Beasley (Alamo Bowl Defensive MVP), center Jim Niedrach (honorable mention All-Big Ten), guard Chukky Okobi, and fleet receivers Isaac Jones, Donald Winston, Gabe Cox and Vinny Sutherland.
USC returns 15 starters from last year's 6-5 team. The Trojans have one of the nation's most storied football programs which features 20 Rose Bowl victories, eight national championships, four Heisman Trophy winners and 120 first team All-Americans.