Perhaps it’s fitting that Ohio State plays Purdue during the week of Halloween. For the Buckeyes, it’s a matchup that is known more and more for the spooks and scares delivered by the Boilermakers.
Sure, there’s the 2012 game where Ohio State’s ongoing winning streak had a brush with death. Kenny Guiton filled in for an injured Braxton Miller, tied the game late in regulation and pulled out an improbable overtime win. But veteran members of the 2013 Buckeyes remain haunted by a different specter – the 2011 game against the Boilermakers in West Lafayette.
Late in regulation during that Nov. 12 contest, Miller, then a freshman, tied the game at 20 late in regulation with a fourth-down pass to Jordan Hall. There were 55 seconds remaining on the clock and the ensuing point-after attempt would likely win the game for the Buckeyes, but it wasn’t to be.
In order to get a good hold for his kick, kicker Drew Basil instructed Guiton, the holder on the play, to move six inches to the right of a bare patch on Purdue’s grass field.
Whether the six inches to the right made the difference is hard to know, but the kick was blocked and the Buckeyes eventually lost in overtime, essentially eliminating them from a potential berth in inaugural Big Ten Championship Game.
“(Purdue) blocked it from that right side so, you know, in hindsight maybe I shouldn’t have moved the ball over six inches,” Basil said on Monday. “It was a tough loss.”
The knowledge and heartache of that loss remain fresh for current Ohio State players that took part. So fresh, in fact, that senior captain and offensive lineman Jack Mewhort recounted the ghoulish tale of the 2011 Purdue game to teammates Wednesday.
“Jack came to me and wanted to talk about it (in a team meeting),” Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said after Wednesday practice. “(Mewhort’s speech) was more two years ago. He just talked about what it was like in the locker room after the game and the locker room itself. I guess it’s not the nicest locker room. So, just be prepared for what’s going to happen. It’s a tough trip.”
For the Buckeyes, the ghosts of past failures against the Boilermakers are always present, as is the threat of an upset. Several said they’re determined to avoid the same fate this year.
Adding to the gloomy prospect of traveling to West Lafayette, which is about an hour northwest of Indianapolis, tight end Jeff Heuerman described the Purdue campus as “gray” and “not the most beautiful city.” Other Buckeyes agree that’s there’s something peculiar about the West Lafayette milieu.
Hall was tackled into the end zone to catch the game-tying score, thrown back across the field by Miller, late in regulation at Ross-Ade Stadium back in 2011. Hall smiled at the mention of the play, but his memory of that stadium was foggy, if not spectral. He said he couldn’t quite put his finger on what happens to the Buckeyes when they go there.
“It’s a place that can make you lose focus,” Hall said. “I don’t even know where it’s at in Indiana.”
However, Hall said that Meyer and players like Mewhort are keeping the team’s collective focus sharp in order to prevent another loss.
“No matter where we go, we’ve got to keep our goals in mind,” Hall said. “We’re going to go in there focused and try to handle our business.”
Like Hall, senior receiver and captain Corey “Philly” Brown has a hard time making sense of what happens to the Buckeyes against their upset-minded rivals from the Hoosier State.
Brown said that players that weren’t around in 2011 now have a better idea of what horrors await them – dingy locker room and all – and will be better prepared for it when kickoff arrives.
“Everybody knows what it’s like there,” Brown said. “Just stay focused and stay hungry like we’ve been and go out there and execute the plan.”