Teams and players heading in different directions had changes in fortune when Ohio State last faced Purdue on Nov. 13, 2004.
The Buckeyes came to Ross-Ade Stadium on a three-game winning streak under quarterback Troy Smith, while the Boilermakers had a four game losing streak. However, it was Purdue’s embattled quarterback Kyle Orton leading a game-winning drive in a 24-17 Boilermaker victory.
Orton came off bench and orchestrated an 80-yard drive in the final minutes, capped off by a 14-yard touchdown pass to Dustin Keller with 2:17 remaining. Orton had struggled during Purdue’s losing streak and had battled injuries, none of which showed in a 6-for-6 passing effort on the game-winning drive.
“He played like a veteran quarterback,” Purdue head coach Joe Tiller told Buckeye Sports Bulletin. “During pregame, he said he was ready to go. We planned to use him today around the third series, to maybe try some hurry-up, no-huddle offense with him. (But) late in the game, we went to Kyle because we thought he was more experienced and more capable of running our two-minute offense.”
It looked early on that Purdue would need no fourth-quarter heroics to beat the Buckeyes. Kicker Mike Nugent gave Ohio State (6-4, 3-4 Big Ten) a 3-0 lead with a 44-yard field goal with 10:47 remaining in the first quarter, but it was all Purdue (6-4, 3-4 Big Ten) through the rest of the first half. Ben Jones answered Nugent’s field goal with a 33-yard kick of his own to tie the game, and then Kyle Ingraham caught a pair of Brandon Kirsch touchdown passes in the second quarter to give Purdue a 17-3 lead at halftime.
Smith and the OSU offense responded in the second half. The Buckeyes got their first touchdown of the afternoon on a acrobatic 30-yard touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes. The future Pittsburgh Steeler broke ahead of the Purdue defense, but he had to leap to reach Smith’s pass. Holmes juggled the ball against his facemask and came down with the ball to help cut the OSU deficit to 17-10.
The catch seemed to get the Buckeyes’ offense going, according to tailback Antonio Pittman.
“That just got us going,” the freshman said. “Once you make a big play, it makes the offensive line say, ‘Yeah, we can do this.’ As the big plays kept going, they just felt better and better. They built confidence in themselves.”
The running game only accounted for 37 yards on 11 carries, but the rushers averaged 5.5 yards-per-carry in the second half. Ohio State also went to the option more in the second half, which helped get the offense moving.
Defensively, the Buckeyes palso played much better after halftime. Purdue was 7 for 11 on third down conversions in the first half, but OSU allowed only 2 of 9 conversions after the half.
“I think our coaches did a good job getting us adjusted where we needed to be at halftime,” said linebacker A.J. Hawk, who made 14 tackles. “We figured out how they were trying to attack us and decided that we wanted to put a little pressure on them and not let them dictate the game to us.”
Smith tied the score with 3:50 remaining in the fourth quarter on a 5-yard run. Orton’s heroics gave Purdue the lead back, but the Buckeyes did have time to mount a final rally. However, the drive stalled when a Smith pass to Ted Ginn Jr. went through the receiver’s hands into the waiting arms of Purdue linebacker Stanford Keglar.
“I just took my eyes off of it,” Ginn said. “Me taking my eye off it too quick made it a deflection and changed the game around.”
Smith had three interceptions and Ohio State turned the ball over in the red zone twice in the fourth quarter.
“We had an ample amount of opportunities to win today,” Smith said “I wish I could have cashed in on a lot of them. Certain throws I wished I could just take back as soon as I released the ball, but that’s the life of a quarterback. When you win, often times people marvel at you. But when you lose, I have to step up for my team and sort of take the majority of the blame because the ball is in my hands.”
The loss was the last the Buckeyes would suffer in the 2004 season. Ohio State upset Michigan 37-21 a week later in Columbus. Then the Buckeyes dominated Oklahoma State, 33-7, in the Alamo Bowl.