It wasn’t convincing by any means, but a victory is still a victory.
Ohio State defeated Purdue 16-3, but the sputtering offense managed little against the Boilermakers. The Buckeyes’ stifling defense and opportunistic special teams led the way. The only touchdown of the game came on special teams, and that was enough against Joe Tiller’s final Purdue squad.
It was a frustrating final trip to Columbus for the longtime Purdue head coach. His team outgained the Buckeye, 298-222, ran 21 more plays and picked up four more first downs. However, Ohio State never allowed Purdue’s high-powered offense to reach the end zone, and two turnovers helped the Buckeyes’ cause.
Things started well enough for Ohio State. The Buckeyes took an early lead when senior Malcolm Jenkins broke through the Purdue line and blocked punter Chris Summer’s kick early in the first quarter. The ball bounced high off the turf and into the hands of backup linebacker freshman Etienne Sabino, who took it 20-yard for a touchdown at the 11:41 mark of the first quarter.
“I felt like the ball was never going to come down,” Sabino said. “It was in the air forever and it finally fell into my hands. After that, I just remember running as hard as I could to get into the end zone.”
Points became hard to come by after Sabino’s first collegiate score. Purdue had a scoring threat following the touchdown, but a turnover cost the Boilermakers points. Quarterback Curtis Painter led Purdue to the OSU 32-yard line before he fumbled the ball as he was hit by Ohio State defensive lineman Thaddeus Gibson. Fellow lineman Lawrence Wilson pounced on the loose ball and ended the threat.
The turnover also turned into points. The Buckeyes drove to the Purdue 9 before settling for a 27-yard Ryan Pretorius field goal with less than a minute left in the first quarter.
Ohio State had a chance to extend its lead soon after when Purdue committed another turnover on the ensuing drive. Jenkins intercepted a Painter pass to give the offense the ball at the Purdue 30, but again the Boilermakers forced Ohio State to settle for a field goal attempt. Pretorius pushed the kick wide left from 38 yards.
The Buckeyes then forced another turnover – this time on downs – before extending the lead to 13-0. Another promising drive was bogged down in Purdue territory. Ohio State settled for a 49-yard field goal by Aaron Pettrey.
Purdue’s had one final chance to get on the scoreboard before halftime when Painter led his offense to the OSU 35 with time running out in the second half. The Boilermakers had to settle for a 52-yard field goal attempt by Cameron Wiggs. It sailed wide left.
Wiggs finally did get the Boilermakers on the board early in the second half with a 53-yard field goal, but that was all Purdue could manage offensively.
The final points of the game came on a short Buckeye drive early in the fourth quarter after Ohio State played the field position game. Punter A.J. Trapasso pinned Purdue at its own 4, and after a three-and-out, the Buckeyes got the ball back at the PU 39.
Pryor started the drive by completing a 5-yard pass to Brian Hartline. Chris “Beanie” Wells covered 9 yards on second down, and three plays later, Pryor went back to the air and found freshman Lamaar Thomas for 16 yards to give the Buckeyes a first-and-goal at the Purdue 8.
But again the offense couldn’t find its way into the end zone. After two successive running plays resulted in lost yardage, Pryor scrambled for 6 yards on third down. That only got the Buckeyes to the 5-yard line, and Tressel then sent Pretorius on the field for a 22-yard field goal that pushed the lead to 16-3.
Wells led the OSU offense with 94 yards rushing on 22 carries. He had a streak of five consecutive games of 100 rushing yards or more snapped. Pryor had an uneven performance, completing just 10 of 14 passes for 97 yards. He was also sacked three times and held to 27 yards on 14 carries.
“We certainly didn’t control the line of scrimmage,” OSU head coach Jim Tressel said, “and that’s where it starts.”
Painter completed 23 of 51 passes for 228 yards and an interception. Running back Kory Sheets added 67 yards on 20 carries. Purdue did most of its work between the 20-yard lines. The Boilermakers, in fact, never reached the red zone.
Senior linebacker James Laurinaitis led the defensive effort with 10 tackles. Marcus Freeman added nine stops, and Gibson had six tackles, including two for a loss and a forced fumble.
Even though they won, some of the Buckeyes voiced their displeasure with their performance following the game.
“We just know we didn’t play anywhere near how we can,” junior tight end Jake Ballard said. “Our O-line, our tight ends, our receivers – everybody’s down because we know we didn’t play as good as we can, and we know it’s not going to get the job done later in the season.”
Tressel was not entirely happy, either.
“Offensively we didn’t get near as much done as we’re going to need to get done, but we didn’t turn it over, and that’s critical in a Big Ten battle,” the OSU head coach said. “We all know we’ve got a lot of work to do, but we also know that we need to come up with wins especially as we’re in conference play.”
The win allowed Ohio State (6-1, 3-0) to keep pace with Michigan State and Penn State in the Big Ten. The Spartans (6-1, 3-0) and Nittany Lions (7-0, 3-0) posted wins over Northwestern and Wisconsin, respectively.