With the way the Ohio State offense has played in recent weeks, it seemed plausible the day would come when defense would not be enough. That day came Oct. 17 in West Lafayette.
Purdue, which entered the game winless in three previous Big Ten games and a 1-5 record overall, pulled off a 26-18 shocker over a mistake-prone Ohio State.
The outcome was a milestone on several fronts. Purdue beat a ranked team for the first time since 2003, snapping a 19-game winless streak against top-25 teams. The Buckeyes saw their 17-game conference road winning streak go by the boards, one short of the all-time mark set by Michigan from 1988 to 1992.
Also, Purdue first-year head coach Danny Hope notched his first conference victory. He also became the first Boilermakers coach to knock off a ranked team in his first season since 1970.
“I’ve been proud of our football team every Saturday even if some others might not have been,” Hope said. “We stuck together and knew we could do this. We didn’t have any doubts that we could win. We knew if we could eliminate our mistakes, we could beat any football team. We kept believing and stuck together, and I’m really proud of our team.”
The Buckeyes simply made too many mistakes on offense. In the first half alone, quarterback Terrelle Pryor fumbled away one possession, punt returner Ray Small muffed a return and offensive guard Bryant Browning was called for holding, wiping out a Brandon Saine touchdown run.
Pryor’s fumble – on the second play of the game – set the tempo for an ugly game by the Ohio State quarterback. He committed three other turnovers, including a pair of third-quarter interceptions. The second came right after OSU cornerback Devon Torrence had grabbed an interception of his own to keep the Buckeyes in the game.
The Boilermakers cashed in on Pryor’s second pick, however, moving 47 yards in just six plays to take a 23-7 advantage with 3:35 remaining in the third quarter. Ohio State never recovered.
Ohio State committed five turnovers in all – three fumbles and two interceptions – and that provided a wide disparity on the stat sheet for the second week in a row. The Buckeyes ran only 59 plays for a total of 287 yards while the Boilermakers rolled up 361 yards on 83 plays. Time of possession was also lopsided – Purdue held the ball for just over 36 minutes to just under 24 for OSU.
Making matters worse, even with the Buckeyes held onto the ball they couldn’t do much with it. They converted only 5 of 14 third-down plays; Purdue was 7 for 18 on third downs.
Pryor finished the game with 17 completions in 31 attempts for 221 yards and one touchdown against the two picks. He also ran the ball 21 times for a net of 34 yards and a TD. The only other ball-carrier for the Buckeyes was Saine, who rushed seven times for 32 yards.
When asked by reporters following the game if he ever thought about benching Pryor during his struggles, OSU head coach Jim Tressel shook his head.
“Ohio State lost,” he said. “The players, the coaches. We don’t do that. I know that’s what you’d like to write but Ohio State lost. We’ll go back and evaluate every play and try to get better.”
Purdue senior quarterback Joey Elliott clearly outplayed his Ohio State counterpart. Elliott connected on 31 of his 50 attempts for 281 yards and two touchdowns. Most of his completions went receivers Aaron Valentin and Keith Smith into the middle of OSU’s soft zone. That duo combined for 22 receptions for 222 yards and two scores.
The Boilermakers got on the scoreboard first with a 32-yard field goal from kicker Carson Wiggs at the 12:47 mark of the opening period.
OSU quickly wiped out that deficit with a three-play, 66-yard drive that culminated in a 6-yard run by Pryor that gave the Buckeyes a 7-3 lead with 11:28 remaining in the first quarter.
The rest of the first half was all Purdue. Following Small’s muffed punt, Wiggs booted a 27-yard field goal to make it 7-6 at the 8:55 mark of the second quarter, and then drilled a 55-yarder against the wind on the final play of the first half to make it 9-7 Boilermakers.
That score proved to be a momentum-changer, especially in light of the fact the Buckeyes had a touchdown wiped out three minutes earlier. Saine broke through the Purdue line for a 14-yard scoring run that would have pushed Ohio State’s lead to 14-6. But Browning was called for holding, and on the next play, Pryor fumbled as he was sacked and Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan recovered.
Purdue built on its late first-half momentum by taking the opening kickoff of the second half and marching 67 yards in eight plays to increase its lead. Elliott connected with receiver Valentin on a 15-yard touchdown pass, stretching his team’s advantage to 16-7 with 10:58 left in the third quarter.
Elliott and Valentin hooked up again following Pryor’s second interception, this time for a 23-yard touchdown to push the Boilermakers out in front by a 23-7 score with 3:35 remaining.
The teams traded field goals early in the fourth quarter before the Buckeyes finally got in the end zone again. Under a heavy rush, Pryor somehow found receiver DeVier Posey for a 25-yard touchdown and then tacked on a two-point conversion to make it a one-score game at 26-18 with 7:14 remaining.
After the OSU defense held, the Buckeyes had one more scoring chance with 5:04 remaining. But after moving to the Purdue 29-yard line with 2:37 remaining, Pryor threw incomplete and then took a third-down sack when the Boilermaker rush overwhelmed the OSU offensive line. It was the fifth sack of the day against Pryor.
Then on fourth-and-14, the sophomore quarterback threw too short down the field to Small and the ball was knocked away by Purdue defensive back David Pender.
The Ohio State defense created three turnovers of its own. Cornerback Chimdi Chekwa and Torrence had interceptions while safety Kurt Coleman had a fumble recovery. Coleman appeared to create another fumble early in the game, but officials ruled the Purdue ball-carrier’s forward progress had been stopped and blew the play dead.
Ohio State (5-2, 3-1) will be back in action next Saturday when the Buckeyes return home to host Minnesota. Kickoff will be shortly after 12 noon Eastern with the game being televised by ESPN.