My apologies for the lack of updates on football this week. There are a number of reasons for this. First, most of us aren't really existed about being the latest speedbump on Ohio State's road to the Big Ten championship. Second, I actually started a real life, full-time job this week and I have been dealing with that start up. In an effort to become the king of all internet media in the state of Indiana, I am now managing the Indiana page for CoachesAid.com. It is basically a comprehensive Indiana High School Sports site that I will be running out of my home. It is still in its infancy, but I figured that if I can grow this place I can grow that one while managing an actual staff of writers.
Of course, I am not going to let it compromise my work here. It will basically just pay all the bills for the fun that goes on here at Hammer & Rails. That being said, we could have a fun afternoon on Saturday. For some strange reason we always play Ohio State very well. The recent history in the series has included a number of close games in which we really had no business playing them that closely. It has been five years since we beat the Buckeyes, but with a modicum of offense and a turnover-free afternoon we might be able to spring a major upset.
2009 Record: 5-1, 3-0 Big Ten
2008 Record: 10-3, 7-1 Big Ten
Bowl result: Lost to Texas 24-21 in Fiesta Bowl
Series with Purdue: Ohio State leads 37-12-2
Last Purdue win: 11/13/2004 at Purdue 24-17
Last Ohio State win: 10/11/08 at Ohio State 16-3
Of the other 10 Big Ten teams, we only have an equal or longer losing streak against Penn State. Of course, we currently only have a winning streak against Michigan, Illinois, and Indiana, so that doesn't mean much. This year's Ohio State team is much like their past few teams. They have won the games they should win, but lost a close game in their biggest matchup to date.
As a Purdue blog, I am required to include this video in any discussion of Ohio State.
Ohio State offense:
The Buckeye offense has not been overly prolific, but it doesn't need to be when the defense is playing at a high level. A prime example is last year's game in Columbus. The offense was awful, but the defense limited Purdue to a 53 yard field goal and even got a special teams touchdown on a blocked punt. We might expect more of the same, as running back Dan Herron (246 yards, 5 TD's) has already been ruled out for the Purdue game. The offense as a whole is averaging almost 30 points per game, which is more than enough for their defense.
There are complaints that quarterback Terrelle Pryor has been relatively ineffective, and that the defense giving him the ball in good position is the only reason Ohio State is scoring. In truth, isn't that the opposite of what Purdue is doing? We are giving opponents the ball in a great position to score, while our offense often must drive the length of the field. Pryor is 72 of 128 on the season with nine touchdowns and six interceptions. He has only thrown for 948 yards. His percentage of 56% is not great, but he is still a major running threat. He is second on the team in rushing with 333 yards and three touchdowns.
In place of Herron, who has been starting lately, is Brandon Saine. Saine has 349 yards rushing on the season but no scores. We will also likely see some of Jordan Hall (103-0). Once again, our run defense will be tested by a rushing attack that gains nearly 172 yards per game from multiple ballcarriers. I stress again though, our run defense has been good of late. It has just been put in bad positions. Last week Minnesota racked up yards as it killed the clock after our mistakes. We have shown we can stop Ohio State last year, and we absolutely must have the same defensive effort again.
The Ohio State passing game is not a huge threat, but there are plenty of playmakers in this unit. DeVier Posey (21-268-3) leads the team in receptions, while Dane Sanzenbacher (16-326-4) is a big play threat. I wouldn't be surprised if we saw more of Ray Small (5-77-0). One of his best career games came in a six catch, 70 yard effort with a touchdown against Purdue two years ago.
Ohio State's offensive line is big and very good, as you can expect from them. They have allowed just eight sacks through six games, and that is with Pryor being an elusive quarterback. All five starters will return next season, as guards Bryant Browning and Justin Boren are juniors, while J.B. Shugarts, Mike Adams, and Michael Brewster are sophomores. If we can generate a push against this line like we did last year we might stand a chance.
Ohio State defense:
I am not really afraid of moving the ball against one of the best defenses in the country. I am more afraid of giving it up. The yards we have gained show we can move the ball, but we haven't scored more than 21 points in our last four games because of turnovers. We lead the nation in turnovers right now with 20. Ohio State's defense has produced 14 turnovers. That is not a good sign.
Senior safety Kurt Coleman is a bit of a do everything guy for them. He is second on the team in tackles with 43, has two interceptions (one returned for a score) and has forced three fumbles. Fellow safety Jermale Hines also has a pick six and 30 tackles with a sack. These may be two of the best safeties in the league, but with the Ohio State defense you get a lot of best ______ in the league at that position.
The Buckeye pass rush will be furious, so our offensive line must give Elliott time to throw and open some holes. Ohio State has 18 sacks on the season, with 12 different players being involved in a sack. They have also generated 37 tackles for loss, or more than six per game.
Junior defensive end Thaddeus Gibson is, quite simply, a beast. He is speedy at 6'2" 240 pounds and has 6.5 tackles for loss. Cameron Heyward, leads the team in sacks with three and is the bigger defensive end at 6'6" 287. Todd Denlinger and Doug Worthington are good sized defensive tackles that can close the middle all by themselves.
Should we find room to run, linebacker Brian Rolle will likely be there. Rolle leads the team in tackles with 51 and has an interception. Austin Spitler and Ross Homan are also your typical Buckeye linebackers in that they play all over the field. They are good against both the run and the pass, meaning our short passing game will likely struggle.
Ohio State Special Teams:
While our special teams units have been a collection of mistakes in nearly every game, Ohio State's has been very sound. Ray Small is an excellent kickoff returner that has already returned one for a touchdown. He has just two returns, but for 142 yards and a score. Since that is about the only thing we haven't given up on special teams yet, you can expect that to happen Saturday. For good measure Small also returns punts, but only averages four yards per return. Both coverage units are very good as well.
Ohio State uses a two punter system. Jon Thoma only averages 39 yards per kick, but has dropped nine of 20 attempts inside the 20. Ben Buchanan has a bigger leg, averaging 43 yards on four kicks.
Austin Pettrey is a solid kicker for the Buckeyes, hitting 11 of 14 field goals with a long of 52. The senior is more than good enough to give Ohio State points anytime they get across the 35. There is a gigantic advantage for the Buckeyes in all aspects of special teams.
What else can we say at this point? Ohio State is steaming along, destroying everything in its path before a three game finish of Iowa, Penn State, and Michigan. We are inventing ways to lose games. We could and probably even should be 6-0 right now. We also haven't beaten a ranked team in six years, while Ohio State is in the top 10. Officially, this is our first crack at a ranked opponent this season. It may be our only one as well. A win in this game would erase a lot of bad from earlier in the year, but that is a very tall order.
Still, I can't explain why we continue to play close games against Ohio State. The last two could have been wins if they had not completely shut down our offense. For us to win we have to break through and at least score the first meaningful touchdown in the series since 2004. We also have to get past our mental block and stop turning the ball over. Unfortunately, I won't believe it until I see it at this point in regards to turnovers.
Keys to the Game for Purdue:
- Don't turn the ball over
- Do not abandon the running game
- Be patient on defense and contain the running game
- On punts, run off the field as soon as it is kicked. On kickoffs, take a knee immediately whenever an opposing player is close. It has gotten that ridiculous.