I don't know how much more of this I can take. I am sitting here, starring at the flashing cursor on my laptop screen not knowing what to say next. When Akeem Shavers scored on the first play from scrimmage I was intrigued. I still went to Fort Harrison State Park because I wanted to enjoy some good weather, but I was tracking the game via phone. I heard the Akeem Hunt kickoff return for a touchdown and I was pleased that we answered OSU's early score, but I still didn't want to get sucked in.
The defense held for the rest of the half, got an early stop, but when Carlos Hyde scored to make it 14-13 I was still cautious. I thought this would be the turning point and Ohio State, the better team, would pull away. After all, at this point we had missed a field goal, had an extra point blocked, and threw an interception after a 10-minute, 19 play drive. That's at least seven points left on the field, and you can't do that with Ohio State.
Caleb TerBush then led an impressive drive and Gary Bush scored on a screen late in the third quarter. Still, I was guarded. I didn't want to get sucked in. A Braxton Miller fumble was recovered by Kawann Short, but another blocked field goal kept it a one possession game. Even when Miller got hurt and OSU missed a field goal I still didn't want to believe. I didn't want to get heartbroken again. (Side note, Hopefully Miller is okay. That was a hell of a hit).
I got home just in time for the safety. Purdue would now be up eight. After trading a few possessions a Landon Feichter interception with 2:40 left and OSU having one timeout I finally, finally started to think we were going to pull it off. 2:40 left, one timeout for the opposition, 8 point lead with the football. The game was over with one first down.
Even then, I was guarded somewhat because there have been too many times where only one play is needed to secure victory, but Purdue rarely gets it.
Instead, we have a dumb penalty, then two of the most conservative plays possible before running anything that had the ball moving forward first instead of side-to-side. Whatever. We were still punting, the defense had played well, and we were facing a backup QB with 50 seconds and no timeouts. Surely we could hold on.
It was really over when Kenny Guiton stepped out of what should have been a Ryan Russell sack on the first play. Russell missed it, or a forced fumble, by six inches. If he makes that play, it's over. Guiton is tackled or fumbles and the clock is moving, killing at least 20 seconds or more. Instead, Guiton still has time and he finds Devin Smith for 39 yards.
I was right, it was over. The phase of the game where I finally believed something positive would happen for Purdue, only to have my heart ripped out of my chest, started on that play. What followed was 17 play sequence that was absolute torture to watch:
- Evan Spencer with an 8 yard catch. Kept the clock running, at least, but moved it to the 14.
- Incomplete pass thanks to good defense.
- Carlos Hyde three-yard run = first down
- Absolutely horseshit pass interference call where the receiver ran over Josh Johnson. Both were going for the ball, but the OSU receiver started whining at the point of contact instead of trying to catch the ball.
- Chris Fields TD where Will Lucas missed batting the pass down by a fraction of an inch.
- Jeff Heuerman, who had only five catches all year, released on a block as about the 4th option and got himself open. Guiton kept the play alive and it was an easy throw by the time he checked down to him.
- Guiton stopped on the first play of OT.
- Stoneburner completely wide open.
- Hyde, Guiton, Hyde, touchdown.
At that point I was just sitting there, watching the agony unfold. I am convinced that the collective dread from every Purdue fan watching reverted the offense back to a drop, a high throw, a short pass, and an overthrow. Every Purdue fan, whether they said it or not, knew it was over pretty much after the long pass to Devin Smith. Our collective dread made the endgame as agonizing as possible.
Of all the Purdue losses, and there have been way too many over the years, this is the most painful. Purdue played far from a perfect game, but for 59 minutes and 10 seconds it was still enough. It was more than enough. Yes, there were mistakes, and those mistakes, like the blocked extra point, would be the difference in the end, but even with uber-conservative offense with an eight point lead and the threat of a powerful OSU offense that can score from anywhere, for 59 minutes and 10 seconds Purdue was the better team than an undefeated Buckeye squad on its home field.
Purdue just choked. It choked on every level, and I am not alone as a Purdue fan when I am sitting here, with a gorgeous fall Saturday before me, now ruined and questioning why I continue to follow this team with all my heart. This was an absolute stomach punch of a loss. It was more than a stomach punch. It was a stomach punch, groin kick, headbutt, then a few punches while we're already writhing on the ground. As bad as I feel, I know the players feel infinitely worse because they played their hearts out today. It stings because they played better than a top 10 team on its home field and, with a win, the smallest of chances at a Big Ten championship was still alive.
So now we face a turning point game next week at Minnesota. The Golden Gophers need it for a bowl game, but so do we. Lose next week and the season is essentially over. The Big Ten title chances are over, so now we need to keep the hopes at making it to the postseason alive for the players themselves. They deserve a bowl game because their effort, especially in these two agonizing road losses, has not been lacking. They engineered a 180 degree turnaround from last week and they can still win each and every game remaining on the schedule.
Once again though, the coaches blew this one. If J.B. Gibboney was not fired in the post-game press conference and forced to walk home from Columbus there is no justice in this world. His special teams, while getting the kickoff return, was horrendous and left at least seven points on the field. His protection schemes have led to seven blocked kicks on the season and to the point where Cody Webster actually has to run around and take 10 yards off of every punt because the protection is so poor.
Tim Tibesar and the defensive coaches earned their pay today, but the breakdown in coverage on the critical pass to Smith is still at their feet. As for Hope and Nord, the only way they could have been more conservative with the late lead is if they were sitting on a Fox News panel as they made play calls. At least take one damn shot down field to get a first down!
I'll credit Hope for getting this team ready to play as hard as it did today. He did that well, but Nord, and especially Gibboney, cost us dearly today.
I really can't say anything else. I feel kicked in the teeth, but I am still a Boilermaker and I still support this team. I'll be driving up to Minnesota next Saturday because I am 100% behind these players and it is another football Saturday. I'll keep going because one day there will be a payoff.
At least I hope there is a payoff.