I’m on the road this week and away from my normal set up, so I don’t have Gifs for you this week. I do, however, have some insight on some keys to defeating (or at least hanging with) Ohio State. It’s going to take a special effort and some good bounces, but we’ve got a punchers chance and that’s better than no chance at all.
Block Chase Young
Everyone that Ohio State lines up on the defensive line is exceptional, but Chase Young has flashed as their true difference maker now that Bosa has exited stage left. Young is a 6’5, 265 pound athletic freak that can beat you with both speed and power. I expect to see Purdue use an in-line blocking tight end or a running back chip on him for any long developing pass plays. What makes Young particularly hard to block is his ability to run stunts with the OSU defensive tackles. He will start on the outside and then circle inside while the defense tackle moves the guard out of the way. That’s one of the reasons I prefer Purdue to keep a back in to block instead of a tight end. I think you might see Purdue use Horvath in that role quite a bit on Saturday.
Don’t Abandon the Run
Ohio State wants you to abandon your run game so they can unleash their stable of pass rushers. It’s difficult to run on Ohio State, but not impossible if you’re willing to stick with it. They are going to make some tackles for loss, and you just have to accept that as the cost of business for running on Ohio State. You’re not going to beat Ohio State throwing the ball 50+ times because they will eventually turn you over because of their incessant pass rush. DJ Knox is a hard runner to find behind the Purdue line and he does an excellent job of wiggling forward and picking up yards even when it looks like the defense has him dead to rights. I think the Knox/Jones combo needs at least 20 carries in this game, but I would love to see it closer to 25. Just the threat of running the ball will keep OSU from turning their ends lose to attack up the field every play.
Take Shots on Odd Downs
I like throwing the ball on Ohio State on first and second down way more than I like throwing on 3rd down. When Ohio State knows what is coming, they are exceptional at shutting it down. Brohm is an unpredictable and unconventional play caller, which bodes well for Purdue. Look for Purdue to attack down the field on first and second down in an attempt to keep Ohio State off balanced. Long drives are exceptionally difficult against Ohio State. If you have to run 15+ plays to score, they will eventually create a negative play, get you off schedule, and end your drive. One of Purdue’s real strengths is generating explosive plays, and that is going to need to continue on Saturday (it’s also the reason Purdue has a punchers chance against the Buckeyes).
Get the First Down, Get the Touchdown
This may seem a little too simple, but it’s vital against Ohio State. They are deadly in short yardage situations. The wide receivers have to run exact routes and get past the sticks. If Blough takes off on a scramble, he can’t step out of bounds or slide short of the first down. If Knox or Jones are close to marker, they have to fall forward and pick up the first down. The same goes with the redzone. Having the ball 1st and Goal from the 1 or 2 against OSU is far from a sure thing because of their freak athletes. If you’ve got a chance to get in the end zone, you’ve got to lay it on the line against Buckeyes or you’ll be kicking extra points for 3 points instead of cashing in touchdowns.
Protect the Ball
The Ohio State defense generates turnovers with their pressure and athleticism. They have recovered 7 fumbles and picked the ball off 6 times so far this year. Blough has to be careful where he puts the ball and also has to make sure he has solid ball security in the pocket. The strip sack is a large part of the Ohio State pass rush. Their ends are coming off the edge looking for the ball. If you wave it around at all, they will knock it out and pounce on the ball. I honestly don’t mind if Blough throws one of two 50/50 balls deep that get picked, he just has to avoid the turnover that sets the OSU offense up for a quick score.
Control the Run
Haskins is off to a hot start, but if you get too caught up on stopping the Buckeye passing game, they’ll run the ball down your throats. J.K. Dobbins and Mike Webster are more than capable of winning the game single handily. If OSU can run the ball, they will continue to do so until you prove you can stop them. If the running game is working for OSU, their short passing game is absolute murder, because they draw your linebackers into the line with the play fake and hit slants and crossing routes into the void in front of the safeties. Haskins is a good quarterback, but he prefers short and intermediate routes over attacking down the field. He likes to get the ball out quick and into the hands of the OSU athletes on the perimeter. That’s much harder to do if you can contain their run game and make him throw into occupied zones.
OSU loves to get the ball out quick, which makes it almost impossible for the pass rush to get home. Our defensive line has to get hands into the short passing windows and make those throws difficult. Ohio State leads the nation in completion percentage with their short passing game. Purdue has to get some hands on passes and disrupt Haskins’s rhythm. If he gets in a groove, he can dominate your defense with 5-7 yard passes. Getting hands into the passing lanes is one way to make him think a little bit about those short throws.
Ohio State makes you tackle their athletes in space, and if you don’t wrap up or take a bad angle, they punish you with big plays in both the run and passing game. There are going to be several times in the game where a Purdue defender has to take down a Buckeye 1 on 1 in space. Purdue has to win the majority of those match ups if they want to win the game. If you don’t tackle well against OSU they will eventually blow you off the field.
Ohio State mainly runs a short passing game, but if you lose focus, they will pump it short and burn you deep. The Purdue corners can’t get caught looking in the backfield or trying to anticipate and break on short routes or they will find the ball going over their heads. When Haskins throws the ball deep, it tends to be down the right sideline. Antonio Blackmon is going to have to be on top of his mental game to keep from giving up an easy one. There is no shame in OSU out athleteing you to a ball, in fact, that’s going to happen, but you can’t give them anything easy.
The special teams has to be on point this game. The kick offs need to go into the endzone, the punts need to unreturnable and you can’t miss chip shot field goals or extra points. Purdue is going to need every point they can get their hands on while at the same time, keeping OSU from picking up cheap points. The special teams is going to need to be perfect for Purdue to have any shot of winning this game.
Everyone has a plan until Ohio State hits you in the mouth with their athletes. Purdue has to stay the course, understand the Buckeyes are going to make plays and fight until the end. Ohio State is a national contender year-in-and-year-out for a reason. Purdue has to play their best game and hope for some help from the Buckeyes. If both teams bring their A games, it’s going to be impossible for Purdue to win. That said, stranger things have happened, and Purdue has the type of offense that can frustrate Ohio State and make them score points to win.