OSU needs break, but it'll have to wait

Bill Rabinowitz
Defensive tackle Dre'Mont Jones, playing with a sprained foot, is among the injured Ohio State players. After this week, the Buckeyes get their bye. [Kyle Robertson]

A game at Purdue usually causes consternation for Ohio State.

Ross-Ade Stadium has often been a house of horrors for the Buckeyes. The Boilermakers have been bad more often than good for a long time, but Ohio State is only 13-8 in games played in West Lafayette, Indiana. This century, the Buckeyes are only 3-4 there.

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History aside, a game Saturday against the Boilermakers isn’t timed particularly well for the No. 2 Buckeyes (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten). They will be play for the eighth straight week before getting a much-needed off week. Many of them are walking wounded.

Asked if he’d prefer to be off this week to heal and then face Purdue or another opponent next week, defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones replied, “That would have been great, but this is our schedule, so we’re locked in on Purdue.”

Jones has been playing on a sprained foot and estimates he’s at 80-85 percent. Fellow tackle Robert Landers has also been hobbled lately. The defensive line, of course, will be permanently without its best player, Nick Bosa, whose focus in his rehab from core-muscle surgery is to prepare for the NFL draft.

The Buckeyes do expect to get Jonathon Cooper back, as well as linebacker Malik Harrison. Both missed last week’s game after being in concussion protocol.

The defensive line was expected to be the team’s backbone. Though it’s still formidable, the line’s inability to be consistently dominant has caused the Buckeyes’ issues in the back seven to be more exposed.

That defense will be put to the test by Purdue. Before the season, this figured to be a dangerous game for the Buckeyes. That changed when Purdue (3-3, 2-1) lost its first three games, including one to Eastern Michigan. Since then, the Boilermakers have rebounded with victories over then-ranked Boston College, Nebraska and Illinois.

Coach Jeff Brohm is considered one of the top offensive technicians in the country. Quarterback David Blough is completing 68 percent of his passes and has thrown only two interceptions. Purdue has had 39 plays of at least 20 yards, and that will be a major challenge for an Ohio State defense that has been susceptible to big plays.

Fortunately for the Buckeyes, Purdue’s defense doesn’t induce fear. The Boilermakers mix their defenses well, but Ohio State has superior personnel, particularly in the passing game with Dwayne Haskins Jr. throwing at a record-setting pace.

“This is the first team we’ve faced that’s this prolific in the passing game,” Brohm said. “We had some struggles early in the season, giving up a lot of passing yards, so it is a concern. We’re going to have to find ways to put a little pressure on the quarterback, try to make him feel uncomfortable, give him some different looks. If we don’t, it’s going to be a long day for us.”

The Buckeyes are seeking offensive balance. The run game has been a disappointment in recent weeks. Ohio State is barely averaging 3 yards per carry the last three games. Rain scheduled for West Lafayette is expected to end by kickoff, but moderate winds are likely, which could put a crimp in each team’s passing game.

For Purdue, this is a chance to make the biggest statement of the brief Brohm era after emerging from the deep decline during the Danny Hope and Darrell Hazell years.

“Without question, there’s a lot of buzz around town, a lot of buzz around the community and campus,” Brohm said. “Yes, we’re looking forward to it. It’ll be a great atmosphere, and our fans will be into the game.”

Purdue is a 12-point underdog. Brohm spoke about the Buckeyes as if they were favored by 30.

“Hopefully, we can keep it close for as long as we can,” he said.

Minnesota was a 30-point underdog last week, and the Buckeyes didn’t secure their victory until well into the fourth quarter. They know how dangerous Purdue can be.

“We have to be very, very stout and disciplined in our technique,” Jones said. “If we do something outside of the game plan, that can mess everything up. If we don’t play our game, we could lose easily.”


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