Flaws catch up to Buckeyes
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The warning signs have been flashing for a while. On Saturday night against Purdue, it all caught up to Ohio State.
For most of the season, the No. 2 Buckeyes have relied on the passing game to overcome their many flaws. That part of the game wasn’t nearly enough in a 49-20 loss to the Boilermakers in front of 60,716 at Ross-Ade Stadium.
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Once again, Ohio State had little success running the ball. Its defense got picked on in the passing game and then finished off with three long touchdowns. The Buckeyes committed ghastly penalties. Their red-zone offense continued to be mostly fruitless.
“The glaring shortcomings we have were exposed,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. “The No. 1 off the top of my head is the red-zone offense. You go down there three times” — actually four — “and (get) two field goals and one missed field goal. You have to score points.”
The Buckeyes (7-1, 4-1 Big Ten) now limp into their off week, literally and figuratively. They are beaten up physically and their psyche will be questioned after losing for the first time.
Purdue (4-3, 3-1) figured to be a dangerous opponent. The Boilermakers under Jeff Brohm have risen from the doldrums with a creative and explosive offense. Recent history at Ross-Ade hasn’t been kind to the Buckeyes, either. Saturday’s was the Buckeyes’ fifth loss in eight games this century there.
But Ohio State figured to be able to put up yards and points against a shaky Boilermakers defense. The Buckeyes got the yards, but not the points. Dwayne Haskins Jr. threw for 470 yards while setting school records with 49 completions and 73 attempts.
Twice, Purdue cornerback Antonio Blackmon broke up third-down passes in the end zone. A third time, with Ohio State desperately needing a touchdown trailing by 15 in the third quarter, he was in coverage on K.J. Hill on a pass that fell incomplete on fourth-and-goal from the 2.
The red-zone issues are largely a consequence of how one-dimensional Ohio State has become. Trailing 14-3 at halftime, the Buckeyes threw on all nine plays of their first drive of the third quarter before settling for a field goal. Ohio State averaged only 3.0 yards on 25 carries.
Ohio State’s defense pressured Purdue quarterback David Blough at times, but when it didn’t the Buckeyes got picked apart. Blough threw for 378 yards on 25-of-43 passing.
“Tackling was a big thing tonight,” safety Jordan Fuller said. “But it’s never just one thing. It’s a bunch of things we have to get corrected.”
Even when the Buckeyes did stop Purdue, things often went south.
After Ohio State’s field goal to start the second half, its defense forced a punt. But Davon Hamilton got a roughing penalty, and Purdue capitalized for a touchdown.
Dre’Mont Jones was called for roughing Blough on what would have been a three-and-out early in the fourth quarter. Purdue then scored on a 42-yard run up the middle by D.J. Knox. That made it 28-6 before the Buckeyes finally got a touchdown with 9:36 left on a 32-yard catch by Johnnie Dixon.
Any faint hope for a comeback ended when Knox added a 40-yard touchdown run three minutes later.
Purdue gave an early indication that Saturday could be trouble by going 98 yards in 15 plays for a touchdown.
The Buckeyes’ only score of the first half — a 24-yard field goal by Blake Haubeil — was partly gift-wrapped. Dixon returned the kickoff to the Ohio State 45, and Purdue committed back-to-back 15-yard penalties to start the drive.
Ohio State had a chance to match Purdue’s 98-yard drive when it drove from its 2 to the Purdue 16. But after a third-down incompletion by Haskins, Haubeil was wide left on a 34-yard field goal try.
Purdue quickly drove deep into Ohio State territory in the final minute of the second quarter. When star freshman receiver Rondale Moore dropped a third-down pass that might have been a touchdown, Ohio State looked like it would go to halftime down only seven.
That’s when Brohm called for the fake field goal, and holder Joe Schopper ran for a first down. On the next play, Blough threw to Moore, who scored for a 14-3 halftime lead. Moore finished with 12 catches for 170 yards and two scores.
It only got worse for the Buckeyes in the second half.
“We have good players and good coaches,” Meyer said. “We lost a game last year (to Iowa) and came right back. We have good guys and we’re going to work our you-know-whats off and get this thing right.”