On this date in Ohio State football: Oct. 17, 1987

Ray Stein
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State's Matt Frantz is lifted by his teammates after kicking the winning field goal against Purdue in 1987. [File photo]

Taking a look back at a game Ohio State played on this date:

Ohio State 20, Purdue 17

Setup: A top-five team and prohibitive Big Ten favorite at the start of the 1987 season, Ohio State's devolution was in full swing by the time the Buckeyes ventured to West Lafayette to meet a scuffling Purdue team. OSU had lost receiver Cris Carter to suspension before the season and spent the early part of the season searching, unsuccessfully, to find its offense. The week before provided no light; in fact, coach Earle Bruce described the 31-10 home loss to Indiana as "the darkest day I've seen in Ohio State football."

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Stars: Quarterback Tom Tupa completed only eight passes, but they went for 174 yards; he had one touchdown passing and one running to help Ohio State take a 17-0 halftime lead. Vince Workman, switched to receiver from running back, had four catches for 88 yards and a TD. On defense, rover Ray Jackson was in on 10 tackles, including two sacks, and blocked a punt.

Turning point: The Buckeyes watched their 17-point lead slip away in the first 17 minutes of the second half, and Purdue tied the score early in the fourth quarter on Doug Downing's 30-yard TD pass to Calvin Williams. OSU kicker Matt Frantz broke the tie with a 50-yard field goal through Ross-Ade Stadium's tricky winds with 3:10 remaining. Jackson broke up a fourth-down Boilermakers pass with 1:39 left to seal it.

Impact: Frantz's kick broke a second-half scoreless streak of nearly 87 minutes by the Buckeyes, and they stayed in the Big Ten race the following week with a thrashing of Minnesota. Then the wheels came off for good with three consecutive losses to Michigan State, Wisconsin and Iowa. Two later after the gut-wrenching loss to the Hawkeyes, Bruce was fired by university president Edward Jennings, and "darkest day" took on a new meaning.

Quotable: "A couple of (assistant) coaches asked me if I could make it. Then they told me to go up and look (Bruce) right in the eye and tell him. He asked me twice." — Frantz, on his winning field goal. He had missed two other field-goal tries in the second half, from 43 and 46 yards.

rstein@dispatch.com