Saturday, November 19, 2011

Ohio State-Purdue Recap: Buckeyes Upset by Boilermakers in West Lafayette AGAIN

By Special Contributor Chris Holloway

Author’s note: I apologize for the lateness of this recap. I was sick to my stomach for most of the weekend, and not just from the outcome of the game. HD was kind enough to not pester me once about it, and for that I am eternally grateful. Next week’s recap of the Penn State contest should come in on time and with a lot more emotion. -- Chris

The #7 ranked Buckeyes headed into Ross-Ade Stadium on a four game winning streak, their unbeaten season already dashed by the Trojans of USC. Ohio State fans had every reason to believe that this game was a gimme, as the last time they had lost to a team with a losing record had been Jim Tressel’s first season, way back in 2001.

Upon leaving the stadium, the Buckeyes felt deflated. They had just endured a game that saw QB phenom Terrelle Pryor fumble the ball multiple times. They had just seen their second loss of the season, one that was almost unconscionable. They were beaten, bruised, and battered.

Two years later, Ohio State traveled back to Purdue University, eager to show that the 2009 game was a fluke, an aberration. Yet, just as they had two years previous, the Buckeyes left with another stunning loss. The main difference between this one and that was not the turnovers – the Bucks actually won the turnover battle in this game – it was the effectiveness of the defense.

One shining spot of this season had been Jim Heacock’s crew, yet for the second week in a row, the Silver Bullets seemed flat. The normally stingy defense, ranked 16th in the country coming into the game, could do almost nothing to prevent Purdue’s offense from moving down the field.

Just as they had last week against Indiana, the Buckeyes permitted their opponents to jump out to a 10 point first quarter lead. The outcome, however, would be immensely different.

Ohio State fans watching from the stands and at home could see from the very beginning that this would be a replay of the Indiana game. Their first drive lasted only 1:07, a three and out. Purdue took the Buchanan punt on their own 41 yard line, a rare short punt for the normally lethal team MVP. The Boilermakers proceeded to march down the field, only to settle for a field goal from the Ohio State 2 yard line.

Another three and out by the Buckeyes, and another below average punt from Buchanan gave TerBush and crew the football at their own 40. The Purdue QB took his team down field once again, and with the help of Akeem Shavers, put it in the end zone for the 10 point lead after the Wiggs PAT.

WalrusBall reared its ugly head once again, as for the third straight drive; the Buckeyes could not muster a first down and were forced to punt again. The first quarter came to an end with Purdue at their own 48 yard line, and threatening once again.

Whether it was the players or the coaches that got the team fired up, one can only wonder. But when the second period started, the Buckeye defense came out hungry and stopped the Boilermakers, forcing a punt to the Ohio State 32.

Determined to give the Silver Bullets more than a minute of rest, Miller came out firing, hitting Boom Herron for a 20 yard strike followed by a nifty 7 yard run of his own. 5 plays later, Braxton showed that he has the ability to pass the ball as well as run it, as evidenced by the 38 yard touchdown toss to Jordan Hall across the middle. After a Basil PAT, the Bucks were only down a measly 3 points.

Three plays into the ensuing drive, TerBush hit Justin Siller, who promptly fumbled the football and then recovered it himself. Buckeyes fans knew that the team had to create turnovers, but also realized that creating and actually recovering are two different things altogether. After a false start put Purdue into a third and long situation, an incomplete pass by TerBush forced another punt.

Kawann Short, who would be named B1G Co-Defensive Player of the Week, got to Miller in the backfield for a sack that cost the Buckeyes 5 yards. Two more plays could not produce a first down, and just like that, the Bucks were back into three and out mode. Buchanan boomed his best punt of the day thus far, and even though Gravesande fumbled the kick, the Buckeyes could not recover.

Robert Marve, the transfer from the University of Miami, came out as the Purdue QB on the next drive and promptly led his team 88 yards down the grass, capped by a 7 yard rush by Ralph Bolden for a touchdown. The Boilermakers were up by 10 again after the Wiggs point after with a little over 3 minutes left in the half.

Carlos Hyde, back in the return game, delivered a good runback to the 28 yard line and Miller & Company went back to work. A completion to Hall for 7 yards gave the fans something to be excited about, until Tackle Bruce Gaston sacked Braxton for a loss of 5. Buchanan punted yet again and Ohio State was aided by a holding penalty on Purdue to pin the Boilermakers at their own 11.

Danny Hope was content to run the clock down, perhaps confident that Coach Fickell would forget his timeout signal again. Fickell did not oblige, and the Bucks managed to get the ball back with under a minute left in the half after forcing their own three and out.

Starting at midfield, Miller tossed a pass to his new favorite receiver, Devin Smith for a 14 yard gain, and added another 2 on the ground before Drew Basil came out to attempt a 50 yarder that ended up no good. The Bucks went into the half down 10, but looking like a team that should have been down by three scores or more. The offense had no spark, the offensive line was not protecting Miller, and the usually stout defense was flat.

The second half saw the Boilermakers gain possession of the kickoff, and apparently something that Jim Heacock had said in the locker room resonated with the defense, as they forced their second consecutive three and out.

Taking over at their own 42, Miller turned and handed the ball to Hall, who took it 25 yards to the Purdue 33. Just 2 plays later, Hyde got the offense into the red zone with a ten yard gain, and after a Purdue timeout, Miller added 14 of his own to get his team down to the 6. After El Guapo lost a yard, Miller once again found the end zone with his legs, sauntering in to bring the Buckeyes within 3 points once again.

A massive kick by Basil was all but negated as Raheem Mostert brought the ball back 27 yards to the Purdue 30. An 18 yard strike from TerBush to Antavian Edison gave the Boilermakers a first down, but Ryan Shazier entered beast mode and found his way into the backfield to put TerBush on his back and force a fumble. But, as was the story of the day, Ohio State could not recover the fumble and were instead forced to return a punt.

Both offenses remained stagnant throughout the remainder of the third quarter and the team entered the final quarter of regulation with Purdue still up by three, 17-14. A quick incompletion from Miller forced Buchanan to trot out once again, kicking from his own 8 yard line. Purdue fair caught the punt and started the last quarter at their own 45. Marve was back in for the Boilermakers, and behind the rushing attack of Bolden was able to get his squad down to the 27 yard line for a 44 yard field goal from Wiggs. The game was still within reach, a manageable 6 point deficit.

After yet another sack, this time by Short – his second of the game – Miller showed why he’s a dual threat by taking the rock himself for a 17 yard scamper. TY Williams saw his first catch in a dog’s age, a 13 yard reception to put the team at midfield. Facing another third and ten, Braxton ran to his left for 11 yards to breathe new life into the team.

It was all for naught as two incompletions and a meager rush from Hyde forced the Bucks to perform the most important play in football. The defense, with a rare extended rest, came out fighting, forcing a three and out once again.

With just over 6 minutes remaining in the game, it appeared that Braxton Miller would need to perform some last minute heroics once again. And once again, the QB of the future delivered, driving his team 66 yards down field, ending with a 13 yard strike to Jordan Hall for Hall’s second touchdown reception of the game. It appeared that Miller had once again put this team on his shoulders and delivered another improbable win in the waning moments.

All that was needed was the PAT, the most routine of plays. But as all fans of the program know, nothing this season is routine. The Boilermakers came through the line and blocked Basil’s attempt, sending the Buckeyes to their first overtime game since 2009 against Iowa, the game that determined the Big Ten Champion that year. This game held similar importance to the Buckeyes, as they desperately need the win to stay in the chase.

The Bucks managed to convert their only turnover in the game in what was essentially garbage time, a badly thrown ball by Marve, intercepted by Orhian Johnson. It mattered very little, as Fickell was perfectly fine with letting the clock run out and going into overtime.

In the first overtime, the Buckeyes lost the coin toss and therefore had the ball on offense first. After 3 plays yielded all of 9 yards, Fickell was forced to settle for the easy points and put his season, and perhaps his long term job prospects on the defense.

Unfortunately, the normally stout Silver Bullets permitted Marve to push his way into the end zone after the completion to Bush was reviewed and the ball placed at about the ½ yard line, giving the Boilermakers the 26-23 win in OT.

The road to the Rose Bowl is all but lost to the Buckeyes at this point. While they got the help they needed from Nebraska, they failed to take care of business and are now looking up at both Penn State and Wisconsin in the Leaders Division. At this point, it would take a miracle for the Buckeyes to be able to punch their tickets to Lucas Oil Stadium.

They would need to win their remaining games against Penn State and Michigan, coupled with an additional loss by Wisconsin to clinch another Big Ten Title. Wisconsin closes out their season at Illinois and against the Nittany Lions and both games are thought to be manageable wins for the Badgers.

While the Rose Bowl, is all but out of sight for the Bucks – which would end a streak of consecutive BCS bowl games -- they still have a decent shot at a second tier bowl game, perhaps the Capital One Bowl or the Gator Bowl. In a season filled with distractions, suspensions, and an anemic offense, all can agree that the Buckeyes need those extra three weeks of practice, just to get ready for next season.

In all likelihood, we have witnessed the death knell on Luke Fickell’s tenure as Head Coach of the Buckeyes. Whoever comes in as The Big Nut next year has a lot to work on, but will be blessed with a ton of talent. Most agree, and I am one of them, that the Buckeyes suffer from a lack of adequate coaching on the offensive side of the ball.

My personal opinion – which does not necessarily reflect the views of BlockONation or the management – is that whoever comes in needs to clean house. But only up to a point.

Fickell, Vrabel, and Heacock are very, very good at what they do. Fickell alone is an outstanding recruiter. Vrabel keeps the defensive fires burning white hot, and Heacock is probably one of the top 3 defensive minds in the college game today.

A new head coach would be wise to keep these three on staff, but throw the remaining bums out onto High Street with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

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