Ohio State had plenty to play on Saturday afternoon. It showed, as the Buckeyes bombarded Purdue 59-31.
But while the finale was lopsided, all was not lost for Purdue.
Note the Boilermakers after the defeat of Columbus:
Again, Aidan O’Connell and Purdue’s offense were dialed in, moving the ball, scoring touchdowns and making very few mistakes.
Unfortunately, the performance came on an afternoon where other mistakes destroyed the Boilermakers early on and made the offer of another upset impossible. But O’Connell was excellent. The senior quarterback had 40 of 52 attempts for 390 yards and 4 touchdowns. He would have had a 5th touchdown, but a fourth-quarter pitch was abandoned by wide receiver David Bell, a rare mistake by the junior All-American.
O’Connell operates at a high standard. His passes are very precise, perhaps no more than Jackson Anthrop’s second-half throw on the left sideline, when O’Connell dropped the ball just past 2 defenders and past a 3rd. It was an NFL quality pass. It also helps that O’Connell has receivers that are performing at a high level – not just Bell, but Milton Wright, Anthrop and tight end Payne Durham.
Bell had 11 receptions for 103 yards. Wright had 98 yards on 7 catches with a touchdown. Anthrop has scored twice. His colleague TJ Sheffield had 54 yards.
And O’Connell hasn’t been fired once. He usually had a lot of time; once he went through his first 3 reads before returning to the primary target, Bell, and completing the pass. Too much is paid to O’Connell’s lack of athleticism, but he has dramatically increased his ability to squeeze through traffic in the pocket while keeping his eyes up looking for a target.
Perhaps the most surprising part of the Boilermakers’ offensive performance against Ohio State was the rushed offense.
Purdue found room to run to 91 yards on 19 carries, an impressive 4.9 yards per carry. The Boilermakers, with their three-headed backyard of King Doerue, Zander Horvath and Anthrop, find seams across the offensive line. And while they might not have the top speed to generate big plays, they get solid 1st and 2nd down runs to keep Purdue on schedule.
While Purdue may not have a “balance” between his passing and running games, he’s been doing enough lately to force his opponents to at least respect his ability to run. And that goes a long way in making Boilermakers more efficient.
Purdue also got a 4th conversion when Bell took an end for a 1st down.
But all was not good. When Jack Plummer came in for a game in the first half, there was confusion in the backfield over where the ball was supposed to go. Doerue hadn’t planned on getting a transfer, most likely because the ball wasn’t supposed to come back to him. It was a critical start to the rotation for Purdue, at a time when he was trying to keep pace on the scoreboard.
The fumble aside, offense wasn’t Purdue’s problem.
Instead, the Boilermakers showed the offense rattling, racking up 481 yards while scoring 31 points. They converted 5 of 10 3rd down attempts and 1 of 2 4th downs.
Yes, the fumble, which came after a trick play that didn’t work, was bad and smoked Purdue’s momentum. And it came at an unnecessary time, because in Jeff Brohm didn’t need to turn to Plummer after the missed gadget.
Purdue’s defense struggled to locate all of the Ohio State weapons, especially in the high school.
The Buckeyes were running wide open, taking advantage of their speed advantage but also of the Boilermakers’ breakdowns. OSU wide receiver Garrett Wilson scored 1 of his 3 touchdowns when he simply ran by 2 Boilermakers, neither of whom decided to follow him to the end zone.
It’s happened too often, with Purdue leaving the receptors open. CJ Stroud finished with 5 touchdowns of 31 of 38 passes for 361 yards. Purdue didn’t affect him much in the pocket, hardly ever putting pressure on him and never firing him.
The Buckeyes had 3 receivers with at least 85 yards, each scoring a touchdown.
Ohio State recorded touchdown passes of over 50 yards that the runner didn’t even get touched on.
It was indicative of the problems the Boilermakers had. Purdue was pushed onto the offensive line, but more importantly, OSU blockers knocked down 2nd tier defenders. Purdue was pushed out of the rim too many times and his linebackers couldn’t sink quickly enough to fill in the gaps.
Ohio State had 263 rushing yards, averaging 8.5 per attempt.
The numbers speak for themselves: OSU amassed 59 points on 624 yards, averaging 9 yards per game.
Purdue hardly ever put Ohio State in 3rd down situations, let alone held them. The Buckeyes were 4 of 7 on 3rd downs, and they converted their only 4th (resulting in a 25-yard touchdown pass).
It was ugly.
OSU didn’t even kick until halfway on the 3rd, and it was the only one of the afternoon.
The Boilermakers too often found themselves in 1-on-1 clashes and lost, partly through being beaten by athleticism or speed, but also through bad tackles.
Purdue made some blatant special team plays.
Jack Ansell’s 1st punt was hit as he sent it just 16 yards to give the Ohio State offense a short field. Then Anthrop missed a kick return, handing the ball over to the Buckeyes after hesitating to ask for a good catch, then couldn’t face the wind. He was replaced as the main return man after letting a ball bounce on a later kick-off.
Mitchell Fineran was successful in his only field goal attempt.
One could argue that Brohm should have recognized that his offense was working well early on and that he didn’t need gadgets to keep up with the Buckeyes. Because when he went with the stuff, the offense stalled and then returned the ball.
But it’s hard to be overly critical, as Brohm was trying to do what he did in previous upheavals against Iowa and Michigan State.
Purdue was punched in the face early, made mistakes and didn’t compete the way he wanted. But he was ready to play.
Purdue was likely to lose at Ohio State, where the Buckeyes are very often victorious.
However, he did not want to lose in this way, losing by allowing 45 points in the 1st half.
The defense has shown flaws, but it is unlikely to face an offense like the Ohio State’s again this year. And the offense has proven, even in case of loss, that it has the assets to compete.
Purdue will play next week at Wrigley Field against Northwestern, looking to get back on track.