Opponent Preview: Purdue Boilermakers

Ohio State tries to move to 8-0 and boost itself to 3-0 against teams that beat it last year with a noon meeting Saturday afternoon against Purdue. The Boilermakers are struggling but are always dangerous against the Buckeyes. Find out all you need to know about the visitors in this game preview.

Purdue (3-3, 0-2)
Saturday, Oct. 20
Noon p.m. ET, ABC (ESPN2 in southeast)
Ohio Stadium; Columbus, Ohio

The Boilermakers
Head coach: Danny Hope, 19-24, fourth year (54-46 overall in nine seasons)
2011 record: 7-6 (4-4 Big Ten Leaders Division, third place
Series mark: Ohio State leads 38-14-2
School location: West Lafayette, Ind.
Enrollment: 39,726
Colors: Old Gold and Black
Stadium: Ross-Ade Stadium
Fight song: "Hail Purdue"
Game Notes, including depth chart on page 6

For the second year in a row, Purdue comes into the Ohio State game on its schedule looking like a broken team.

The Boilermakers were coming off a 62-17 loss last year vs. Wisconsin that had them at 4-5 and staring straight at the possibility of missing a bowl game for a second straight year. Instead, Purdue shook off a losing streak that also included a loss to Michigan to post a 26-23, overtime victory last year against the Buckeyes in West Lafayette.

This year, Purdue again comes in struggling, having been beaten by Michigan and Wisconsin by a combined score of 82-27 the past two weeks. But head coach Danny Hope doesn't think his team – which was tabbed by some as a potential Big Ten Leaders Division champion this season – will be presented with a bunch of changes heading into the OSU game.

"You can shuffle the deck some and look at certain positions on your football team," he said. "If the performance at those positions is not getting the job done, you can make changes or put guys in position to compete, and that will happen some throughout the course of the week. But we're not going to change what we've been working on the last several weeks or the bread and butter plays of our offense, or the bread and butter packages of our defense.

"We have to execute them better. We're not going to change. We may put a new wrinkle or two in or a trick play or two in or some type of pressure that we haven't shown in the past, a new wrinkle for the upcoming opponent."

Ohio State should be fired up for its return engagement with the Boilers, a team they lost to in West Lafayette each of the last two visits. In between, OSU scored a 49-0 drubbing in 2010 that was eventually vacated, and Purdue hasn't scored a touchdown in Columbus since late in its 2003 visit.

The Buckeyes have already earned revenge against both Nebraska and Michigan State, and a third payback game from last year is on the Buckeyes' minds.

"There's definitely a chip on your shoulder," cornerback Bradley Roby said. "When you go into a game, you're like, 'We lost to these guys last year, so it's like we can't lose to them this year.' Especially last year we felt that we should have won the game, so it gives you even more of an incentive to go out there and make plays and win the game more dominantly."

In A Nutshell
Purdue continues to run a screen-heavy, passing offense that is in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten when it comes to both points and yards, but it's anyone's guess which quarterback will be in the game.

Caleb Terbush should start, as the senior is the most knowledgeable about the Purdue offense. On the year, he's 74 for 121 (61.2 percent) for 721 yards, eight touchdowns and six interceptions. He's added two rushing scores as well. Sixth-year senior Robert Marve is the big-play guy, and the Miami (Fla.) transfer with a torn ACL is 49 for 73 (67.1 percent) for 500 yards, four touchdowns and two picks. Rob Henry has seen some time since coming back from injury, and Hope said he could see time vs. OSU as well.

Purdue's running game is mostly in the hands of a pair of backs who share a first name in Akeem Shavers and Akeem Hunt. Shavers is the team leader, as the senior has 77 carries for 324 yards and three touchdowns. Hunt is a sophomore who has shown the ability to go the distance this season, amassing 257 yards and two scores on only 23 carries, including an 81-yard touchdown late in the Wisconsin game. Ralph Bolden returned vs. Wisconsin from a third serious knee injury, rushing four times for 8 yards.

In the passing game, receiver O.J. Ross is second in the Big Ten with 6.3 catches per game. Overall, the speedster has 38 grabs for 299 yards and a touchdown, but he's banged up with a turf toe injury. Senior Antavian Edison is also a threat, having made a catch in 27 straight games. The diminutive target has 31 grabs this year for 371 yards and five touchdowns to go with nine rushes for 24 yards. Junior Gary Bush has caught 21 passes for 191 yards and four touchdowns.

Purdue also makes good use of its tight ends, as junior Gabe Holmes has 13 catches for 85 yards and a score and senior Crosby Wright has hauled in eight passes for 88 yards.

The Boilers offensive line hasn't been great in the passing game, allowing 2.5 sacks per game, but it's a veteran unit. Left guard Peters Drey, center Rick Schmeig (Cincinnati Oak Hills) and right tackle Travis Foy are all multiyear starters. Devin Smith is the right guard, while Kevin Pamphile and Justin Kitchens (who is battling injury and did not play vs. UW) are the left tackles.

Defensively, Purdue was gashed on the ground each of the last two weeks, giving up more than 300 yards vs. Michigan and allowing a stunning 467 to Wisconsin, the fifth-most in Division I FBS this season. That's despite having a veteran, talented defensive line and some solid players in the back seven.

Purdue's defensive line has had some success vs. Ohio State in past years, notching five sacks apiece in the 2009 and '11 victories.

Senior Kawann Short leads the line, and he's one of the best players in the Big Ten at his position. Though he's 6-3, 315 pounds, he's athletic enough to dunk a basketball and was on the watch list of just about every major award he could be at the start of the season. This year, Short has made 20 tackles, including nine tackles for loss and four sacks along with a forced fumble.

Junior Bruce Gaston has been banged up but starts beside Short, while junior Brandon Taylor has chipped in 10 tackles. Ryan Russell is the top producer at end, as the sophomore has made 14 tackles and two sacks. Sophomore Jalani Phillips has added 12 tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery.

The team's leading tackler is weakside linebacker Will Lucas, who has 33 tackles, 29 of them solo, while adding 3½ TFL, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and an interception. Junior Joe Gilliam joins his classmate in the middle, having made 23 stops this year. Fifth-year senior Robert Maci is a converted DE playing strongside linebacker, while Antwon Higgs and Nnamdi Ezenwa add depth.

Purdue's secondary must be watched, as the Boilermakers already have a trio of interception returns for touchdowns this season. There's little doubt the leader of the secondary and its No. 1 big play contributor is junior cornerback Ricardo Allen, who has a pick-six this season to up his career total to a Purdue-best four. The junior with 31 career starts has 20 tackles and the interception this season, but he is banged up with an ankle injury.

Josh Johnson is another veteran on the other side, as the senior is another third-year starter with 21 tackles, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown. The nickel back is corner Frankie Williams, a redshirt freshman with 28 tackles, an interception and a TFL.

Purdue's third pick-six belongs to sophomore strong safety Landon Feitcher, a walk-on who nonetheless has been one of the Boilermakers' best defenders this season. Feitcher has 32 tackles, a Big Ten-best three interceptions and another two pass breakups. Sophomore Taylor Richards starts at free safety and has 18 stops, while senior Max Charlot has 15 tackles.

Raheem Mostert is one of the better return men in the league but is out for this game with an injury. Akeem Hunt and Josh Johnson figure to be in the return game but don't bring Mostert's game-breaking ability. Paul Griggs is 3 for 3 on field goals, while Cody Webster averages 43.3 yards per punt but has had three blocked.

Possible Ohio State edges: Ohio State has the upper hand with the ground game, especially when matching Miller vs. Purdue's defense. The Buckeyes also have the revenge factor in mind.
Possible Purdue edges: Purdue knows it can beat OSU, having done so two of the last three times, and has a screen-based spread offense that should confound OSU.

Sept. 1: vs. Eastern Kentucky, W 48-6. With Caleb TerBush suspended for an academic issue, Robert Marve threw for 295 yards and three touchdowns in the season-opening route.
Sept. 8: at (22) Notre Dame, L 20-17. TerBush's late touchdown pass to Antavian Edison tied the score late before Notre Dame won on a field goal with 7 seconds left.
Sept. 15: vs. Eastern Michigan, W 54-16. The Boilers had little trouble, pulling away behind 392 total rushing yards and six rushing TDs.
Sept. 29: vs. Marshall, W 51-41. Purdue had two pick-sixes while TerBush threw for four touchdown passes as the Boilers opened a big lead then held on.
Oct. 6: vs. Michigan, L 44-13. Michigan rolled in Purdue's Big Ten opener, taking a 21-0 lead and cruising home behind 235 rushing yards from Denard Robinson. Purdue was held to 213 yards.
Oct. 13: vs. Wisconsin, L 38-14. Three Badgers had at least 80 rushing yards as the visitors overran Purdue in a crucial Big Ten Leaders Division contest. The home team threw for only 124 yards.

Five Fast Facts
1. Purdue's victory against Western Michigan in last year's Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl in Detroit was the first postseason win of Hope's head coaching career.

2. Despite being minus-1 on the turnover table this season (14 takeaways, 15 giveaways), the Boilermakers are plus-41 in scoring off of turnovers.

3. In the 12 times Purdue has faced first-and-goal, Purdue has scored every time, posting 11 touchdowns and one field goal.

4. The Boilermakers' helmets include a sticker this year commemorating the life of astronaut Neil Armstrong, a 1955 graduate of Purdue and the first man to walk on the moon. Armstrong passed away in August, and after Hope shared his exploits with the team, receiver Tommie Thomas requested the squad honor Armstrong with a decal.

5. Purdue has not beaten Ohio State in Columbus since taking a 31-26 victory in 1988, an eight-game winning streak for the Buckeyes in the Horseshoe..

Last Time Out
Despite another fourth-quarter comeback engineered by freshman quarterback Braxton Miller, complete with a fourth-down touchdown pass, Ohio State made a few too many mistakes and dropped a 26-23 decision in overtime Saturday afternoon at Purdue.

Miller rallied a sluggish offense for a 66-yard touchdown march in the fourth quarter, throwing a 13-yard touchdown pass to junior tailback Jordan Hall with 0:55 showing on the clock. The play, coming on a fourth-and-3 play, tied the score at 20-20 and gave the Buckeyes an opportunity for the victory. But Purdue defensive tackle Bruce Gaston blocked the extra point to send the game into overtime.

The Buckeyes got a 33-yard field goal from sophomore kicker Drew Basil on their possession, but the Boilermakers converted two crucial third downs and then fifth-year quarterback Robert Marve scored on a 1-yard touchdown sneak for the victory.

The loss dealt a crippling blow to the Buckeyes' hopes for a trip to the inaugural Big Ten Championship game and a shot at a record seventh consecutive Big Ten championship. OSU dropped to 3-3 in the Leaders Division, behind both Penn State and Wisconsin in the race for the divisional crown.

In the end, Ohio State simply made too many mistakes to pull out the victory.

The Buckeyes started slowly for the second straight game, spotting the Boilermakers a 10-0 lead as the defense seemingly couldn't corral any Purdue ball-carrier. Slowly, however, OSU got its footing and it finally had its chance to pull out the victory with Miller's touchdown pass to Hall.

Purdue outgained the Buckeyes by a 363-295 margin, including 234 yards through the air. Marve completed 10 of 13 passes for 94 yards while sharing playing time with junior starter Caleb Terbush, who had a 15-for-24 day in the passing department for 140 yards.

The Boilermakers had only 129 yards rushing on 42 carries, an average of only 3.1 yards per attempt. But they made the carries count, tallying three touchdowns on the ground. Junior running back Ralph Bolden led all rushers in the game with 80 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries while junior running mate Akeem Shavers had 19 yards on nine carries and also tallied a touchdown. Marve had the other rushing TD for Purdue on the game's final play.

Meanwhile, the Boilers enjoyed one of their finest defensive efforts of the season. They entered the game ranked tied for 10th in the Big Ten in rush defense, but limited the Buckeyes to 163 yards on the ground. OSU had rushed for 346 yards a week ago during a 34-20 win over Indiana and had been averaging 275.0 yards rushing during its three-game win streak.

Senior tailback Boom Herron, who had topped the 100-yard mark in each of his previous three games this season, was limited to 62 yards on 18 carries. Hall added 46 yards on nine carries.

Miller provided most of the offense, rushing 16 times for 43 yards and a touchdown, and completing 8 of 18 passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns. Hall was on the receiving end of both TD passes – a 38-yarder in the second quarter and the 13-yard score near the end of regulation. Redshirt freshman T.Y. Williams logged the first two receptions of his career, good for 28 yards.

Purdue took advantage of the Buckeyes' sluggish start to grab an early 10-0 lead.

The Boilermakers got a 19-yard field goal from senior kicker Carson Wiggs and a 4-yard run from Shavers during a dominating first quarter. Purdue totaled 136 yards of offense in The Opening 15 minutes while Ohio State mustered only 11.

The Buckeyes got back into things early in the second quarter, taking advantage of a short Purdue punt to march 68 yards in eight plays. The big plays in the drive were a 20-yard pass from Miller to Herron and a jump pass from the OSU freshman quarterback to Hall, who got a couple of excellent blocks to turn the play into a 38-yard touchdown.

That cut Ohio State's deficit to 10-7 at the 11:42 mark of the second quarter and the Buckeyes appeared to have weathered the storm. But the Boilermakers strung together a 13-play, 88-yard scoring drive that culminated in a 7-yard TD run by Bolden and gave Purdue a 17-7 lead with 3:19 left before halftime.

The biggest play during the possession was a roughing-the-passer penalty against OSU defensive lineman Johnathan Hankins after Marve had thrown incomplete on a first-and-18 play at his own 41.

But the Buckeyes began to cut into Purdue's halftime margin soon after the third quarter began. After the OSU defense forced its first three-and-out of the game, Miller moved the offense 58 yards in eight plays for a touchdown. Hall took a direct snap 25 yards on the first play, and two plays later Hyde took a pitch around left end for 10 yards.

Miller later converted a big third-and-10 with a 14-yard scramble, and two plays after that, the OSU quarterback faked right and then cut left before outracing everyone to the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown to make it 17-14 with 9:42 remaining in the third quarter.

Wiggs booted a 44-yard field goal to give the Boilermakers a 20-14 advantage at the 13:06 mark of the fourth quarter and it stayed that way until the Buckeyes took over at their own 34-yard line with 6:15 left.

Herron followed an excellent seal block from junior fullback Zach Boren for a 21-yard gain on the first play, and two plays later, Miller hooked up with freshman receiver Evan Spencer for 12 yards to push the ball to the Purdue 30.

Hall later converted a third-and-1 play with a 1-yard blast up the middle before taking a direct snap 7 yards to push the ball to the Purdue 12. Herron sliced over right tackle to get it to the 5, but that gain was wiped out when Ohio State was called for having too many men in the backfield.

On second-and-7, Miller was stopped for a 1-yard loss, and then on third down, the OSU quarterback scrambled for 5 yards to set up fourth-and-3 at the Purdue 13. Miller took the shotgun snap, dodged a would-be tackler, stopped and jumped into the air when he saw Hall free and waving at him near the goal line. The freshman floated the ball to Hall, who gathered in the touchdown pass just ahead of Purdue cornerback Josh Johnson.

That tied the game at 20 with 55 seconds remaining, setting up Gaston's block of Basil's PAT attempt to send it to overtime. Basil also missed a 50-yard field goal attempt at the end of the first half, ending a personal streak of 12 consecutive made three-pointers.

In overtime, the Buckeyes nearly pulled out another long third-down play, but Williams' reception of a Miller pass came up just short of the first-down marker on a third-and-15. OSU head coach Luke Fickell elected to kick rather than go for it on fourth-and-1, and Basil's 33-yard field goal gave Ohio State a brief lead.

But Marve scrambled for 6 yards on a third-and-4, and then rolled out and found sophomore receiver Gary Bush near the sideline for a 14-yard catch on third-and-12. That gave Purdue the ball at the 1-yard line, and Marve scored on the next play, stretching the football over the goal line to get the 26-23 victory.

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