Fourth-ranked Ohio State kept its hopes for an outright Big Ten championship and the chance to defend its national championship alive with a dramatic 16-13 win in overtime over No. 11 Purdue before 105,286 Saturday at Ohio Stadium.
The win marked OSU's fourth overtime victory in two seasons and 16th straight home win as well for the Buckeyes (10-1, 6-1 Big Ten). Plus, it sets the stage for next Saturday's showdown with fifth-ranked Michigan (9-2, 6-1) in Ann Arbor with the outright conference title and at least the Rose Bowl berth -- and, for OSU, possibly a chance to return to the Bowl Championship Series national title game at the Sugar Bowl. Purdue (8-3, 5-2) entered Saturday in a three-way tie for the Big Ten lead.
OSU's Mike Nugent hit a 36-yard field goal in overtime for the winning points. Purdue then had a chance to force a second overtime, but kicker Ben Jones saw his 36-yard field goal attempt sail wide left by two feet in the OT.
"Well, it was quite a football game, as you knew it would be," said OSU coach Jim Tressel. "Two of the best defenses in the country matching up and just slugging it out and you knew that special teams were going to be critical. I thought our ability to punt and establish field position was huge.
"It was a great Big Ten football game, just like you knew it would be."
With the teams deadlocked at 6-6 early in the fourth quarter, Purdue made a critical mistake. On third-and-7 from the Purdue 8, quarterback Kyle Orton fumbled and OSU sophomore defensive end Mike Kudla pounced on the ball at the goal line for the game's first touchdown with 11:23 left.
But Orton rallied and led Purdue on a 92-yard scoring march, capped by Jerod Void's 11-yard touchdown run with 4:36 left.
Purdue had the ball with a chance to take the lead late. But Orton fumbled a shotgun snap and OSU's Tim Anderson recovered at the Purdue 29-yard line with 1:36 left. Purdue was out of timeouts, so OSU took the clock down to 4 seconds before calling timeout and setting the stage for Nugent‘s potential game-winning 41-yard field goal. But Purdue‘s Bobby Iwuchukwu blocked the kick, sending the game to overtime.
The Boilermakers outgained the Buckeyes 355-351 in total offense. Quarterback Craig Krenzel completed 15 of 29 passes for 226 yards to improve to 23-2 all-time as the OSU starter. Split end Michael Jenkins caught six passes for 123 yards, while flanker Santonio Holmes had six grabs for 57 yards. Tailback Lydell Ross saw his string of 100-yard games snapped at three, but he ended up with 79 yards on 23 carries.
Defensively, cornerback Dustin Fox led OSU with 10 tackles and four passes broken up.
"We just wanted to win this game for our seniors, man," said Fox, a junior.
Punter B.J. Sander also proved to be a weapon as seven of his 10 punts landed inside the 20-yard line.
For three quarters, the only offense was supplied by the kickers as OSU's Nugent made field goals of 26 and 52 yards and Purdue's Jones was good from 45 and 47 yards.
"They have a heck of a team," said Purdue coach Joe Tiller. "It was a good game. We have a tough team and we were ready to play. We had our chances. It was a game of field position and turnovers, and we didn't win either one of them. I thought it would be a defensive struggle and a low scoring game."
Purdue quarterback Kyle Orton completed 27 of 47 passes for 249 yards. His key targets were Taylor Stubblefield (eight catches, 79 yards) and John Standeford (eight catches, 56 yards).
"Our defense is special," Tressel said. "They keep playing and fighting. People come in with great plans against them and it's the game of their life to have a chance to play against our defense and our guys just keep fighting and believing in each other."
Purdue forced an OSU punt on the game's first possession, then drove 53 yards in 12 plays for the game's first points. Orton hit all five of his pass attempts on the drive for 37 yards. But the drive was stalled when OSU's Chris Gamble stopped Jerod Void 1 yard shy of the first down at the OSU 28. Jones came on and hit a 45-yard field goal to put the Boilermakers up 3-0 with 7:29 left in the first quarter.
Two possessions later, OSU knotted the score at 3-3 with a 10-play, 79-yard scoring march. The key play was Krenzel's 60-yard bomb to Jenkins on a play action pass on third-and-8 from the OSU 27. Jenkins got behind Purdue's Jacques Reeves on the play and made a juggling catch before being dragged down at the Purdue 13.
But the Buckeyes could not put the ball in the end zone. Branden Joe got 5 yards on first down before Ross was stopped for no gain on second. Krenzel threw a fade to Jenkins in the end zone on third down and it appeared that Reeves made contact with Jenkins before the ball arrived. But there was no call and the pass fell incomplete. Nugent's 26-yard field goal tied the game at 3-3 with 14:50 left in the first half.
Purdue's Void then returned the ensuing kickoff 41 yards, as OSU's Roy Hall and Donte Whitner overran the play. Nugent had to make the touchdown saving tackle at the OSU 49. Aided by a pass interference penalty on OSU's Gamble, Purdue moved down to the OSU 30. But Orton's third-down deep pass to Ray Williams was incomplete. Jones hit a 47-yard field goal to put Purdue up 6-3 with 13:01 left in the first half.
Ohio State finally drew even late in the half, taking advantage of a poor Purdue punt that went out of bounds at the Boilers' 37. On first down there, Krenzel stepped up and rolled for 17 yards and a first down at the 20. Ross got 1 yard on first down there before Krenzel's second-down pass was batted incomplete by Purdue linebacker Niko Koutouvides. Following a false start penalty on OSU's Ben Hartsock, Ross only got 4 yards on a draw. At the end of that play, it appeared that Krenzel was flagged for a personal foul by referee Dave Witvoet.
That pushed Nugent back to attempt a 52-yard field goal. He put that one through the uprights to tie the game at 6-6 with 2:42 left in the first half.
OSU moved the ball into Purdue territory just before the end of the half, but mismanaged the clock with Krenzel spiking the ball to stop it on third down at the Purdue 46 with 13 seconds left. The Buckeyes punted the ball away on fourth down.
OSU then moved into Purdue territory on its two third-quarter possessions, but came up empty there as well. The Buckeyes also dodged a huge bullet late in the third when Purdue's Jones pulled a 28-yard field goal attempt wide left with 5:16 left in the quarter.
OSU punter B.J. Sander pinned Purdue back to its own 5-yard line on a 42-yard punt with 12:15 left in the game. Two Purdue plays netted 3 yards before the decisive defensive touchdown by the OSU defense. On the play, Purdue was facing third-and-7 from its own 8. Orton took a shotgun snap and was immediately under pressure as OSU's Will Smith beat tackle Kelly Butler off the edge and defensive tackle Tim Anderson was coming hard up the middle.
Smith nudged Orton and Anderson grabbed him around the waist, forcing him to loose control of the ball. Kudla was on the spot and grabbed it as he fell into the end zone for the touchdown, sending the Ohio Stadium crowd into pandemonium. Nugent's PAT kick put the Buckeyes up 13-6 with 11:23 left.
"We knew we needed a big play," Smith said. "We needed a turnover. Kudla picked it up and scored the touchdown."
Sander again pinned Purdue back to its own 8 with 6:48 left. But Orton was gold this time, leading the Boilers on an eight-play, 92-yard scoring march. He found Void for a 28-yard gain to the Purdue 48. Then, he kept the ball for an 18-yard gain before finding a sliding Kyle Ingraham for an 18-yard gain down to the OSU 11. After a timeout, Orton pump faked and handed backwards to Void. The deception worked perfectly as he rolled around right end and scored on the 11-yard touchdown to tie the game at 13-13 with 4:36 left.
After Orton's fumble, OSU had a chance to win on the final play of regulation but Nugent's kick was blocked.
"I'm not sure we had great mechanics on that kick," said Tressel, noting that holder Sander had a hard time handling the snap.
In the overtime, OSU had the ball first. Krenzel was sacked for a 3-yard loss on first down. He got 2 yards back on a second-down quarterback draw before throwing to Jenkins down to the Purdue 19, 4 yards shy of the first down. Nugent's 36-yard field goal gave OSU a 16-13 lead.
"I just went out there thinking, `We need to get this and put pressure on them,' " Nugent said.
Purdue converted a third-and-12 predicament in overtime as Orton found Stubblefield for a 13-yard gain as he stretched the ball down to the OSU 14 in front of Gamble on a slant. Gamble then dropped an interception that would have capped the game on first down. Finally, Jones' field goal sailed wide left, touching off a massive celebration at the venerable Horseshoe.
* OSU improved its lead in the all-time series with Purdue to 35-11-2, including 24-5-2 in Columbus. The Buckeyes also defeated Purdue for the third straight year, following a 35-9 win in 2001 and a 10-6 triumph at West Lafayette last year. Purdue coach Joe Tiller is now 0-3 against OSU in Columbus and 1-4 overall.
* Ohio State won its 16th straight home game, dating to a 2001 loss to Illinois. Under third-year coach Jim Tressel, OSU is now 20-2 at home. This marks the 30th time OSU has a perfect home season and first time for back-to-back home undefeated seasons since 1983-84.
* Tressel is now 19-4 in Big Ten games in his third season as the OSU coach.
* OSU reached the 10-win mark for the 14th time in 114 years of intercollegiate football.
* OSU improved to 5-1 this season against ranked teams.
* The game was the final home appearance for 26 OSU seniors. The win gives them a 39-10 record over four years with two games left.
"We never felt like we were going to lose the game," Smith said. "Even though it was real close, all the seniors, you could just look in their eyes and see the confidence that we were going to win. It was our last game and we wanted to go 16-0 in the ‘Shoe, so we had to make a play to get it done."
* Kudla's touchdown extended OSU's string of games with a touchdown to 88. OSU last failed to score a touchdown in a 13-9 loss to Michigan in 1996.
* The crowd figure is the second largest in OSU history behind the record of 105,539 for last year's Michigan game.
* Next week's OSU game with Michigan will be at noon and will be televised nationally by ABC.
"You come to a place like Ohio State or you go to a place like Michigan to play in that type of game," Krenzel said. "You go there because you want to win conference championships and a lot of times it comes down to that last game of the season and this year is one of those years where the winner of the game is going to be the conference champ."
* OSU has now won 11 of the last 12 games it has played when the final margin is seven points or less.
* OSU improved to 4-0 all-time in overtime games with wins over Illinois and Miami (Fla.) (double OT) last year and N.C. State (triple OT) this year. Tressel is now 8-1 all-time in overtime games in his career.