Kudla Touchdown Swung Momentum To OSU

Sophomore defensive end Mike Kudla overcame a serious illness last winter to return to the OSU football team. Saturday night, his recovery of a fumble by Purdue quarterback Kyle Orton stood up as OSU's only touchdown in a 16-13 overtime win over the Boilermakers.

Back in January of this year Mike Kudla came really close to dying. Probably a lot closer than he or his family care to remember. But it was his dream during his sickest time to make it back to the team and be able to make a play like he did when he provided Ohio State with their only touchdown in a hard fought contest in their victory over Purdue.

"I just wanted to come back and be able to play with these guys again," Kudla said. "And that's one of the things (making a big play) I dreamed about. It's just pretty gratifying."

With the score dead-locked at 6 just minutes into the fourth quarter, Will Smith, Tim Anderson and Darrion Scott all converged on Purdue quarterback Kyle Orton near the Boilermaker goal line and caused a fumble that Kudla recovered at the one and fell into the end zone to give the Buckeyes a 13-6 advantage. It was the only touchdown that Ohio State was able to put on the board in the overtime game.

Like he did all game, B.J. Sander backed Purdue up to their own 5-yard line with a 42-yard boot to set up the score. Purdue ran two plays, netting 3 yards before its critical third-down blunder.

"We knew we needed a big play, we needed a turnover," Smith said. "It just so happened that they said I knocked the ball out, or I hit the ball, but I didn't think I knocked it out. Kudla picked it up and scored the touchdown. We kind of celebrated, then went back and got ready for the next series."

The play instantly become the high mark of Kudla's young career that was nearly taken from him only months earlier.

Shortly after returning to Columbus from the national championship weekend in Tempe, Kudla was rushed to the Ohio State University Medical Center. He had been suffering from mononucleosis since the week leading up to the Michigan game but was finally cleared to play in the national championship contest after much rest and inactivity.

After making numerous attempts at a diagnosis, Kudla's doctors were finally able to determine that he had contracted a micro plasmic pneumonia as a result of being run down from football and the mono. The illness eventually evolved into Kudla getting a rare disease that attacks the mucous membranes in your entire body. Medically it's known as Stevenson-Johnson's Syndrome of which there is generally a high mortality rate.

Kudla lost about 40 pounds in two weeks and although it never got to a point where his life was in jeopardy, it could have eventually gotten there. On a pain scale of 1 to 10, one of Kudla's doctors said the pain that he endured was a 12. He almost had football taken away from him.

"Football is just a game and we're suppose to go out there and enjoy it," is what Kudla said, post recovery and before spring ball commenced. "There were times (the doctors) were saying that I would never play again so you definitely enjoy it more after being told that. I feel blessed. I feel lucky. It was up in the air and anything could have happened, so I was just blessed to get through with it."

Kudla persevered and against Purdue he was rewarded by having his greatest moment on the gridiron as a Buckeye.

"It was real similar to last week's play (against Michigan State), Will and Darrion came off the edge and got great pressure and Tim went right up through the middle and the pocket just collapsed," Kudla said. "They basically all got to him and the ball came free, he just happed to fumble it right there on the goal line, and I picked it up. It was all up to that, they put tremendous pressure on him.

"I was just lucky to be there at the right time, those guys were just doing a tremendous job putting pressure on him."

A week ago against the Spartans, Kudla scored an apparent touchdown late in the game when he recovered a loose ball from quarterback Jeff Smoker and ran that in for a score. But the officials determined that Smoker's arm was coming forward and denied the touchdown.

"I was really hoping to get that one," Kudla said, "but (the refs) said his arm was coming forward but the play was pretty-much dead similar to what it was last week, this week."

And just as they were there for their son during his sickness, Kudla's parents, Paul and Mary Fran were right there again to lend him encouragement after the Michigan State game.

"My mom and dad were like, ‘You lost one last week but you'll get another one. You'll get your chance,' " Kudla said.

How right they were! And this time against Purdue he thought he was "pretty sure" that he a touchdown.

"The play from last week just shot through my mind," Kudla said. "The ball was free and hopefully they weren't calling his arm forward. But I seen (Orton), he had the ball down, and Will, Darrion and Tim just got right too him and I picked it up.

"I was just happy. I was real ecstatic when they called the play (a touchdown) and then Will comes running over. He's been like a brother to me so it meant a lot."

Actually, it meant the world to Kudla that he was able to give something back to the members of the senior class. Guys that he's looked up to for two years now.

"I'm just really happy for the seniors to go out with a victory, that means more than anything to me," Kudla said. "Playing with Will, Darrion and Tim; those guys have been like a family to me down here, so anything for them. Today that's what this means to me.

"These guys have been unbelievable in how much they mean to me so it's all bittersweet from that."

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