Five Answers: Ohio State at Purdue

Ohio State aced another test Saturday at Purdue, coming up large in just about every area, including special teams, time of possession, tackling and controlling the high-powered Purdue offense.

1. Can Ohio State control Purdue's quarterback?

For all the talk of Curtis Painter's veteran status and how he would not be rattled by Ohio State, he sure threw a lot of passes off target and without setting his feet.

He completed 31 of 60 passes for 268 yards and a touchdown but could have been guilty of about a half-dozen interceptions if the Buckeyes had better hands. His one touchdown came with 10 seconds on the clock and the game long decided.

The Buckeyes were able to keep Painter off balance with a 3-3-5 defensive alignment that served multiple purposes. It gave some relief to a banged up group of defensive linemen, let the Buckeyes get more fast people on the field against Purdue's spread sets and allowed Ohio State to bring pressure from a number of different angles.

"The biggest thing we talked about was moving around and not letting them know if we're in a three-man front of a four-man front, trying to disguise it and hopefully confusing them," linebacker Marcus Freeman said. "I think we did a pretty good job of that."

Purdue head coach Joe Tiller said his OSU counterpart Jim Tressel told him this might be the best defense he has had in his seven years at the helm in Columbus, and Tressel's charges did little to make their leader look foolish.

"Obviously (Ohio State) has good football players all over the place and they did a good job defensively," Tiller said.

2. Will the Buckeyes continue their improved tackling?

Only one Boilermaker had much success in eluding Buckeyes after getting the ball in space. Tight end Dustin Keller showed himself to be one of the more dangerous targets in the Big Ten as he caught seven passes for 101 yards, including a 27-yarder that served as the Boilermakers' longest gain of the night.

Dorien Bryant, Purdue's best player and the Big Ten's leader in all-purpose yards at the beginning of the day Saturday, could scarcely get away from a Buckeye defender at any point, but when he did get a hold of the ball he was crushed. Bryant finished with two catches for minus-4 yards and one carry for a loss of 2.

While the secondary did a nice job of limiting the Purdue receivers to just what they had upon making the catch, the men up front generally brought down Purdue running back Kory Sheets – a tough runner – before he could get into the secondary.

Sheets' longest run of the night was seven yards, and the Boilermakers essentially abandoned the run after the first quarter. Six of their 17 rush attempts came in the first 15 minutes.

"I thought we had a few missed tackles," Heacock said. "It was pretty good, but we could have been better."

3. Could special teams swing this game?

Ohio State was stellar in this category, and Purdue did little to help its mostly hopeless cause.

Boilermaker punter Jared Armstrong shanked both of his first two punts, and though the first took a kind roll all the way to the OSU 13-yard line, No. 2 went 23 yards and set the Buckeyes up at the Boilermaker 43.

From there it was just a short hop, skip and a jump to the end zone for a 14-point OSU cushion that left the tone for the game firmly set.

The Buckeye kickoff team also did its part to prevent the Boilermakers from getting any positive field position. That effort was helped immensely by Tressel's decision to switch kickoff specialists. Andrew Good and then A.J. Trapasso took turns booting the ball for the Buckeyes with fantastic success. Good hit a pair of touchback and Trapasso added one of his own to give Ohio State nearly as many touchbacks in a single game as the Buckeyes had in the first five contests (4) with Ryan Pretorius handling most of the kickoff duties.

"The thinking was we weren't kicking it far enough," Tressel said. "We knew we would probably have some consistency problems because it was those guys' first time in the game, but both of those guys have a rocket leg. As they become more consistent, you saw some nice kickoffs there. When they missed it, they missed it hard and ugly and those are hard to return also."

Purdue entered the game first in the Big Ten and No. 3 in the nation in kickoff returns but got just 61 yards on three returns, all by Bryant, who also fumbled on one return.

4. Which team will control the clock?

The Buckeyes jumped out to their early lead with the aid of an aggressive, down-the-field passing approach and then mixed in runs to salt the game away. They finished with a 7:42 advantage in time of possession, a figure built mostly in the middle two quarters while the game was still somewhat in doubt.

Ohio State had the ball for a total of 18:42 in the middle quarters compared to 11:18 for the opposition.

Even with tailback Chris "Beanie" Wells hobbled again by a sprained ankle, the Buckeyes were able to keep the ball on the ground and the clock moving. The starter carried 18 times for 88 yards before being relieved by Maurice Wells, who scampered for 74 yards on 15 totes.

Both benefited from a strong performance by the Buckeye offensive line and fullbacks.

5. Will the atmosphere be a factor?

The crowd was at Ross-Ade Stadium was barely worth mentioning.

The "blackout" called for largely fizzled, with only the students seeming to heed the call to wear all black for the primetime game. Even their efforts were weakened by fall break. At kickoff, the student section was not even full.

The home crowd's loudest reaction may have occurred when booing Tiller for sending in the punt unit on fourth down near midfield with his team trailing 23-0 and around 10 minutes to go.

Much more noticeable was the scarlet and gray in the stadium, colors that made up as much as one-third of the crowd.

"Instead of doing a blackout they should just hand out free tickets so our fans could scoop them up and bring the red stuff out," OSU right tackle Kirk Barton quipped after the game.

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