Mistakes Leave Bitter Taste For Offense

The memory tends to hold onto more recent memories better than older ones, so the one thing many will take away from Saturday's win at Purdue was not how well the OSU offense moved the ball early in the game but rather its struggles during the final three stanzas. You can be sure the coaching staff will think that way as well.

About 10 minutes into No. 4 Ohio State's hyped showdown with fellow unbeaten and No. 23 Purdue, it was apparent that the game was going to get ugly unless something changed. The Buckeyes held a 14-0 lead thanks to two easy drives and the vaunted Purdue offense already looked to have chinks in its armor.

Then something did change: The Buckeyes offense quickly went kaput. In the next 50 or so minutes, Ohio State could not equal its point total of the first 10, turning what looked as though it was going to be a blowout into a comfortable win keyed by a dominating defensive performance.

For a team that preaches eliminating mistakes and getting better each and every game, there will be plenty to learn from film from the final three quarters in West Lafayette.

"We definitely did," captain and offensive tackle Kirk Barton said when asked if he thought the Buckeyes had left some points on the field. "We had some turnovers that we have to get corrected and we had some missed assignments we have to fix. Those things are unfortunate because we really should have put the team away a lot earlier than we did."

After taking a 17-0 lead after four drives – on which Ohio State accumulated 182 yards – things headed south for an offense still growing into itself. On the next 11 drives, Ohio State totaled 199 yards, twice settled for field goals and threw three interceptions.

The negativity somewhat took the spotlight off of what was an excellent start for the Buckeyes. Purdue had positively no answer on OSU's first drive, a nine-play, 87-yarder that moved with ruthless efficiency. The only third down the Buckeyes faced was third-and-4 from the Purdue 26-yard line, a play on which quarterback Todd Boeckman lofted a perfect pass for Ray Small at the front left pylon that the speedster hauled in to give the Buckeyes a 7-0 lead.

After the defense posted a three-and-out and Purdue's Jared Armstrong shanked a punt, it took just five plays and 2:18 for OSU to move 43 yards. The drive was capped by a 6-yard scoring toss to Brian Hartline to give the Buckeyes a 14-0 lead 10:12 into the game.

OSU's fourth drive went for 34 yards and ended with a 44-yard Ryan Pretorius field goal, leaving the Buckeyes ahead 17-0.

"That was great," offensive coordinator Jim Bollman said. "It was kind of frustrating from then on at times. I feel disappointed that we didn't put a few more points on the board as the game went."

A harbinger of what was to come occurred on OSU's next drive. Purdue's Dorien Bryant fumbled the ensuing kickoff, giving the Buckeyes the ball at the Boilermaker 33-yard line. After Boeckman missed favorite target Brian Robiskie on an open post pattern, Chris Wells took the ball 5 yards and then 3 yards on a draw to set up a fourth-and-2 situation.

Perhaps sensing the kill, head coach Jim Tressel elected to eschew a 42-yard field goal try, but Wells was blown up 3 yards behind the line by an unblocked Anthony Heygood.

From there the Buckeyes struggled to get going. The next two drives before the half ended in a punt and the end of the half, a two-minute drill that was aborted after Boeckman took an intentional grounding penalty.

The first two drives of the second half ended when Boeckman elected to go deep on first down and had his passes end up in the hands of the enemy, the first one going to Brandon King and the second to David Pender. Both times, Boeckman appeared to have his intended receiver open but did not put enough air on the ball.

The junior quarterback lofted his third interception of the game early in the fourth quarter when Torri Williams came over the top of a pass intended for Robiskie. While the three picks did not allow the Boilermakers to put points on the board – Purdue took over at its own 28-, 2- and 2-yard lines after the deep interceptions – they succeeded in keeping the Buckeyes from padding their lead.

"I would like to have a couple of those plays back and maybe keep driving a little more," Bollman said. "That doesn't make them non-critical turnovers."

Two other drives ended in Pretorius field goals. One, a 39-yarder in the third quarter, followed only a 7-yard drive that started at Purdue's 29 after a punt, and a 23-yarder came on the fourth quarter's first play after Hartline and Boeckman hooked up for a 41-yard catch and run.

"Three or four field goals isn't good for us," Hartline said. "Pretorius did a good job kicking them but we want touchdowns, so we have to correct that stuff."

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