With the addition of freshman Terrelle Pryor under center, an offense featuring a powerful running back such as Chris Wells was expected to be a force to be reckoned with – even as Pryor adjusted to being a starter so early in his college career. But as the Buckeyes hosted a struggling Purdue team, it was the home squad who showed a lack of offensive firepower.
Against the Boilermakers, the Buckeyes amassed 222 yards of total offense – 76 fewer yards than Purdue and more than 100 yards fewer than the team's average of 337.3 yards per game at the midway point of the season.
Although OSU's offensive players were quick to credit Purdue's defense – a defense that entered the game 108th in the country, allowing 435.8 yards per game – for keeping the Buckeyes off balance, there was more finger-pointing to the home sideline.
"You could see that when we watched the film that Purdue had a good defense, don't get me wrong, but it was all us," Wells said. "We didn't execute the way we should have."
Sidelined for part of the week with an illness, Wells said he awoke Saturday morning unsure if he would be healthy enough to play against the Boilermakers. He skipped out on team movie night and went back to his room to lie down after the team meal.
Still, he toted the ball 22 times for 94 yards – an average of 4.3 yards per carry.
Clearly missing for the Buckeyes were open running lanes for Wells and Pryor to take advantage of. Pryor's speed and Wells' power have presented matchup problems for opposing defenses this year, but Purdue was able to clog the line of scrimmage and contain the duo.
"There was no way to run the option," said Pryor, who rushed for 27 net yards on 14 carries. "They were taking away the whole thing. They did a great job with that stuff. They were all over the place when we were running."
Some of that had to do with the fact that the Buckeyes were rotating in several offensive linemen due to injuries. Senior left guard Steve Rehring spent his second consecutive game on the right side of the line, playing both guard and tackle in place of senior Ben Person (guard) and junior Bryant Browning (tackle).
Senior left tackle Alex Boone missed some plays due to injury, and his replacement in freshman Mike Adams was also injured and see on crutches wearing a walking boot as he left the field after the game.
That situation might have been a reason why the offense struggled, but it was no excuse according to junior tight end Jake Ballard.
"We don't have the five guys that play together all the time like we've had in the past because we're throwing everybody in there at different positions," he said. "That means they are having second thoughts about plays. If they were playing right guard and now they're playing left tackle, they might not know exactly what to do. That could b ea possibility, but the fact is that we have the talent there and we have to line up and do it and make holes."
The constant pressure applied by Purdue caused Pryor to become antsy, Ballard said.
Players such as Wells said the team needs to throw the ball downfield more to help open up some of those holes at the line of scrimmage.
"We've got to pass the ball," he said. "Definitely. With me being a running back, you really don't expect me to say that, but it's the truth. We've got to pass the ball.
"You can't just go in there and run the ball down team's throats. Eventually, they're going to stop it. I'm expecting a change soon."
For the game, Pryor was 10-of-14 passing for 97 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. He said he does not know why the team does not pass more and that it is not his decision. On the afternoon, he threw deep twice for senior wideout Brian Robiskie. One attempt sailed too deep, while the other resulted in a pass interference penalty against Purdue.
If teams dare him to throw the ball, Pryor said it is a situation he looks forward to being in.
"I wish they would," he said. "I could beat them with that. I'm sure our coaches will figure out how to do this."
If they do, it might be one way to help get a suddenly struggling offense back on track. However, there is also the fact that Pryor was under center for just his fourth career start and teams are starting to get a feel for what he brings to the table.
The task now is to overcome the situation and find ways to improve. That starts with practice this week.
"It's frustrating for us that we didn't click today," Pryor said. "We just looked bad. That's the only way to put it. The bright side is we didn't lose. If we had lost, it would've been terrible. It's not terrible."