5 Answers: Purdue at Ohio State

Ohio State entered the game wanting to take a step forward on the offensive side of the ball while continuing to show it is getting a handle on how to stop a spread offense. The Buckeyes got some of that done but fell far short of reaching all their goals.

1. Could the Ohio State running game take off?

Observers would not have known from what transpired at Ohio Stadium Saturday that Purdue came into the game with one of the worst defenses in the country.

The Boilermakers were ranked last in the Big Ten (and 104th in the nation) in rushing yards allowed but their defensive line controlled the game and kept Joe Tiller's team in the contest.

Chris Wells, who played despite still feeling the effects of a foot injury and illness, ran 22 times for 94 yards but often had to contend with defensive players rerouting him in the backfield or at the line of scrimmage.

"He missed a little practice this week, but I thought he ran hard," Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said. "There were some times where he broke two and three tackles on a play and there were also some times where he couldn't even get his feet to the line of scrimmage and banged in there as hard as he could."

The option that has looked so dangerous with Terrelle Pryor at the controls the previous three games also struggled, again in large part because of penetration by the Boilermakers and excellent play from Purdue linebacker Anthony Heygood.

2. Will the passing game progress?

Pryor continued to complete a high percentage of his passes (10 for 14) but nothing resembling a rhythm ever developed for the freshman and his mates.

He also missed on one long throw downfield when Brian Robiskie was open for what could have been a 46-yard touchdown, but protection problems were a problem other times the Buckeyes wanted to go deep.

Pryor was on target on a deep throw in the fourth quarter when Robiskie drew a pass interference penalty, but much work remains to be done.

"It was a missed opportunity for us just to get better as a team," Pryor said. "The coaches are saying today is about getting better and we need to get better, and I just don't think – I mean, defensively we got better, but we've got to work on stuff on offense. I'm sure we'll get it done."

3. What about the return of the dreaded spread?

Prior to the game, Ohio State safeties coach Paul Haynes said Purdue quarterback Curtis Painter "always has it in him to have a breakout game."

Not against the Buckeyes, apparently.

Despite going over 10,000 career passing yards in the first quarter, Painter had another bad day against Ohio State. He completed 23 of 51 attempts for 228 yards with an interception and no touchdowns.

A more aggressive game plan that included more man-to-man coverage than Ohio State customarily plays went a long way in disrupting Painter and his receivers.

The defensive line, with a rejuvenated Todd Denlinger at tackle, stepped up its play as well.

"We kept it simple and just wanted to come after them and get some pressure and (our defensive line) did a great job of that today," cornerback Malcolm Jenkins, who had an interception, said. "They got in his face and forced him to throw the ball quick. We kind of knew what they wanted to do as far as throwing the ball quick and we did a good job of jumping some balls and things like that.

"We did a lot of personnel switching and substitutions. We wanted to try to give them the best look possible to what they were bringing in."

4. Can Kory Sheets be a difference maker?

For a brief time in the third quarter, there was a time the answer looked like it could be yes.

Sheets ran for 26 yards on the Boilermakers' first two plays after halftime, but Ohio State reverted to is base defense after playing all of the first half with five defensive backs on the field and effectively headed off that Purdue adjustment.

For the most part the Buckeyes kept Sheets bottled up. He ran 20 times for 67 yards, getting more than 1/3rd of his yards on those two third-quarter plays. He also had a 20-yard run in the second quarter.

Sheets also caught four passes for 13 yards.

5. Have the Buckeyes solved their fumbling problem?

So it wasn't all bad, right?

If nothing else, the Buckeyes did handle the ball much better than they did a week earlier in Madison.

Wisconsin forced four fumbles, recovering one, but those Buckeye butterfingers were clean against the Boilermakers.

Overall, Ohio State had lost a fumble in five of its first six games before facing Purdue.

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