For Once, OSU DL Couldn't Save Day

All season long, the Ohio State defense has attributed its success to a dominant front four that has kept opposing offensive lines and quarterbacks from getting into a rhythm. But on Saturday, Purdue was the one keeping OSU off-balance at times. The Buckeyes got just one sack as QB Joey Elliott engineered an upset win for the Boilermakers.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The Ohio State defense tried to stick to the plan, the plan that had worked all season long.

On this day, however, Purdue's offensive line did the thing no unit – not even highly-touted groups from USC and Wisconsin – had been able to do all season, and that was stop the Buckeye defensive front four from creating havoc in the backfield.

Quarterback Joey Elliott was under pressure occasionally, but he was sacked just once while completing 31 of 50 passes as the Boilermakers upset the Buckeyes 26-18 in Ross-Ade Stadium.

Using a buffet of quick passes and getting standout line play from a senior-laden group, Elliott engineered 361 yards of total offense for the team and threw for two touchdown passes to allow Purdue to snap its five-game losing streak.

"They did a lot of different things," OSU defensive lineman Cameron Heyward said. "But we had to be ready for it, and I think the quarterback did an amazing job and just stepped up in the pressure."

Purdue showed some I-formation looks throughout the day at times, but for the most part the Boilermakers were the spread outfit that has posed problems on and off for Big Ten teams throughout the years. Ohio State's defense had largely stymied that offense through the past two seasons, allowing only 10 combined points.

However, 2009 would be different as Purdue's offense had a number of solid drives and even left some points on the field, setting for five field-goal attempts – four of which Carson Wiggs drilled – and throwing one interception in the end zone when running back Dan Dierking tried a halfback pass.

Perhaps even more surprisingly, Ohio State's defensive line was unable to get to Elliott. The Buckeyes had entered the game averaging three sacks per game, six of which came a week ago against a Wisconsin team that had given up only two all season.

But the Boilermaker starting offensive line of fifth-year seniors Zach Reckman (left guard), Jared Zwilling (center) and Zach Jones (right tackle) as well as sophomore left tackle Dennis Kelly and right guard Ken Plue kept OSU's eight-deep front from making Elliott hear footsteps. OSU's only sack from came safety Kurt Coleman.

"The line was good across the board," OSU end Thaddeus Gibson said. "Those guys came ready to play. If you ask everyone on the defensive line, they would say the same thing."

Compounding the problems for the Buckeye pass rush was the fact that Purdue's spread offense ran a number of quick plays that served two purposes – keeping the defensive line's pass rush at bay and allowing the receivers to get open in the zones in OSU's back seven. Of the 31 completed passes by Purdue, just three went for 15 yards or more.

"That was their quick game," Coleman said. "The quicker they went our defensive line couldn't get to them, and it put a lot of pressure on our back seven. They started milking the middle and hitting the quick over the middles and spot routes, so they did a good job of countering what we were trying to do, and it was a good battle back and forth."

Even one of those longer passes – a 23-yard touchdown to Aaron Valentin that gave Purdue a 23-7 lead late in the third quarter – was a short screen to the right, but the wideout broke Jermale Hines' tackle and then turned cornerback Chimdi Chekwa inside and out while running into the end zone for the score.

Plays like that kept the chains moving, and Purdue's offense was on the field for more than 36 minutes.

"We just have to scheme," cornerback Chimdi Chekwa said. "We expected them to run a lot of quick pays, do a lot of screens. They just did a great job of doing what they do and execute real well."

At the center of the storm was Elliott, who mostly avoided the big mistake – he threw one interception, but it was sandwiched between two picks thrown by OSU's Terrelle Pryor – and got out of the pocket when need be, rushing eight times for 31 yards. The Big Ten's leading passer coming in kept his poise as well while snapping Purdue's 19-game losing streak against ranked foes.

"We knew coming in that that guy was good," Gibson said. "Just watching film on him, he made plays by stepping up in the pocket and getting rid of the ball. He got it done. They got it done as a unit."


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