5 Answers: Ohio State at Purdue

There was not much for Ohio State fans to like about the Buckeyes' 26-18 loss at Purdue on Saturday. The visitors failed to get a faster start or make quicker adjustments, while the Purdue offense managed to execute without as many mistakes as had doomed it during a five-game losing streak.

1. Can Ohio State get off to a fast start?

So much for taking the opponent out of the game early.

Purdue won the toss and opted to defer, a decision that proved wonderful for them when Terrelle Pryor fumbled on Ohio State's second play. That gave the Boilermakers possession at the OSU 20-yard line. Although they managed just a field goal, the sequence no doubt was a boon for the underdog hosts' belief they could compete with the nation's No. 7-rated team.

Although Ohio State bounced back immediately with a three-play touchdown drive, the Boilermakers never went away.

They scraped together a couple more field goals to take a 9-7 lead into the locker room at half time then started the third quarter hot with a crisp, efficient 67-yard touchdown drive that was stunningly easy.

"We always emphasize coming out in the second half and playing better than we did in the first half, so when they came out and scored, we didn't expect that at all," said Ohio State defensive end Thaddeus Gibson. "From that point on, we were like, ‘Wow, we've really got to turn it up.' But for some reason we just could't put our foot on them."

2. Can the Buckeye defense keep the Boilermaker offense under wraps?

Purdue did not put up gaudy numbers overall, but the Boilermakers' 361 total yards and 26 points were enough for them to pull off the upset.

Joey Elliott, who entered the game as the Big Ten's leading passer in terms of yards, was not the most efficient quarterback anyone has ever seen, but he made enough good throws to do the job.

"Defensively, I think they hit us with a lot of quick passes, so they didn't allow our defensive line to get the rush we usually are accustomed to," said Ohio State safety Kurt Coleman. "They did a good job of just milking it down the field and then they made big plays when they needed to."

Elliott finished the day with 31 completions on 50 pass attempts. He threw for 281 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.

"They did a great job protecting him, and he did a good job of moving the pocket and making plays down field and making plays with his legs," said Ohio State linebacker Brian Rolle. "I give him big ups for that because he did a great job moving around and giving them guys the opportunity."

3. Will the Ohio State offensive line bounce back?

Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan blew past Ohio State tight end Jake Ballard to sack Pryor on the second play of the game, setting the tone for an awful day for the Ohio State offensive front.

The Boilermakers overwhelmed the Buckeyes' protection scheme all day, leaving Pryor with little time to survey the defense or get comfortable in the pocket.

There was little-to-no room for the Ohio State running game to work, either. The Buckeyes amassed just a total of 61 net yards on the ground, their fewest of the season.

That total was deflated by five sacks that cost them 44 yards in losses, but Ohio State virtually abandoned the running game in the second half, when running back Brandon Saine carried just once.

4. Will the Ohio State passing game progress?

Pryor's slide continued for three quarters as he went 7 for 15 for 84 yards and two interceptions that were among several ill-advised throws.

He picked it up during a desperate fourth quarter, when he was 10 for 16 for 137 yards with a touchdown, but that was too little, too late.

"I thought early on we struggled a little bit, which made it more difficult," Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said. "As the game went on, we improved, and again we evaluate things play by play, and we could sit down and watch one of the plays and say, ‘Here's how you evaluate a certain performer,' and then you can do another. I guess we've always said you evaluate the quarterback based on wins and losses, so today – just like the coach – today the coaches evaluation and the quarterbacks evaluation – the No. 1 measuring stick is that we didn't win. The evaluation wasn't good."

5. Can the Ohio State coaching staff and personnel make quicker adjustments and keep the opposing defense off balance?

Tressel attributed some of his offense's struggles against Wisconsin last week to a lack of early success and slowness in figuring out how to counter the Badgers' defensive strategy, but that explanation does not figure to fly for two straight weeks.

Again the Buckeyes mustered a bit of offense after falling behind, but this time it was not enough as the defense and special teams played far more pedestrian than those units had a week earlier.

Asked why the offense was able to move the ball in the fourth quarter, receiver DeVier Posey did not attribute adjustments or strategical tweaks, though.

"I feel like it's an attitude problem," said the sophomore, who led Ohio State with nine catches for 87 yards and a touchdown. "I don't feel like it's a technical problem upstairs or a problem on the sideline, I just feel like it's an attitude thing. When I think of how we played in the fourth quarter, we just need to have that attitude every time."

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