Almost one year ago, Ohio State faced an important conference road contest when it went to Iowa City to face the three-touchdown underdog Hawkeyes, looking for its eighth win of the season and to keep its playoff hopes alive.
But J.T. Barrett proceeded to throw four interceptions, including a pick-six on the first play from scrimmage, and the Buckeyes left town thoroughly dominated with a 55–24 loss, the worst in Urban Meyer’s illustrious coaching career.
Faced with the same scenario, the second-ranked Buckeyes didn’t learn anything from that memorable upset, getting routed by Purdue 49–20 in West Lafayette and in turn putting their postseason and Big Ten aspirations in serious peril.
What resulted on Saturday night was nothing short of stunning. Purdue, which came in ranked 92nd in total defense, got timely stops, frustrated Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins and shut down a running game that has seemingly been non-existent over the last few games.
Purdue struck first, using a 15-play, 98-yard drive that took seven minutes off the clock and ended with a David Blough to Isaac Zico 13-yard touchdown connection. Blough was outstanding all night, throwing for 378 yards and three touchdowns, with no turnovers.
The Boilermakers then went into their bag of tricks en route to a 14–3 halftime lead. On a fourth-and-three deep in Ohio State territory, the field goal unit lined up for a 30-yard attempt, but instead the ball was snapped to punter Joe Schopper, who ran around the left end for four yards to move the chains. Purdue hit paydirt on the next play on a Rondale Moore nine-yard TD catch.
Coming out of the break, Urban Meyer’s bunch continued to make mistakes, piling up the penalties and not converting its precious opportunities in the red zone.
Compounding the problems on this forgetful night, Ohio State had no answer for Moore, who caught 12 passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns, the last on a stunning 43-yard catch and run that left Buckeye defenders in the dust, flailing under a hail of missed tackles.
The Buckeyes reached the red zone four times on the night and managed just two field goals, missing a third and failing on a fourth-and-goal attempt in the third quarter. Purdue also took advantage of a roughing the kicker penalty, which turned into a one-yard D.J. Knox touchdown run that made the score 21–6.
Ohio State was put out of its misery when, on a third-and-nine in the fourth quarter, Knox took a handoff and ran up the middle untouched for a 42-yard touchdown. Knox repeated the trick minutes later, again going 40 yards without a single Buckeye defender in sight. Knox finished with 128 yards and three touchdowns.
Purdue's season started with three straight losses, albeit by a total of eight points, including a home defeat to Eastern Michigan. But the Boilermakers have turned it around in the last month, winning their fourth in a row Saturday to put them in position for a possible bowl berth.
The much-maligned defense that gives up 414 yards a game didn’t necessarily stop Ohio State on Saturday. Dwayne Haskins, who came into the game ranked in the in the top five nationally in touchdown passes, passing yards and completion percentage, threw the ball a season-high 73 times, mostly sticking to short passes and screens, until he went deep to Johnnie Dixon for a 32-yard strike in the fourth quarter. He set Ohio State records with 49 completions for 470 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception.
The question now for the Buckeyes is, where do they go from here?
One of the nation’s top offenses has no running game to speak of and has become too one-dimensional. And even before All-American defensive end Nick Bosa announced earlier this week that he will not return to school to rehab an injury and prepare for the NFL draft, the defense gave up a ton of big plays.
Ahead of Saturday night's meltdown, Ohio State had already given up 22 plays of at least 30 yards, second-worst of all Power 5 teams. The Boilermakers added three more, and also had a 29-yard reception by Cole Herdman.
The bye week comes at a good time for the defending Big Ten champs, which still have road games at Michigan State and Maryland before their annual clash with Michigan on Nov. 24.