Believe it or not, no team in the Big Ten has given Ohio State more trouble over the last three years than the Purdue Boilermakers.
Dating back to the 2009 season, Danny Hope and the Boilermakers hold a 2-1 record over the Buckeyes.
In ‘09, a 5-1 and seventh-ranked Ohio State team fell to a five-loss Purdue squad 26-18 in West Lafayette. Last year, Purdue forced overtime when Bruce Gatson blocked Drew Basil’s extra point attempt late in the fourth quarter. The Boilermakers went on to pull out a 26-23 victory over the Buckeyes.
Those games sandwiched a 49-0 Ohio State rout of Purdue in 2010 that was later vacated by the school because of NCAA violations committed by then-head coach Jim Tressel.
So what’s Purdue’s secret?
How has a relatively mediocre team had such consistent success over the vastly superior Buckeyes the last three years?
It All Started Up Front for the Boilermakers
In Purdue’s two recent victories over Ohio State, the Boilermakers have shut down the Buckeyes offense with dominant play from their defensive line.
In ‘09, Ohio State rushed for just 66 yards on 28 rush attempts. Running back Brandon Saine had early success, running for 32 yards with just seven carries, but Tressel completely abandoned the running game after the Boilermakers built a sizable lead.
Defensive end Ryan Kerrigan terrorized Terrelle Pryor all day, helping Purdue notch five sacks against the Buckeyes.
During last year’s matchup, interim head coach Luke Fickell was much more persistent in sticking with the run game, but with little success. Ohio State managed 163 yards on the ground, but it took 47 carries to get there (3.5 yard average).
Defensive tackle Kawaan Short, much like Kerrigan two years before, dominated in leading the Boilermakers defensive attack to five sacks.
Death by a Thousand Screen Passes
Purdue head coach Danny Hope used quick slant routes and bubble screens to confound Ohio State’s defense in their two victories.
The 2009 matchup exposed Ohio State’s inability to stop an offense that attacks the perimeter.
Quarterback Joey Elliot threw the ball 50 times against the Buckeyes, completing 62 percent of his passes for 281 yards, while receiver Keith Smith dissected Ohio State’s secondary, hauling in 12 catches for 125 yards receiving.
The Boilermakers had success last year with the same game-plan, using two quarterbacks to complete nearly 68 percent of their passes for 234 yards.
Can the Boilermakers Do It Again?
Purdue has all the tools to execute the same game-plan that produced their last two victories over Ohio State.
Unfortunately for the Boilermakers, they have to travel to Columbus for this year’s matchup.
While Purdue has played the Buckeyes tough over the last few years, those instances have come when the game was played in West Lafayette. Purdue hasn’t scored a touchdown in Ohio Stadium since the fourth quarter of the 2003 game.
On top of that, Purdue’s defense has been gashed in recent weeks. In two games against Michigan and Wisconsin, the Boilermakers have given up an incredible 771 rushing yards.
On the other side of the ball, Ohio State’s rushing attack is really picking up steam. The Buckeyes have averaged 288 rushing yards over the last two games, so things could get ugly for Purdue in the ‘Shoe.
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