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October 20, 2012

Out of reach





COLUMBUS, Ohio - Crosby Wright's eyes were red.

He had been crying.

Didn't matter if most outside of Purdue's locker room picked No. 7 Ohio State to roll at home on Saturday - the Buckeyes were a 17-point favorite and the Boilermakers were coming off a pair of blowouts.

Purdue believed and fought.

And watched a signature, upset victory ultimately slip away as Ohio State scored a touchdown and a two-point conversion with three seconds remaining in regulation, then won in overtime, 29-22.

And Wright, one of the Boilermakers' captains and seniors, was between being torn up about what almost-was and being proud of his team.

"There's no way to sugarcoat it. There's no way around it. It's an absolutely heartbreaking loss," Wright said. "To be coming into a top-10 team's house and be winning the entire game, not being able to pull it out in the end, it's heartbreaking.

"It's not going to discourage us moving forward. We're going to have to put it behind us really quick, but right now, it hurts. If it didn't hurt, there's no reason to play this game."

After getting beat by a combined 82-27 the last two weeks against Michigan and Wisconsin, the Boilermakers (3-4, 0-3 Big Ten) vowed to show signs of life against the Buckeyes in Columbus.

They did, building a 22-14 lead after a safety with 10:11 left in the game.

But the unbeaten Buckeyes (8-0, 4-0), behind backup quarterback Kenny Guiton, rallied.

After forcing overtime with a late TD pass and two-point conversion, Ohio State got the ball first in overtime after Purdue won the toss and opted to play defense.

On the second play, the Buckeyes went with an empty backfield against four down linemen for Purdue, and Guiton connected with Jake Stoneburner over the middle past linebacker Sean Robinson in coverage for a 17-yard play that moved them to the 8-yard line.

After getting stopped on two consecutive runs, Carlos Hyde made good on his third attempt on third-and-goal from the 1 for a TD. The extra point gave Ohio State a 29-22 lead.

So Purdue needed to match the score.

But after responding quickly both times Ohio State had the lead in regulation, the Boilermakers didn't have another comeback in them.

They gained only five yards in overtime, and Caleb TerBush's final throw sailed high over Wright in the end zone. TerBush was forced out of the pocket to the right on the play and drilled as soon as he let go of the ball.

He never saw where it landed.

But he knew the game was done.

"It's huge. The past couple weeks, we got blown out at home and we fight down to the wire here at Ohio State, and it would have been a huge win for us," TerBush said. "It's disappointing."

There's plenty of disappointment to go around.

After playing valiantly throughout the course of the game, Purdue's defense didn't get it done late.

Neither did TerBush and the offense.

With a 22-14 lead with 2:40 left, Purdue had a chance to drain the clock. But after a false start on first down backed them up five yards, TerBush's quick pass to Gabe Holmes produced only one yard. Then Brandon Cottom's carry got only one more, leaving Purdue with a third-and-13 on its own 15-yard line.

Purdue called a timeout with 1:48 left before the play, and then Akeem Shavers gained seven yards to force a punt.

"We knew statistically if we got one first down, that'd be the game," Wright said. "Unfortunately, we weren't able to get one. You saw how it turned out."

Ohio State got the ball back with only 47 seconds and no timeouts, with Guiton in the game after Josh Johnson had knocked starter Braxton Miller out dragging him down at the end of a long run.

The Buckeyes needed 61 yards.

They got 39 on the first play when Devin Smith somehow got free down the field.

Purdue coach Danny Hope and members of the defense who spoke with media after the game said they don't know what happened on the play except that, obviously, there was a breakdown.

There would be another.

On third-and-10 from the 12 with only 12 seconds left, Guiton threw into the end zone, but Johnson was called for pass interference.

Chris Fields, coming open across the middle, made a diving catch just inside the end zone on the next play with three seconds left.

Still, Ohio State needed to get the two-point conversion to force OT. It lined up with three receivers, a tight end at the line and a running back to Guiton's right. One receiver went into motion left to right. Guiton rolled right after the snap but threw back left, lofting a ball over Bruce Gaston to an open Jeff Heuerman for the conversion.

"We were talking before the game, we wanted to come out here and play 60 minutes," said safety Landon Feichter, whose interception with 2:40 to play seemed to seal it for Purdue. "Unfortunately, we played 59 minutes and 30 seconds.

"We just didn't get it done in the end."

And Purdue lost its ninth consecutive game at Ohio Stadium.

And it had a prime opportunity to secure its biggest road upset since beating No. 2 Notre Dame 31-20 on Sept. 28, 1974 slip away.

But at least there were positives out of this one.

Purdue's defense seemed revived, looking stout on the interior of its defensive line especially.

Kickoff return seems to not have missed a beat without Raheem Mostert with Akeem Hunt returning one 100 yards for a TD.

The offense showed some signs of improvement, though it still needs to limit mistakes and get back to being sure-handed. A red-zone interception in the first half cost Purdue a chance for points and left the Boilermakers empty-handed after a drive that spanned more than 10 minutes.

But it'll mean nothing unless it continues.

Next week, Purdue travels to Minnesota, and the Boilermakers' final five games don't include any match-ups with elite competition.

"The last two weeks aren't very indicative of what we believe ourselves to be as a football team," Wright said. "Hopefully we've got those completely out of our system. Those performances are gone forever. We know if we do play like this going forward, there will be a lot of good things in the future.

"But it obviously hurts to not get the win. You don't play for pride. You play to get wins. We are proud of the football team we have. We're real close. We're going to come back and work even harder."




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