Boilermakers Get Well With Big Win Over Ohio State
And the healing has begun.
On Saturday afternoon, Purdue recovered from the bumps and bruises of the past four weeks — Kyle Orton did the same — with a dramatic 24-17 victory over Ohio State.
"It’s almost like we’ve been vindicated," Coach Joe Tiller said, "after what’s happened the past five weeks."
Orton — who missed last week’s loss at Iowa and the end of its loss at Northwestern two weeks earlier — replaced Brandon Kirsch in the fourth quarter, with the game knotted at 17-all, and led the Boilermakers on a game-winning touchdown drive, spanning 80 yards in eight plays.
It was a heroic performance by the senior QB, whose hip has hurt him so badly that he’s struggled to get a good night’s sleep. He didn’t really practice until Thursday of last week. But that didn’t stop him from giving Tiller the thumbs-up that he was ready to go.
And the coach turned him when he was needed most.
Purdue had led 17-3 at the half, but the Boilermakers’ usual meltdown blueprint began to take hold — big plays over the middle against the defense, turnovers and missed opportunities.
The Buckeyes tied the game with a 30-yard touchdown catch by Santonio Holmes and a five-yard TD run by quarterback Troy Smith, the latter coming with a mere 3:50 to play.
That’s when Orton went to work, completing 6-of-6 passes on what could go down as the defining drive (not play) of his career.
First, he hit Taylor Stubblefield for gains of eight and five yards, respectively. Then back-to-back completions to running back Brandon Jones netted 16 yards. Stubblefield drew a 15-yard pass interference call on linebacker A.J. Hawk, then caught another eight yard completion, which preceded a 17-yard run by Jones.
Finally, from the Ohio State 14 on a second-and-13 pass, Orton executed a masterful play fake, then threw across his body to wide-open tight end Dustin Keller, who slipped open on a "sneak" play, where the whole offense, save for the intended receiver rolls one way.
The play — which Iowa used to beat the Boilermakers in 2002 — was a trick the coaching staff has had up its sleeve for three weeks, reserving it for the most opportune moment.
The time came as the West Lafayette sky was overcome by darkness, which the lights cut through. As the ball hung in the air, Keller lost it in said illumination, but found it, caught it and plunged across the goal line for the game-winner.
"It worked to perfection," said Orton, who’s only practiced the play once. A cornerback bltized on the play, which could have spelled doom, but the rusher bit on the handoff that never was.
The play is generally run for fellow tight end Charles Davis in practice. Not this time.
"Before the game, Coach (Jim) Chaney told me that if we were going to run that play," said Keller, a redshirt freshman with just four catches coming in, "that he was going to have me in for it."
Ohio State’s ensuing drive ended with a Stanford Keglar interception, one of the Buckeyes’ four turnovers. Keglar made a huge play earlier in the game, running down from behind Maurice Hall, saving a touchdown on a drive where Ohio State came away empty.
In a stark reversal of roles, it was turnovers that killed the Buckeyes, rather than the Boilermakers.
"A lot of things happened today that didn’t happen last week," Stubblefield said.
Before Ohio State finally tied the game, it had two golden scoring opportunities taken away.
First, Brian Hickman intercepted a Smith pass in the end zone, after OSU had driven to the 15. On its next possession, Ohio State saw Antonio Pittman get drilled by Bernard Pollard, just shy of the goal line. The ball came loose and Hickman recovered.
When Purdue took possession, Brandon Kirsch’s short pass over the middle was intercepted by defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock, ultimately setting up the game-tying touchdown, which came shortly after Smith hit a receiver for a 38-yard gain on third-and-10, to the Purdue 6.
Then, Purdue turned to Orton, not because of dissatisfaction with Kirsch, but because the coaches felt the time was right. Tiller said he expected to use Orton on the third series of the game, but the offense’s success then kept the senior on the sideline. Tiller expects Orton to start the regular season finale next weekend.
Purdue’s defense suffocated the Buckeyes all afternoon, and the turnover worm finally turned away from the Boilermakers.
Ohio State took a 3-0 lead with a 44-yard Mike Nugent field goal at 10:47 of the first, but Ben Jones answered for Purdue with a 33-yarder of his own at 4:26.
The rest of the first half was all Boilermakers, as Kirsch hit sophomore Kyle Ingraham for pretty touchdown passes of 22 and 15 yards, respectively.
On the first, Kirsch froze the defense with a toss fake in the backfield, then threw a strike to Ingraham over the middle in the end zone. Later, he’d hit the stretching 6-foot-9 receiver at the 1, only to watch him bounce off two colliding tacklers and spin into the end zone.
Kirsch was 22-of-34 passing for 210 yards, while also rushing 30 yards (three sacks reduced his net yardage to just five). Orton was 7-of-8 for 54 yards and the one TD.
Jones gave the Boilermakers a viable running game for the first time in weeks, muscling his way to 78 well-deserved yards.
Stubblefield led all receivers with 10 grabs for 76 yards. Ingraham had eight for 72.
Purdue amassed 384 yards of total offense, committed just one turnover and scored its most points since a 41-16 win at Notre Dame early last month. The defense came up big at the biggest moments and the special teams were virtually mistake-free.
"I would call it a total team win," Tiller said.
This is a significant win not only in the sense that Purdue needed a W badly after dropping its last four, but also because it makes the Boilermakers bowl-eligible for the eighth consecutive year. Purdue closes out the regular season at home against arch-rival Indiana next Saturday.
o Senior cornerback Antwaun Rogers’ Purdue career appears over. He tore a knee muscle against Iowa and is thought to be lost for the remainder of the season. Redshirt freshman Paul Long is starting in his place. Additionally, redshirt freshman safety Grant Walker appears to have broken a bone in his arm, and is also sidelined.
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