Saturday, October 17, 2009

OBSERVATIONS FROM SATURDAY'S 26-18 UPSET LOSS AT PURDUE

Photo by the Associated Press

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — When Ohio State needed a stop, they got it.

Then the laundry came flying in.

With Purdue up by eight points and facing a third-and-9 at their own 39-yard line, the No. 7 Buckeyes had to get the Boilermakers off the field in order to give their offense one final crack at pushing the game into overtime.

The Buckeyes got the stop, preventing Purdue quarterback Joey Elliott's pass to Aaron Valentin from gaining any yardage.

However, the great defensive stop was all for not, as Ohio State defensive end Doug Worthington grasped the face mask of the Purdue receiver on the play, drawing a 15-yard penalty flag — which gave the home team an automatic first down, and in turn, a 26-18 upset victory over the Buckeyes at Ross-Ade Stadium in West LaFayette, Indiana.

"It's a hard pill to swallow," Worthington said of the penalty and the loss. "It's unbelievable."

That penalty by Worthington may or may not have cost the Buckeyes (5-2, 3-1 Big Ten) the victory, but it was definitely a metaphor for the way things went for them on Saturday. What they didn't fumble away or threw away — they just flat out gave away.

The Buckeyes committed five turnovers in the loss to Purdue (2-5, 1-2 Big Ten), never got anything going on the offensive side of the ball — for the second straight week — and defensively, they didn't have an answer for the Purdue offensive attack.

The Boilermakers recorded 361 total yards in the win, and their wide receiving duo of Keith Smith and Valentin were a nightmare for the Buckeyes defense all game long. The tandem combined for 22 receptions and 222 yards in the win.

Valentin, who caught 10 of those receptions for 97 yards, gashed the Buckeyes defense for scores of 15 and 23 yards — both coming in the third quarter when the Boilermakers jumped ahead 23-7.

"I followed the game plan and ran the routes I was supposed to," Valentin said. "I just tried to make something happen when I got the ball, and it worked well for us."

Smith hauled in 12 grabs for 125 yards — his fourth consecutive 100-yard game — and displayed why he may be the best pass catcher in the Big Ten.

"I knew they were going to do some things to try to limit my catches," Smith said. "But we had a great game plan that worked all day long."

The Boilermakers took advantage of the aggressive Buckeyes' defense early on, by converting quick-hitters to Smith and Valentin with superb effectiveness. After keeping the Buckeyes defense on the field for the majority of the game — over 36 minutes — those "quick-hitters" began to turn into touchdowns later in the game, when the OSU defense was gasping for air.

Elliott was the orchestrator of the Boilermakers' offensive attack, throwing for 281 yards and two touchdowns in the win, while regularly escaping the OSU pass rush to make plays.

The senior signal caller was ecstatic after the game.

"This win was huge," Elliott said. "Our senior class stuck with it, and I love every single one of them. We knew we were going to have a big win this year, and this created a memory we'll have for the rest of our lives."

Yes, the Buckeyes defense didn't bring their A-game, that's for sure, but the real blame for the loss can be laid on the ineffectiveness of the OSU offense — once again.

After being unable to get much going in last week's game against Wisconsin, the Buckeyes offense answered their poor performance with an encore.

Through the first three quarters of Saturday's game against Purdue, the Buckeyes offense managed just seven points, 120 yards and six first downs, while fumbling the ball away twice and tossing two interceptions.

The Buckeyes also went three-and-out five times in the first three quarters.

It was ugly — we're talking circus-ugly.

Of course, much of the blame will be lumped on OSU sophomore quarterback, Terrelle Pryor — and deservedly so — but a good portion of it should also be laid at the feet of the offensive line.

Sure, Pryor was once again ineffective throwing the ball, but the time he received in the pocket from his offensive line was ... well ... pathetic, to say the least.

You could see it by the way Pryor carried himself that he was somewhat defeated out on the field, and the Purdue defense could sense that.

The Boilermakers dared Pryor to pass the ball down-field by continuously having all 11 defenders within eight yards of the line of scrimmage. They blitzed him, got in his face, and exploited the Buckeyes weak offensive pass protection, especially on the ends.

"(Purdue) brought pressure from a whole different level," Pryor said. "It was nothing like I saw on film. They just kept jumping the line. That pressure was totally unexpected, and I couldn't quite get a handle on them.

"I'm sure teams next week, they're going to bring some blitzes like that."

Purdue head coach Danny Hope said that was the plan — pressure Pryor into some bad situations.

"That was one of our keys to victory," Hope said. "We wanted to stop the run and force them into some third-and-long situations. At this point in his career, Pryor struggles in those situations. He's a great athlete and a great runner, but we knew we'd have the edge in third-and-long."

The only bright spot for the Buckeyes came in the final quarter of play, when Pryor and the offense scored 11 points, and put together drives of 73 and 71 yards for a field goal and a touchdown, respectively.

Pryor went 7-of-10 passing in the fourth quarter, for 111 yards and a 25-yard touchdown pass to DeVier Posey. He also ran the ball five times in the final period for 43 yards and ran in a 2-point conversion to pull the Purdue lead to within eight points, with 7:14 to play in the game.

Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, though, Pryor was just 10-of-21 passing for 110 yards and two interceptions in the previous three quarters of play. In those first 45 minutes of action, Pryor also carried the ball 16 times for minus-9 yards, with two lost fumbles.

Pryor and the Buckeyes did have another opportunity to tie the game in the fourth quarter, but were unable to get it into pay dirt, as the Purdue defense turned up the intensity and kept the Buckeyes offense from getting into serious contention for a score.

Obviously, that was the final chance the Buckeyes' offense had, as the costly face mask penalty by Worthington, prevented OSU from getting the ball back for one last miracle try.

Ohio State junior tailback, Brandon Saine, who carried the football just seven times for 32 yards in the loss, said that the Buckeyes can't begin to panic.

"We have to realize there's still a lot more games left to play," Saine said. "We're only halfway through the season. We have to get back to practice and focus on our next game."

Yes, the Buckeyes still have plenty of season left, but after losing their second game of the year, and this time to a team that had only one victory coming into the contest, the questions this week are surely to be — when will Pryor be yanked?

"I didn't think he was rattled, and I didn't consider sitting him," Tressel said of Pryor. "We just weren't executing, and at the beginning of the game, we weren't protecting the quarterback.

"We're still in it, but there's very little margin for error. We need to worry about getting better every day, and not worry about the next five games as a whole."

Well, it may not be time to abandon ship with Pryor at quarterback just yet, but the reality is, the Buckeyes' boat is beginning to drop below the water line — and there's no land in sight.

These next five games shouldn't be designed to win the conference title, it should be geared toward developing the young players, most notably Pryor, for next season.

If they don't, then the program better get used to more of these upset losses in the future.