Friday, November 11, 2011

GAME PREVIEW: ROSS-ADE HASN'T BEEN NICE TO BUCKEYES LATELY

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Ohio State's last trip to Ross-Ade Stadium in 2009 wasn't a kind one for the Buckeyes.

Purdue — 1-5 coming into the contest — held Ohio State to just 66 yards rushing and forced five turnovers en route to upsetting the heavily-favored Buckeyes, 26-18.

Although he was just a co-defensive coordinator at that time, current Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell can still remember a thing or two about the embarrassing loss to the Boilermakers.

"I remember we had five turnovers, dropped a punt inside the 20 yard line. They hit a screen there to make it 26-7 or 23-7," Fickell recalled. "Do you want me to go through the whole game? I can remember every bad play that happened."

The Buckeyes have only won two of their last four trips to West LaFayette, including a last second touchdown pass in 2002 — on fourth down from Craig Krenzel to Michael Jenkins — that will forever be known as "Holy Buckeye." The play helped keep the Buckeyes on their path to a national championship triumph.

It just goes to show no matter how good or bad either team is, the Buckeyes must have their chin straps fastened tight when playing at Ross-Ade Stadium.

"We've played over there four times in the last 10 years," Fickell said. "We've been pretty successful here in the last 10 years, as much as any program in the country. We're 2-2 over there in the last 10 years.

"If that's not enough to open your eyes and make you understand, it will be pounded home. In '02 we went 14-0, won a national championship, and we won on the last play of that game (at Purdue).

"It's going to be a battle."

OSU senior defensive back Tyler Moeller said he's looking forward to playing at Ross-Ade, even if it has been a rough place to perform in the past.

"Those things are in the back of people's minds," Moeller said about the dangers of playing at Purdue. "But you can't really take into effect those things. It's a different team this year.

"For me, like I said before, I get excited to play at stadiums and atmospheres like that. They have great crowds, they have great fans. I'm excited to go there. I'm excited to play there."

As Moeller said, Purdue (4-5, 2-3 Big Ten) is a different team this year. Usually known for their passing, Purdue has been more of a run-oriented group this season, rushing for 1,574 yards (4.5 avg. per carry) and 15 touchdowns through nine games.

The Boilers rushing attack is led by their backfield duo of Ralph Bolden (469 yards, 3 TDs) and Akeem Shavers (338, 5 TDs). They possess a quarterback in junior Caleb TerBush (183, 1 TD) who can also move the football on the ground if need be.

Of course, they can also bring in another signal caller in Robert Marve who gives the Boilers a little bit more of a passing element than when TerBush is under center.

"I think they've got a pretty good balance," Fickell said. "They mix it up sometimes with their quarterbacks.  They'll keep you very honest in what they do. If you want to add in some of their bubbles, some of their jailbreaks as runs, then I would say they are a run-first team."

Purdue may be coming off two big losses — 62-17 at Wisconsin and 36-14 at Michigan — but as Fickell points out, those games were on the road. The Boilers are a much different unit inside the friendly confines of Ross-Ade.

"I'd say you got to look at them as how they've done at home because they're a different team at home," Fickell said. "They're 4-1 at home. They were up 28-0 on Minnesota at home. They were up 21-0 on Illinois at home. They play a lot better at home.

"We have to make sure our guys understand that's what you're going to see."

Bottom Line

No matter what the Boilermakers bring to the table offensively this Saturday, if the Buckeyes can continue to run the football the way they have in recent weeks, the game could get ugly.

The Buckeyes rushed for 346 yards last week against Indiana, and had three players (Dan Herron, Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde) each rush for over 100 yards in the win.

Purdue is second to last in the Big Ten defending the run, giving up nearly 200 yards per game (4.5 per carry) and 19 touchdowns on the ground.

With numbers like that, it doesn't matter whether they're playing at Ross-Ade, Ohio Stadium or the parking lot at Walmart, Purdue's chances of making it three of five against the Buckeyes at home doesn't seem too probable this Saturday afternoon.

Prediction: OSU 40-14