At times this season, the Ohio State Buckeyes have defended the pass well. On slants and quick passes around the defensive line, OSU has been able to deflect throws and stop drives. However, when opposing offenses can avoid the large paws of the defensive line or go for the deep ball, they’ve had success. Minnesota was able to do it last week, as were Indiana, Penn State and Oregon State.
Be prepared for chunk passes to be surrendered on Saturday night, as the Purdue Boilermakers not only have a quarterback that’s already proven he’s a passing machine, but a wide receiver who can go out and make grabs.
Fifth-year senior QB David Blough has taken control of the Boilermaker offense in the last four games, and has a 3-1 record to show for it. In a losing effort to Missouri back on Sept. 15, Blough threw for 572 yards and three touchdowns. That’s over 100 yards more than what Dwayne Haskins threw in a near-record setting performance against Indiana a couple of weeks ago. In last week’s blowout over Illinois, Blough had another passing clinic; he compiled 377 yards and a trio of TDs while throwing 25-of-36.
With OSU defensive end Nick Bosa no longer part of the team— he’s rehabbing from core-muscle surgery in order to get ready for the NFL Draft— the Boilermakers passing dominance may continue this weekend. Ohio State has survived without Bosa ever since he sustained the injury against TCU on Sept. 20, but holes are getting poked around the defensive units. Less pressure on the QB means more time to throw. More time to throw means more reception chances. And more reception chances means a greater chance that an opposing offense is going to pour some yards into the stat sheets.
Wide receiver Rondale Moore has been a big reason for why Blough has had the numbers that he’s had. In that Missouri contest, the freshman hauled in 11 catches for 137 yards and a score. Last week, he had another 100-yard afternoon, but did it on just four catches (he ended with 101 yards and a TD).
Is it beginner’s luck for Moore? Not really. He’s played in all six games this season for PU, with four of them being starts. Four of the games this season have featured a 100-yard performance from the New Albany, Ind., native, with his biggest reception-yard day being against Mizzou.
Coming out of high school, Moore was a four-star prospect in the 2018 class— and at one point was committed to Texas before flipping to Purdue. He earned Gatorade Kentucky Player of the Year and was a Paul Hornung Award recipient in 2007. Oh, and he was a U.S. Army All-American selectee. So, you can’t really say that Moore has fluked his way into a great freshman campaign. If he breaks off another 100-yard reception day against OSU, then it’s absolutely safe to say that he’s one of the best receivers in the conference, and he may end up on a postseason award list for the Big Ten.
Right off the bat he made an impact. In his first career game against Northwestern, he set a school-record for all-purpose yards in a single game (313). Here’s some of the highlights:
Moore can shake, bake, and take defenses to the cleaners. Catching across his body, or cutting up the field on a jet sweep, Moore has excellent ability. If he catches a defender going on the wrong approach angle, he’s off to the races. His stride leaves trailing defenders in the dust— and that is where the biggest concern for me lies.
Blough and Moore are the dynamic duo on offense. This season, four Purdue records have been rewritten because of them. Moore had his all-purpose breakout in the season opener, and Blough now holds single-game accolades for passing yards, total offense and passing completion percentage, with all of them happening in the loss to Mizzou.
At times, Ohio State’s defense has left receivers unmarked, and at other times, when they are in the vicinity of a WR, the wrong approach angle is taken. Blough and Moore will work the center of the field, trying to find the weak link in the secondary.
With just about every defensive back being burned at some point this season, you have to figure that Moore is gonna find some space— and in the eyes of Buckeye fans, make some morale-busting catches.
Moore has had enough highlight plays through six games to warrant a YouTube clip from the Big Ten conference. Again, his ability to catch passes over the middle before sprinting away diagonally to the sideline will be something to watch for this Saturday, as he’s been doing it all season.
So, how does Ohio State stop Moore, and, in the some capacity, Blough? The two are linked to each other; if Blough can’t get passes to Moore, then Moore is also taken out of the question. In the same way that Penn State shutdown OSU’s passing game for a half, rushing Blough and forcing quick, contested passes is a good way to stifle the Purdue offense. However, don’t expect that plan to work all game; just like what happened against PSU, the Buckeyes worked in quick screens— and that changed the whole dynamic of the game.
If heat is continuously applied to Blough, then screens and jet sweeps could be the antidote coach Jeff Brohm goes to. Working plays away from the D-line tends to do well, as the OSU frontline is, arguably, their best unit on defense.
Things get trickier with pass coverage. Isaiah Pryor, Jahsen Wint and Shaun Wade have all seen snaps, and each has had good moments, and not so good moments. Rotating guys out and keeping each as fresh as possible, on the surface, looks like a viable plan to run this week, especially since Meyer said on Monday that nothing is finalized on that part of the field. When guys start getting beat on a regular basis, that’s when it’s time to pull the plug and rotate out. But whatever happens, don’t let Rondale get into one-on-one scenarios in space.
“Everybody has a plan until they get caught alone in space with Rondale Moore” -Mike Tyson, or something like that https://t.co/U0eW0auop4— Beneath The Paint (@BeneathThePaint) October 15, 2018
What OSU absolutely can’t afford is to give bad penalties. A pass interference on, say, a third-and-8 will be backbreaking. On the road, you can’t give the home team any momentum—especially in primetime, night game atmospheres.
This, arguably, will be the hardest test that the Ohio State defense faces in terms of pass coverage. Trace McSorley had a field day against the Buckeyes, but, I think, conservative play-calling down the stretch watered down his full impact of the game. After beginning the season 0-3, with each loss being within one-score, the Boilermakers are riding high on a three-game win streak.
While the betting lines and probability odds are siding to an Ohio State win, this should be a very good primetime matchup in West Lafayette.