Ohio State hits the road to take on Purdue this weekend, in a matchup that will feature a top-5 national powerhouse against a 2-4 Big Ten West team with a rookie head coach. But if you know anything about Buckeye football – especially since the year 2000 – then you likely cringed or winced in discomfort while reading the opening sentence.
Because, simply put, Purdue’s Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Indiana has been a spooky house of horrors for the Scarlet and Gray... I’m talking House of Wax, House on Haunted Hill, House of Usher, House of 1000 Corpses-type stuff.
**Yes, there are several much scarier films to reference, but they don’t have ‘House’ in their title. Keep up, people.
Since the turn of the 21st century (including the 2000 season), OSU has lost five road games played in West Lafayette, which is one more than the number of road games they’ve lost in Ann Arbor (at Michigan Stadium AKA The Big House) during that same period. In fact, the Scarlet and Gray have dropped three of their last four roadies at Purdue, dating back to 2009.
I mean, are you freaking kidding me!? That is legitimate home dominance by the Boilermakers.
Making those losses feel or seem worse (for OSU fans) is the fact that Purdue wasn’t particularly good when they were able to pull off massive upsets of Ohio State in recent years. I would even take it a step further and argue that the Gold and Black actually stunk on all three occasions.
My supporting evidence? The ‘Spoilermakers’ toppled the mighty Buckeyes while possessing a team record of 1-5 (2009), 4-5 (2011), and 3-3 (2018) at the time of each upset. So they were never better than a .500 football team! But it did and does not matter. Because to paraphrase Maya Angelou: “History cannot be unlived.”
2009 and 2018 were especially and exceptionally humiliating for OSU, causing at least one of the Scarlet and Gray’s fans to question his allegiance of 30+ years.
Spoiler alert: That fan was me. I thought about committing fully to the English Premier League on Saturdays after Urban Meyer and his guys were pantsed and given an atomic wedgie in 2018. Ranked No. 2 in the country heading into that ’18 game, the Buckeyes could not stop committing penalties and failed to establish a running game, which forced the late, great Dwayne Haskins to throw 73 (!) times in windy conditions — producing a massive stat line (470 yards passing) but not much else.
A few more scores would not have closed the gap though, as OSU’s defense got their teeth kicked in and could not contain Purdue’s Rondale Moore, resulting in a 49-20 win for the Boilermakers. 29 points was a truly shocking margin of victory, and that outcome may or may not have been the real reason Meyer retired.
And don’t get me started on 2009. 1-5... One. And. Five. Purdue’s Ryan Kerrigan lived in the Ohio State backfield that day, and Buckeye quarterback Terrelle Pryor committed infinity turnovers. Let’s just move on.
What should we expect in 2023, as OSU makes their first trip back to West Lafayette since being utterly embarrassed five years ago? More nightmare fuel? Another historic upset by the Boilermakers? Documented discovery of an actual haunting in the visitor’s locker room, (which would explain a lot)?
Wellll... I would not recommend holding one’s breath in anticipation of any of the above. I certainly don’t want to jinx the Buckeyes, but this is not a great Purdue squad. Neither were those pulling off upsets in years past, however, in 2009 Ohio State was running on fumes when they got to West Lafayette. In 2011, Luke Fickell was thrown out to sea without a life preserver or dinghy. And in 2018, the Boilermakers had a dynamic offense with multiple playmakers. Not to mention Markus Bailey, who was an absolute savage.
I think the talent gap is too wide between these two teams, but then again, there will always be a part of me that is anxious or nervous for these games at Ross-Ade. Not helping matters is the fact that Purdue has done one thing very well this season, which is rush the passer. The Gold and Black are averaging three sacks per game in 2023, and right now, I do not have the highest level of trust in OSU’s offensive line.
Buckeye Nation could at least point to solid pass protection through their team’s first four games, but then they (we) watched tackles on either side get beat like a drum against Maryland. O-line play is a legitimate concern for the Scarlet and Gray, and Ryan Walters will look to prey on that weakness come Saturday.
My hope is that Ohio State uses this game as a get-right, confidence-building game before Penn State comes to Columbus. Otherwise, if the Buckeyes ‘play with their food’ this weekend and the O-line continues to underwhelm (putting it nicely), then I might just schedule some dental work for noon on the 21st. But I’ve got my fingers crossed, and I’ve created a nice little Ross-Ade to replica use as a voodoo doll, so I will go into Saturday with at least a little confidence of my own.
Now if I could only find somebody who is willing to share their stupid Peacock password...