Following their bye week, Ohio State got back on the field last week, shaking off a sluggish start to beat Maryland 37-17 in Columbus, Now the Buckeyes hit the road to try and exercise some recent demons at Ross-Ade Stadium when they take on Purdue in West Lafayette on Saturday. Since 2000, Ohio State is just 3-5 at Ross-Ade Stadium, with their most recent trip to Purdue coming in 2018 when they were blitzed by the Boilermakers 49-20. The last time these two teams met was in 2021 in Columbus, with the Buckeyes winning 59-31.
With their win over the Terrapins, Ohio State continued to handle their business against teams they should beat. The Buckeyes are 33-0 against unranked opponents under Ryan Day, and are now 71-6 in the Big Ten since 2014, which is the best conference record in the country during that span.
Where the Ohio State offense stands
Last week Ohio State had a tough time getting their offense going early, recording just 28 yards in the first quarter. While the group looked better in the second half, the Buckeyes still fell short of 400 yards of offense, marking the first time under Day they have failed to record 400 yards of offense in two consecutive games. One reason for some of the offensive struggles was because TreVeyon Henderson wasn’t available to play, as he was still recovering from an injury he suffered against Notre Dame.
Another injury concern the Buckeyes have is with Emeka Egbuka, who left the game last week with a leg injury. Even though Egbuka hasn’t officially been ruled out, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Egbuka on the sidelines this week with a matchup with Penn State looming. With Egbuka hobbled, Marvin Harrison Jr. stepped up last week and showed why he is the best receiver in the country. Harrison earned Big Ten Player of the Week honors after catching eight passes for 163 yards and a score.
The junior is now 99 yards away from 2,000 career receiving yards. So far this season, Harrison has reached 100 yards in three of five games the Buckeyes have played. For his career, Harrison has 10 games of at least 100 receiving yards, tying him with Garrett Wilson and Michael Jenkins for third all-time. David Boston’s 14 100-yard games are the most by a Buckeye receiver, while Chris Olave has 11 career games of at least 100 yards.
Another receiver that stepped up in the second half last week was Cade Stover. The tight end finished with two catches for 66 yards and a touchdown. Stover’s 44-yard touchdown reception early in the fourth quarter gave the Buckeyes a little breathing room, extending their lead to 27-17. The senior now has 60 career receptions for 786 yards, with both totals ranking seventh all-time amongst Ohio State tight ends. With six catches, Stover will move into a tie with Bruce Jankowski for fifth all-time by tight end in school history.
While at times early in games it has been tough for Kyle McCord to get into a rhythm, what the quarterback has done well is avoid mistakes. McCord has thrown 142 passes so far this year, and the only interception he has thrown came in the season opener against Indiana. Last week against Maryland, McCord threw for 320 yards, and the 275 passing yards per game he is averaging ranks second in the Big Ten.
Last week Chip Trayanum was the feature back for Ohio State since TreVeyon Henderson was sidelined due to injury. Trayanum finished with 61 yards on 20 carries, finding the end zone once. While Trayanum gives the Buckeyes some tough yards, there’s no doubt Henderson is Ohio State’s most dynamic running back. So far this season, Henderson has one less carry than Trayanum, but 88 more yards and two more rushing touchdowns than the Arizona State transfer.
The Buckeyes on defense
The Ohio State defense has been what has steadied the team during some of the inconsistent performances from the offense. Last week the Buckeyes were able to cut Maryland’s lead to 10-7 in the second quarter when Josh Proctor picked off a Taulia Tagovailoa pass and returned it for a touchdown. Proctor recorded a career-high seven tackles and was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week. The safety is a key part of a pass defense that is sixth in the country, allowing just 158.4 yards per game.
While the last few seasons the pass coverage for Ohio State was a concern, this yar it is one of the strengths of the defense. Last week Denzel Burke had two pass breakups, raising his total on the season to seven PBUs, and his career total is now 24 breakups. On the other corner, Davison Igbinosun has been solid in his first season at Ohio State after transferring from Ole Miss. Lathan Ransom and Sonny Styles have been laying the lumber and making key plays throughout the year at safety alongside Proctor.
Following a disappointing start to the season, it feels like the defensive line is starting to come around for the Buckeyes. Last week J.T. Tuimoloau recorded his first full sack of the season. On the interior, Tyleik Williams and Michael Hall Jr. have been disruptive forces, they just haven’t gotten a ton of help from the rushers on the outside. There still is work to do for the defensive line to realize their full potential, but it looks like they are headed in the right direction.
Rounding out the defense are the two reliable rocks at linebacker in the center of the defense. Tommy Eichenberg and Steele Chambers are thee top-two leading tacklers on the team, notching 38 tackles and 32 stops, respectively. The veterans are playmakers that are capable of forcing turnovers to go along with their sure tackling. The Buckeyes have now won 42 consecutive games when they have forced at least two turnovers.
Purdue this season
Purdue enters this week’s game coming off a 20-14 loss at Iowa last Saturday. It has been a rough first season in West Lafayette for first-year head coach Ryan Walters, as the Boilermakers are just 2-4. Walters replaces Jeff Brohm, who left Purdue to take the head coaching job at Louisville. Prior to coming to Purdue, Walters was the defensive coordinator at Illinois on Bret Bielema’s staff.
The struggles of the Boilermakers are a little puzzling since there are things they do well on both sides of the football, and they have and experienced quarterback. Hudson Card started his career at Texas but was the odd man out after the Longhorns brought in Quinn Ewers and Arch Manning. Card leads a Purdue offense that has recorded 140 first downs so far this year, which leads the conference. The former Longhorn has also been good at finding his receivers, as he is averaging 22.7 completions per game.
Purdue continues to churn out quality wide receivers. Currently the Boilermakers have three receivers in the top-10 in the Big Ten in receptions. Abdur Rahmaan Yaseen is third in the conference with 25 grabs, while Deion Burks and TJ Sheffield are tied for sixth with 24 receptions. Tight end Max Klare isn’t far behind the trio, snatching 22 passes so far this season.
The Boilers can also run the football. Purdue is just one of two Big Ten teams to average 240 yards passing per game, and 140 yards rushing game, joining Maryland as the only other team in the conference to reach those marks so far this season. Devin Mockobee leads the team with 372 yards and four touchdowns on 87 carries, while Tyrone Tracy Jr. has rushed for 296 yards and five scores on 50 carries.
On the other side of the football, Purdue has some players that Ohio State will have to keep tabs on. Most notable is reigining Big Ten Freshman of the Week Dillon Thieneman. The safety is the only freshman in the country with three interceptions, and is second in the nation with 6.8 solo tackles per game. The 53 tackles Thieneman has been credited with is the most amongst freshman. The youth of Thieneman is the perfect compliment for senior Sanoussi Kane at safety, who has 42 tackles and five stops for loss so far this year.
Even though Iowa’s passing attack isn’t anywhere close to being as potent as what Purdue will see from Ohio State, the Boilermakers did a great job at giving up very little through the air in last week’s loss. The Hawkeyes were just 6-21 throwing the football, with the 28.6% completion percentage Purdue allowed being their lowest since 2006. Along with what Thieneman and Kane give them at safety, cornerbacks Marquis Wilson has six pass breakups, Cam Allen has picked off two passes, and Markevious Brown is a transfer from Ole Miss.
As a team, the Boilermakers do a great job at putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks, ranking second in the Big Ten and 19th nationally with 3.0 sacks per game. Leading the charge is linebacker Kydran Jenkins. The senior linebacker leads the Big Ten with four sacks so far this season, and he has six tackles for loss. A familiar name lining up with Jenkins at linebacker for Purdue is Yanni Karlaftis, who is the brother of former Boilermaker menace George Karlaftis.
Up front, Purdue has tried to fill out there defensive line with transfers. Graduate transfer Malik Langham played at both Vanderbilt and Florida before arriving in West Lafayette. At nose tackle, Cole Brevard was a former Penn State player. Defensive end Isaiah Nichols started his career at Arkansas, while Jeffrey M’Ba is another former SEC product, coming to Purdue from Auburn.
Strange things always seem to happen for Ohio State when they play in West Lafayette. This week’s trip could be a little tricky since the Buckeyes have a showdown with Penn State on tap for next week. As if trying not to look past the Boilermakers wasn’t challenge enough, Ohio State could be without Emeka Egbuka after the wide receiver was injured last week. If there was ever a position to have an injury at, luckily for the Buckeyes it is at the position where they have amassed a ton of talent.
What is working in Ohio State’s favor for this trip for Purdue is the Boilermakers aren’t nearly as feared as some of the recent teams the Buckeyes have lined up against in West Lafayette. Purdue is still finding their identity under new head coach Ryan Walters. Hudson Card is a quality quarterback that can make some plays, but it just hasn’t all come together for the offense as they have struggled to replace Aidan O’Connell. Not that the Boilermakers can’t make some noise, they just don’t have guys like Rondale Moore or David Bell that can change the game.
The Buckeyes can’t continue to get off to slow starts. While a slow start on Saturday might not be the death of them, they have to break the habit because slow starts aren’t something that will fly against Penn State or Michigan. What might help Ohio State get going quicker is to simplify things a little more. Sometimes it feels like Ryan Day is trying to get too cute with his play-calling. By this time you know what your team can do well, since we have seen success later in games. Just lean into the strengths of your offense a little earlier and there’s a better chance Ohio State can build a lead early and let some of their starters rest ahead of next week’s game against the Nittany Lions.
This week we see more of a complete performance from Ohio State. The Boilermakers haven’t proved they can hang with the better teams on their schedule, as their two wins have come against a bad Virginia Tech squad and a lost Illinois team. There won’t be any bye week hangover to shake off this week, and there’s no doubt the team has been educated on how things can get weird in West Lafayette.