Ohio State exercised some demons on Saturday afternoon, beating up on Purdue at Ross-Ade Stadium after having lost badly on the last trip to West Lafayette. The Buckeyes avenged their 2018 loss in a thorough 41-7 win over the Boilermakers this time around, playing one of their most complete games of the season from start to finish as they move to 6-0 on the year. The offense looked good despite missing a few key players, and the defense continued its dominance through the first half of the schedule.
Here is the good, the bad and the ugly from Ohio State’s victory over Purdue.
With TreVeyon Henderson out for the second-straight game with an injury — more on that later — and Miyan Williams also sidelined, Ohio State came into the game with just three healthy scholarship running backs. That number dropped to two when Chip Trayanum got banged up, which opened up the door for Dallan Hayden to finally get his first carries of the season. Hayden made the most of his limited touches, racking up 76 yards and a touchdown on 11 attempts.
Virtually every time we have seen the young running back, he has been effective. Hayden had a trio of 100-yard games in 2022, including a career-high 146 yards and three TDs against Maryland. The Buckeyes have made it clear that they intend to redshirt Hayden this season, but I don't think it's out of the question to say that he is Ohio State’s most complete running back. This is not a slight at any of the other talented ball-carriers in that room, but the 5-foot-10 sophomore combines some of the best characteristics of all three other primary backs, and adds to it great vision and the ability to hit the hole hard.
The Defensive Line
For all the talk this season about Ohio State’s lackluster defensive line, they made themselves known on Saturday. Of course, it is a necessary caveat to say that Purdue’s already not-so-great offensive line lost some guys to injury during the game, but regardless the Buckeyes did a much better job of getting pressure on quarterback Hudson Card. Officially, OSU was credited with three total sacks — 1.5 apiece between Jack Sawyer and J.T. Tuimoloau — and nine tackles for loss. Two of those TFLs came from Tyleik Williams, while Mitchell Melton had one and Tywone Malone as well as freshman Kayden McKenzie each got credited with half a TFL.
A first catch at Ohio State that the freshman is going to remember for a long time. Getting a chance to see some snaps in the fourth quarter of a blow out, Inniss put on a show with his first career reception. On 3rd-and-4, Inniss hauled in a pass along the sideline for a first down, then shook off the defender and took it all the way down the field for a touchdown. It is the first TD of what should be many for the talented first-year, who came to Ohio State as a five-star prospect and the No. 5 receiver in the 2023 recruiting class. With Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka more than likely to enter the 2024 NFL Draft, Inniss will be in competition for a starting spot next season.
Third Down/Red Zone Offense
Ohio State’s struggles on third down and in the red zone have been well-documented, but neither of those two areas of concern gave the Buckeyes any difficulty against the Boilermakers. Ohio State went 8-of-13 on third down against Purdue, and even effectively ran a QB sneak on a 3rd-and-1, which many have been clamoring for. More impressively, the Buckeyes were 5-of-6 in the red zone, scoring touchdowns on every trip outside of the Devin Brown fumble that was nearly another score. With Penn State on the horizon, it was good to see Ryan Day and the staff add some more creativity to the playbook and find ways to pick up yards in key moments.
It was a weird day for Marvin Harrison Jr., as the stat sheet shows an impressive six catches for 105 yards and a touchdown — a pretty typical day at the office for the nation’s top wide receiver. However, it could have been an even bigger day for the star wideout if not for a few uncharacteristic drops. Harrison Jr. was officially credited with three drops, while Julian Fleming had another. It obviously didn’t cost Ohio State in this one, but you have to come down with the receptions when the ball hits you in the hands. It was very odd to see happen multiple times from a guy as talented as Marv, but it’s not something I expect to see much moving forward.
It is honestly indefensible that Ohio State not only brought Parker Fleming back to coach its special teams, but they gave him a raise to do so. It was another poor day for the unit, with a pair of penalties and a missed extra point to add to a growing list of special teams issues. If you’re going to waste a full-time assistant coach on special teams, that group should be excellent. Instead, the Buckeyes have been well below average under Fleming in pretty much every area on the special teams unit, and you’re wasting a coaching spot that could instead be used on a full-time linebackers coach.
This one is nitpicking, but Ohio State did turn the ball over twice on Saturday — both on fumbles. Once was the aforementioned Brown fumble, where the backup QB lost the ball on a designed run that nearly resulted in a touchdown. I liked the use of Brown to give the Buckeyes a different look in the red zone, but you have to hold onto the football. The second fumble was late in the third quarter, when Kyle McCord held onto the ball for a bit too long and lost it on a sack. Not a huge deal by any means, but especially when you aren't forcing a ton of turnovers on defense (zero against Purdue) those kinds of things can cost you games against better teams.
This one is nobodies fault in particular (although I do think Mick Marotti’s outdated strength and conditioning program is to blame for a ton of Ohio State’s soft tissue injuries over the past few years), but the Buckeyes are losing players to injury left and right.
Ohio State was already without TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams against the Boilermakers, as Henderson was missing his second-straight week after getting banged up against Notre Dame. Williams’ injury was more unclear, but it paved the way for Chip Trayanum to once again receive the bulk of the carries — or so we thought. The Buckeyes’ running back depth was put to the test, as Trayanum left the Purdue game with an injury after taking a big hit. Hayden stepped up big and both Xavier Johnson and Evan Pryor got some carries as well, but your top three backs all being injured at once is less than ideal.
On the other side of the ball, Ohio State lost its top cover corner when Denzel Burke was taken to the locker room with an apparent injury in the third quarter. Burke made a tremendous play earlier in the game to break up a pass in the end zone, but limped off the field in that third quarter and was escorted down the tunnel. We have not heard any additional info about Burke’s injury, but being without the star DB against Penn State would obviously be a huge blow to the Buckeyes’ defense that has been playing so well with him locking down receivers.
Ohio State was also without Emeka Egbuka, who did not travel to Purdue after injuring his ankle in the fourth quarter against Maryland. Day said on Tuesday that Egbuka’s injury was,“not going to be a long-term issue,” but it's unclear if he will be available next weekend against the Nittany Lions.