Ohio State dominates Purdue in 23-7 victory

Todd Porter

On what ESPN called gut-check Saturday, the No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes avoided getting kicked in theirs.

Ohio State’s dominant 23-7 win over No. 20 Purdue, coupled with USC’s stunning loss, will lift the Buckeyes to No. 3.

“It’s surprising for us to move up that quickly,” cornerback Malcolm Jenkins said. “Everyone’s starting to get upset. Last week was huge for us to move us up in the polls. But it all comes down to us controlling our destiny here on out, winning our games. We have to play everybody like it’s Michigan.”

Saturday night at Ross-Ade Stadium, even OSU athletic administrators and Head Coach Jim Tressel’s wife cheered loudest when USC highlights were shown in their loge.

The Buckeyes’ stack of chips on the 2007 season got a lot taller.

“We’ve got to get better at a lot of things, and if we don’t think that, the season’s tone will change a lot,” Tressel said.

On a balmy night near the banks of the Wabash River, surrounded by farmland in historic Tippecanoe County, the Buckeye defense shut down Purdue’s high-powered offense. The Boilermakers did not advance past the OSU 40 until 72 seconds remained and narrowly avoided being shut out for just the second time in Head Coach Joe Tiller’s 11 seasons. Jared Armstrong tied Purdue’s school record for most punts with 12.

The only complaint there was about Ohio State’s defenders was the cement blocks on their hands. The Buckeyes dropped six interceptions.

“I just heard (free safety) Anderson Russell say he needs to cut his hands off,” Tressel said. “Our kids play real fast, so sometimes those things happen.”

Buckeye quarterback Todd Boeckman had a rocky night. He started strong by completing seven of his first nine passes for 86 yards and two touchdowns.

But he was picked off three times, all on deep passes to receivers Brian Hartline and Brian Robiskie. Each time the safety rolled over the top and Boeckman tried to beat him.

Ohio State wasn’t a picture of efficiency on its first drive. A late-hit penalty on Steve Rehring set OSU back to second-and-17. Rehring was bailed out when a pass for Hartline fell incomplete because Purdue’s Royce Adams draped himself on Hartline’s back too soon. The pass interference penalty moved the ball out to the 35.

Beanie Wells sliced through the defense for 13 yards, but he limped off the field. Maurice Wells carried for 20 yards on a sweep to the Boilermakers 32.

Three plays later Boeckman threw a perfect pass on third-and-4 from the 26 to Ray Small, who did the cha-cha just inside the end zone to make it count.

It gave the Buckeyes a 7-0 lead with 8:04 left in the first quarter.

Purdue didn’t answer. Ohio State forced a three-and-out, the 36th such series of the season. Armstrong shanked a 23-yard punt and the Buckeyes had the ball at the Boilermakers 43.

Boeckman went back and lit up the Purdue defense. He completed all three of his passes, the last one a 6-yard slant to Hartline for a touchdown. OSU came out in a five wide receiver, spread formation, a twist it hadn’t shown much since last season.

Up 14-0 with 4:48 left in the first, it looked easy for the Buckeyes.

Purdue’s blackout was just that: Ross-Ade Stadium lacked any electricity.

The Boilermakers had only trailed in the first quarter of one game, and that was briefly against Toledo.

And it could’ve been worse. The Buckeye defense dropped three interceptions in the first half.

Kicker Ryan Pretorius cleaned up what the OSU sloppy offense left on the field in the second half. Pretorius drilled three field goals, his final one from 23 yards, started to empty the 65,497 from their seats.

“Our defense, they’re sick,” senior right tackle Kirk Barton said. “It pretty much ends all speculation who has the best defense in the country.

After the upsets tonight, and what’s going on, our defense is the best in the country, bar none.”

Reach Repository sports writer Todd Porter at (330) 580-8340 or e-mail todd.porter@cantonrep.com