I’m not even sure how to right the lede for this recap. It was almost certainly going to be a somber and frustrated lede as I was conjuring it with five minutes left in the fourth quarter. It was Ohio State’s first loss on the season, a frustrating one where Ohio State weirdly could not run the ball, leaving points on the field in a nightmare of an officiated game. It didn’t unfold that way, though. Kenny Guiton, everyone’s favorite backup quarterback and soprano saxophone specialist, led the Buckeyes to a comeback with seconds to spare. Tying the game at 22 with three seconds left in regulation, the Buckeyes prevailed in overtime, 29-22, to advance to 8-0 in preparation for a trip to Happy Valley.
It wasn’t the best afternoon for the offense, which had otherwise been averaging 40 points a game and 450 yards of offense. As Miller goes, so goes the Buckeye offense. In the first half, Miller left yards on the field by showing a reticence to make his reads, predetermining to either keep or, more often the case, hand the ball to Carlos Hyde. When this happens, Ohio State runs into the extra defender that they’re trying to neutralize and the same problems from last year persist, albeit in a spread offense. Miller did not get a lot of help from his wide receivers (Chris Fields comes to mind), though, really, the passing game for Ohio State was fine. Ohio State’s problem, though, is that a “good enough” passing game is supposed to complement a running game that needs about 200 yards a game in order to make Buckeye fans nice and satiated. Before Kenny Guiton’s last minute heroics, Ohio State was looking at a final score of 22-14. Purdue would have held us to 256 yards of offense.
But, Kenny Guiton led the charge for the Buckeyes. It was, regrettably, the first game this season that saw him lead a drive that did not end in a touchdown, or even any points at all. Drew Basil missed a field goal on the drive that saw Miller get injured. The next Ohio State drive was a one play drive capped by that unforgivable safety call.1 Guiton threw an interception to conclude the drive after that. The next two were touchdowns. It started on the first play of that game-tying touchdown drive. With 47 seconds to go and no timeouts, Guiton eluded a pass rush that would have knocked most backup quarterbacks off their feet. He kept his eyes downfield and found Devin Smith 39 yards later at the Purdue 22 yard line. Six plays later, Guiton found another unlikely hero, Chris Fields, in the end zone for six. He collected himself and connected with Jeff Heuerman on the throwback tight end drag for the two pointer to push the game into overtime. Overtime may have been academic.
The Buckeyes’ defense was frustrating in important stretches. I’d be surprised if anyone other than Ryan Shazier graded out a “champion” in time for Meyer’s Monday press conference. Shazier led the team with 12 tackles (7 solo), including 1.5 TFLs. That opening touchdown for Purdue was the 2012 Ohio State defense in 17 seconds. Akeem Shavers, having lined up at fullback in an I-formation, ran a wheel route that torched Storm Klein, who neglected to pick him up. No safety was in sight to prevent it from being anything other than an 86 yard touchdown. Succumbing to Purdue’s death by a thousand flash screens was amateurism at its finest/worst. There were times in the third and fourth quarters where Ohio State had two sometimes one, defender covering three Purdue wide receivers bunched to the field. Nathan Williams was even covering a wide receiver at times. If Purdue kept throwing those screens in lieu of using that formation to clear defenders from the box, I think they get another touchdown and win this game. I can understand the missed tackles and growing pains in the cover-4, but I would have thought we’d have the arithmetic part of defending spread offenses down by now. In the end, it was enough for an Ohio State win, but it feels like our defense should have shut out Purdue.
As it is, Ohio State remains undefeated entering next week’s game against Penn State, which has rebounded from two losses to begin the season. We’ll have to find out just how ready Braxton Miller is for that game. The statement from Ohio State is that Miller is “symptom free” and ready to resume normal activities. He was apparently even signing autographs as he was checking out of the hospital. This is surprising, pleasantly so, because I thought for sure Miller got concussed on that tackle. Whatever the case, Ohio State fans have to question how durable Miller really is eight games into this season, but be grateful that we might have the best backup quarterback in college football.
- It’s fortunate we eventually pulled this out, because the officiating this game was awful. Braxton Miller recovered that fumble on the first drive of the game. That block in the back that got Purdue those critical two points was clearly in the tackle box. I’m not sure there’s an oversight mechanism in place for officials, but the crew for this game should have to go through it if one exists. [↩]