The Buckeyes ran the ball well despite several injuries at running back, held Purdue’s offense in check, and introduced a new strategy that could come in handy against Penn State next week. Below is more on the three takeaways from Saturday’s win.
OSU overcomes injuries and adversity
Ohio State released its injury report Saturday morning with only third-string running back Miyan Williams listed as unavailable. Starting running back TreVeyon Henderson was listed as questionable after missing last week’s game for “precautionary reasons.” But it became apparent he would be out for a second straight week after standing on the sidelines without pads on. Chip Trayanum got the start at running back, but he was shaken up late in the first quarter. Trayanum ran into several Purdue defenders, got up slowly, and then stumbled going back to the Ohio State bench.
Fourth-string running back Dallan Hayden stepped up in his place, rushing for 76 yards and one touchdown on 11 carries. This was Hayden’s first time taking significant reps since last year’s College Football Playoff game.
“Coach [Ryan] Day and coach [Tony] Alford told me to stay ready ’cause they don’t know when my number’s going to get called,” Hayden said. “We go by competitive stamina here at Ohio State so that means when your number’s called, make a play, so that’s just what I live by.”
Despite all the injuries and adversity of only rushing for 62 yards last week, the Buckeyes ran for 162 yards as a team and showed the potential is there to be a well-balanced offense.
“To be able to run the way that we did without having three of our running backs was a good sign,” Day said. “We ran the ball harder, we got downhill, we created some play-action passes where guys were open down the field. I felt on the sideline we were knocking people off the ball at times. I felt like our running backs were running hard.”
Going into the week, Day said he believed Ohio State had the “right guys” on the offensive line and that the coaching staff would find ways to put them in positions and schemes to be successful. That proved to be true against the Boilermakers, but it will be an even bigger challenge next week versus Penn State’s No. 2-ranked scoring defense. After the game, Day said he couldn’t provide an update for any of Ohio State’s running backs.
Buckeyes defense stands tall
The sign of a great defense is how it responds when its back is against the wall. Ohio State showed its grit and never-quit attitude on three separate occasions, starting with the first drive of the game. Purdue marched down the field with ease getting to the OSU 33-yard line on just a few plays. But the Buckeyes held strong and forced Purdue to settle for a long field goal, which it missed and set the tone of the game for the defense.
The best example came just before halftime. Purdue got all the way to the OSU one-yard line and walked away with nothing. Cody Simon ripped through the line on a tackle for a loss, Denzel Burke broke up a pass in the end zone and defensive ends J.T. Tuimoloau and Jack Sawyer combined for a sack on 3rd and goal. Purdue proceeded to miss its second kick of the game. A second red zone stop that resulted in no points on Purdue’s first drive of the second half broke the back of the Boilermakers.
“They keep fighting and they’re making teams get it all the way into the end zone,” Day said. “They’re fighting down to the one, two-yard line and continue to fight like that and that’s a good sign. We’re nowhere where we need to be but that’s part of growing.”
The Buckeyes finally allowed Purdue’s first touchdown 30 seconds into the fourth quarter, but the game was well out of reach by then. All told, the Buckeyes held the Boilermakers to 257 yards total offense, 3-of-16 on third down, and continue to prove they’re one of the best defenses in the country.
New-look red zone offense
For the first time this season, Ohio State introduced a new fold into its offense and it came inside the red zone where the Buckeyes ranked 74th in the country entering the game. Backup quarterback Devin Brown came in on the Buckeyes’ second possession after getting to the Purdue 22-yard line. Brown is a more agile, athletic quarterback than McCord when it comes to running the ball, so Day decided to take advantage of the sophomore quarterback’s skills. On 3rd and 1, Brown ran eight yards for the first down. Two plays later, he scored his first rushing touchdown of the season on a one-yard run.
“Devin is very explosive with his feet,” Day said. “He’s strong, he’s big, he’s powerful, he’s athletic. We feel like he gives us a little bit of something there [in the red zone]. We’ll keep looking at it, keep building this package ’cause we do feel like it does give us a little bit of a different changeup.”
Brown could’ve had a second touchdown on Ohio State’s next drive, but he fumbled while trying to cross the goal line and the ball was recovered by Purdue. He went into the game on the very next drive and gained no yards on first and goal, but his presence introduced a new scheme that Penn State will have to prepare for next week. Brown also connected with freshman Brandon Inniss for a 58-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.