COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — No. 3 Ohio State takes its undefeated record on the road to face Purdue at noon on Peacock. The Boilermakers have been the Buckeyes’ kryptonite in West Lafayette, Indiana, with OSU holding a 3-5 record at Purdue since 2000.
The Boilermakers are 3-2 against top-five teams in the last five years and have beaten the Buckeyes four times when they were ranked in the top five. But Ohio State is 33-0 against unranked opponents under coach Ryan Day.
The Buckeyes are coming off a 37-17 win over Maryland in which they outscored the Terrapins 27-7 in the second half. They mustered only 62 yards rushing and will look to start faster and execute better on the ground in their third conference game of the season. Below are the three things to watch for when Ohio State faces Purdue.
Strike the right (Mc)Cord early
Ohio State has failed to score a first-half touchdown in back-to-back games against Notre Dame and Maryland. Quarterback Kyle McCord completed just 3 of 9 passes for 30 yards on Ohio State’s first four drives last week. He responded by finishing 19-of-29 passing for 320 yards and two touchdowns but acknowledged OSU has to start better moving forward.
“A lot to grow on from the first four or five drives. Obviously, we need to start faster, get things going earlier,” McCord said. “I think it’s honestly just a mental thing, not trying to feel the game out, just going in right away. … When we start fast and put points on the board early, we’re really tough to compete with.”
McCord and the Buckeyes may be without receiver Emeka Egbuka, who suffered a lower body injury in the second half against Maryland. Day said the key to offense starting faster comes down to putting the Buckeyes in the right plays early on and them executing.
“Didn’t start the way we wanted to, so we’ve got to figure a way to do that on offense so we can get a rhythm going for the whole team,” Day said. “We’re still growing. We’re a work in progress in all areas. We’ve got to keep building, so we’re nowhere where we need to be. And that’s OK, but we’ve got to be hungry this week, we’ve got to have urgency and we’ve got to fight to get better.”
Ohio State’s rushing struggles
The Buckeyes rank 96th in the country in rushing yards. Their performance against Maryland was their worst of the season, rushing for 1.9 yards per carry. Day said running back TreVeyon Henderson will be available after missing last week’s game. Day added he believes Ohio State has the “right guys” on the offensive line to average four yards per rush, which is what he expects.
“We just have to execute better,” Day said. “We have to coach it better, and that starts with me. We’ve got to figure out a way, whether we’re doing too much or too little, whatever that is. But I felt like the scheme and what we were doing was very sound. I think we have the right guys.”
The good news for Ohio State is that Purdue ranks 85th in the country in rush defense, allowing 154 yards per game. The Buckeyes can exploit this defense and try to get on the right track before facing Penn State at Ohio Stadium next week. Rain and wind gusts up to 20 mph are in the forecast, so Ohio State could be forced to run more than usual.
Don’t expect any new Buckeye to get significant playing time on the offensive line. Day said none of the backups have pushed hard enough to win a starting job.
“We looked hard at it,” Day said. “I still don’t see any of those [backup] guys right now pushing. I’d like to see that. But don’t see them pushing on the door enough to say someone deserves 20-30 snaps in the game just yet.”
The offensive line will also face an impressive Purdue defense that ranks second in the Big Ten with 18 sacks. Their average of three sacks a game is 19th in the nation.
Get the Boilermakers offense off track
Ohio State recruited Purdue quarterback Hudson Card out of high school. Day said the coaches saw a lot of Card because he was teammates with former OSU receiver Garrett Wilson. Card transferred to Purdue after three seasons at Texas, where he appeared in 21 games, completing 65.5% of his passes for 1,523 yards, 11 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.
This season, Card has 1,491 yards passing, completing 63.6% of his passes with six touchdowns and five interceptions. Card has been prone to turnovers, and it’s an area Ohio State can take advantage after forcing six turnovers in its last two games.
The Boilermakers rank 60th in the country in passing yards and 82nd in rushing yards. The Buckeyes defense is ranked third nationally in fewest points allowed per game (10.2). This is an excellent opportunity for Ohio State, especially the defensive line. Purdue has allowed 14 sacks through six games and doesn’t have comparable size or talent as OSU’s rushmen.