WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - They rolled out the lights, staged a big fan promotion, and had the atmosphere close to a frenzy here last night when the Ohio State Buckeyes came to town.
For unbeaten Purdue, this was going to be the signature conquest, the game that elevated the Boilermakers into the national spotlight.
If they could take down the two-time defending champions of the Big Ten, the Boilermakers would jump up the ladder in the national rankings, put themselves in a position of strength in the conference race, and be 6-0 for the first time since World War II.
Purdue had chewed up a soft schedule in the first month of the season, averaging more than 45 points per game in their five wins. The Boilermakers had overwhelmed the previous opposition with just a whisker under 500 yards of offense per game.
With all that set-up, all that pomp and circumstance and marketing magic, things got derailed in a hurry by an Ohio State defense that ruled the night. The No. 4 ranked Buckeyes were 23-7 winners over No. 23 Purdue. It was Ohio State's 24th straight regular season victory.
"That was a heck of a job by our defense," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. "When your defense plays like that ...
"It was a good team win, and it all started with that great defense."
In front of a crowd of 65,497 - the largest to see a game at Ross-Ade Stadium since a renovation in 2004 reduced the capacity of the facility - the Buckeyes' defense had Purdue's prolific quarterback, Curtis Painter, running for his life, and speedy wide receiver Dorien Bryant trapped behind a wall of tacklers every time he saw the football.
"Basically we were trying to get pressure on him [Painter], because teams hadn't done a good job of pressuring him before this," Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis said. "We're a little upset we lost the shutout, but that gives us something to work on."
Ohio State (6-0, 3-0) was efficient and effective enough on offense, weathering a trio of turnovers and a minor injury to tailback Chris Wells that limited his second-half work.
After forcing a Purdue punt to start the game, Ohio State was back on its own 13-yard line. The Buckeyes picked their way out of that hole, and a 13-yard carry by Chris Wells put the ball near midfield. After a 20-yard run by Maurice Wells, quarterback Todd Boeckman hit a streaking Ray Small on the Purdue sideline, and Small caught the ball as he stepped across the goal line.
Ohio State's defense, the best in the Big Ten coming into the game, forced a three-and-out the next time Purdue had the ball, and after a weak punt, the Buckeyes were set up at the Boilermakers 43.
Boeckman hit Brian Robiskie for 18 yards, Small for another 13, and after a short carry by Chris Wells, Boeckman found Brian Hartline over the middle for a six-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead. That was the Ohio State advantage when the first quarter ended, but Tressel thought the Buckeyes had started to zap the fire out of the Boilermakers.
"I think the way our defense came out and hit them, that maybe planted some seeds of doubt," Tressel said. "They hadn't been hit that hard."
The Buckeyes pushed the ball as deep as the Purdue 27 in the opening moments of the second quarter, but had to settle for a 44-yard field goal from Ryan Pretorius and a 17-0 advantage.
There was an opportunity for Ohio State to blow the game wide open after the ensuing kickoff as Shaun Lane laid a big hit on Dorien Bryant, the top kick returner in the Big Ten, and Ohio State's Aaron Gant recovered Bryant's fumble at the Purdue 33.
After an incomplete pass and a couple of carries by Chris Wells, Ohio State had a fourth-and-two at the Purdue 25 and chose to go for the first down. Chris Wells was stuffed for a two-yard loss, and Ohio State came up empty after the Purdue turnover.
The Buckeyes stopped Purdue (5-1, 1-1) on a fourth-and-one from the Ohio State 40 with just under five minutes left in the first half as linebacker Marcus Freeman pressured Painter into throwing an incompletion on a screen pass attempt. A sack by blitzing Ohio State linebacker Larry Grant dumped Painter for an eight yard loss that ultimately thwarted Purdue's final possession of the half, and the Buckeyes maintained that 17-0 lead.
Slowed by a pair of drive-killing interceptions that occurred deep in Purdue territory, the Buckeyes could not build on their lead early in the third quarter, but the defense continued its mastery of Painter and the Boilermakers. A sack by blitzing safety Anderson Russell ruined one Purdue possession, and pressure from defensive linemen Todd Denlinger and Nader Abdallah was the end of another.
"We just wanted to get a rush on their quarterback, and then keep everything in front of us in the secondary," Ohio State safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "If we keep it in front of us, then we can make a play."
Ohio State expanded the lead to 20-0 with a 39-yard field goal by Pretorius midway through the third quarter. Pretorius added a 23-yard field goal in the opening minute of the fourth quarter to make it 23-0.
Purdue scored on one-yard pass from Painter to Jeff Lindsay in the closing seconds.
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