COLUMBUS There is nothing quite like the freedom of speech enjoyed by a guy heading out the door on his own terms. Purdue head coach Joe Tiller has told everyone this will be his last season with the Boilermakers, and it appears he will be free-spirited and enjoy the final ride around the Big Ten.
Tiller, the Toledo native who became Purdue's all-time winningest coach earlier this season, brings his team into Ohio Stadium this afternoon to face the Buckeyes.
The Boilermakers have not won at Ohio State in 20 years, so Tiller was asked why
is Columbus such a challenging place. 'It's in Ohio,' he snorted as the room filled with muffled yuks.
With that said, the 65-year-old Tiller was reminded that in their last 16 games against ranked opponents, the Boilermakers were zip-for-16. So, with the 12th-ranked Buckeyes dressing in the other locker room this week, will you do things differently this time, coach?
'No, and if the media didn't keep score like that, I wouldn't know what the record against the ranked opponent is,' Tiller said. 'My thoughts are always just get better this week than we were last week. As long as we're moving forward, we ain't going backwards.'
Last week the Boilermakers got roughed up 20-6 at home by Penn State for just their second loss in a Big Ten home opener in Tiller's 12 seasons in West Lafayette. Tiller, a Rogers High grad who was an All-American offensive tackle at Montana State, has had his teams ready when they get to Columbus.
In the 2003 season, the Buckeyes went to overtime to squeak out a 16-13 win over No. 11 Purdue in Ohio Stadium. In 1999, Tiller's No. 17-ranked Boilermakers lost 25-22 to the Buckeyes here.
Asked to recount some of the significant plays or momentum swings or key circumstances surrounding that 2003 overtime game against the Buckeyes, Tiller said: 'I don't remember.'
Pushed further, he deadpanned: 'I think it was a full house. Yeah, a full house.'
The Buckeyes, who have played their last 45 home games before crowds in excess of 100,000, expect to have another full house awaiting the Boilermakers this afternoon. Tiller said his players will not be intimidated by the Ohio Stadium masses.
'We've played pretty well over there and lost in overtime, and lost on a kick in the last series of one game,' he said. 'So we've been pretty competitive with them. I think our players just believe they can go over there and compete.'
Although he yanked senior Curtis Painter in favor of backup Joey Elliott late in last week's loss to Penn State, and Elliott took Purdue on an 82-yard scoring drive for its only touchdown, Tiller said Painter is his guy against the Buckeyes.
As he gets ready to face Tiller's spread offense a week after seeing Wisconsin pound the ball inside, Ohio State coach Jim Tressel talked this week about his team needing to 'shift gears.'
'It's a little different world now since Purdue brings in that spread attack,' Tressel said. 'We have to get ready for a different attack, get ready for a different mode. If we continue to play as hard as we did [at Wisconsin] and hang in there as tough as we did and get better, we're going to have a chance to have a good football team, so this is a pivotal week for us.'
Contact Matt Markey at email@example.com or 419-724-6510.