WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Ohio State’s recent trips to Purdue had swayed from one end of the spectrum to the other, with Ross-Ade Stadium representing its heaven (Holy Buckeye in 2002) and hell (pretty much every other year).
Saturday introduced the latest extreme.
With vicious efficiency, the fourth-ranked Buckeyes whitewashed Purdue 56-0 in another record-smashing win that extended their national-best winning streak to 21 games — one shy of the school record — and further stretched the distance between them and the rest of a diminished Big Ten.
A week after handing Penn State its worst loss in more than a century, the Buckeyes (9-0, 5-0 Big Ten) delighted a crowd of 51,423 split evenly between scarlet and black from wire to wire. It was the most lopsided game in their 56-game series against the Boilermakers (1-7, 0-4) and marked Purdue’s worst loss since 1922.
Quarterback Braxton Miller matched a career-high with four touchdown passes — all in the first half — Kenny Guiton accounted for three touchdowns in relief, and an early interception return for a touchdown kindled a once-derided defense’s first Big Ten shutout in three years.
Like the allegiance of those who remained in a half-empty stadium by the end, this one was all Ohio State — the visitors outgaining the league-worst Boilermakers 640-116 in total yardage.
Even the tight ends emerged from the shadows, with Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett among the five Buckeyes to catch touchdown passes.
“I feel like at any minute, something explosive is going to happen,” said running back Carlos Hyde, who added his fourth straight 100-yard rushing game with 111 yards on eight carries. “We have so many guys around that can make big plays. When you’re out there, you basically just wait your turn.”
After speaking with reporters, cornerback Bradley Roby posted on Twitter: “Handled business like we were supposed to. Don’t blame us. We don’t make the schedule.”
Coach Urban Meyer confessed afterward to feeling uneasy before kickoff. He knew the Buckeyes’ ill-fated recent history at Purdue, which included four losses in their last six trips to West Lafayette. Not to mention last year’s overtime escape in Columbus.
“I was extremely concerned,” he said. “We came out into [the locker room] before the game, and strength coach [Mickey Marotti] rattled the cage a little bit. I felt there was not necessarily a sleepy look, but I just didn’t like what I saw. We brought them in here to make sure they woke up.”
Said Miller: “It was an early morning. We had to get the guys going.”
In truth, though, the afternoon promised and delivered little suspense.
The Buckeyes were 32-point favorites — the most lopsided line for a true OSU road game since it covered a 32½-point spread at Illinois in 1998. About the only plot of local interest for a game in which tickets sold for as little as $6 on resale sites was whether Purdue would take its first snap in the red zone since September.
It did not.
Cornerback Doran Grant returned an interception of Purdue quarterback Danny Etling 32 yards for a touchdown on the second play from scrimmage, and OSU continued to have its way.
It was part a a comedy of Boilermaker mishaps — a 15-yard punt after a three-and-out on their second drive, a lost fumble later in the first quarter — but mostly Ohio State’s muscle.
Miller threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Heuerman on the Buckeyes’ second offensive play and quickly added short TD tosses to Vannett, senior wideout Corey Brown, and freshman running back Ezekiel Elliott.
The junior threw an interception offensive coordinator Tom Herman called “boneheaded,” passing up several open receivers in favor of trying to thread the ball to Devin Smith in double coverage. But in all, Miller was superb for the third straight week, completing 19 of 23 passes for 233 yards.
With OSU ahead 42-0 at halftime, Guiton played the entire second half. The senior super-sub displayed little rust in rushing for a career-high 98 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries. He also tossed a one-yard jump pass to Corey Fields for a score.
The defense, meanwhile, turned in its second straight dominant performance after weeks of uneven play. Ryan Shazier had two of an attacking front seven’s season-high six sacks while the Buckeyes did not allow Purdue to cross the OSU 37.
“There was a lot of pressure on us,” safety C.J. Barnett said. “Our offense was playing great, and we weren't really holding up our end of the deal. So coach Meyer and the coaches put a lot of pressure on us, and we changed our mentality.”