Little about Ohio State football’s 2012 season to this point could be scripted, but the Buckeyes’ overtime win against Purdue might have been the most improbable moment of them all.
OSU and Purdue settled their differences in overtime for the second consecutive season. The Buckeyes, minus Heisman Trophy candidate and sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller, came out on top, 29-22, after a late, fourth-quarter drive to knot the contest at 22.
After the game, OSU athletics spokesman Jerry Emig confirmed that Miller passed head, shoulder and neck tests at the OSU Wexner Medical Center and was preparing to be released. That information arrived well after the game’s conclusion, though, and redshirt junior quarterback Kenny Guiton was forced to help bring OSU level with Purdue. Eventually, Guiton would be asked to help the Buckeyes win the game too.
Guiton met the challenge head-on, and drove OSU down the field to tie the game at 22 in the closing seconds of regulation. Then, Guiton, who finished the game with 77 passing yards after completing 6-of-11 pass attempts, closed out the comeback by guiding the Buckeyes (8-0, 4-0 Big Ten) to an overtime win against the Boilermakers (3-4, 0-3 Big Ten).
In order to force overtime to begin with, OSU took possession of the ball with less than 50 second to play in regulation. A 39-yard completion from Guiton to sophomore receiver Devin Smith pushed OSU into the red zone. Finally, with just eight seconds remaining, Guiton to dropped back and found junior OSU receiver Chris Fields for a diving touchdown catch to cut the deficit to 22-20. The play was reviewed but upheld, and the two-point conversion to come was converted as well when Guiton rolled to the right and threw across the field to sophomore tight end Jeff Heuerman to tie the game at 22.
“The ball was in the air for a while,” Heuerman said. “So, I mean, that was a play we’ve just repped over and over… for our two-point play, and it came down to it and the whole offense executed and it all worked out.”
With the comeback complete, OSU carried momentum into overtime where it took the first possession of the extra session and scored the game-winning touchdown. OSU junior running back Carlos Hyde capped a four-play drive with a 1-yard touchdown run to put his team back on top, 29-22.
The score was his second of the game and his eighth in the last three games. Hyde finished the game with 91 rushing yards on 19 carries.
OSU’s defense capitalized on its chance to win when Purdue’s offense took the field and failed to match the Buckeyes’ score. Purdue senior quarterback Caleb TerBush threw incompletions on each of his first two attempts in overtime, and the Boilermakers were stuck on the 25-yard line. On the third play of its drive, Purdue gained five yards, but still faced a fourth down situation. TerBush threw to the endzone but the pass was again incomplete, and the Buckeyes celebrated.
Some of the efforts in the game, OSU coach Urban Meyer said, were legendary.
“I mean, that was a moment that I’ll certainly never forget,” Meyer said after the game, “and that was (Guiton) come jogging into the game – the old right-hander – just did a heck of a job.”
Moments after the game’s conclusion, first-year OSU coach Urban Meyer ran to the south end zone and pumped his fists wildly in front of the Ohio State Marching Band, stirring an already rabid crowd.
Fans had exited but were again congregating outside a video board across the street from Ohio Stadium – regardless of their vicinity to the playing surface, fans were rejoicing in the improbable win.
Overtime hardly seemed likely considering the way Purdue commanded the majority of the contest.
Purdue took advantage of OSU’s biggest weakness – allowing big plays -early in the contest, gashing the Buckeyes on two big scores – an 86-yard touchdown pass and a 100-yard kickoff return.
TerBush, who finished the game 19-of-30 passing for 230 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, launched the 83-yard touchdown pass to senior running back Akeem Shavers on the first play from scrimmage in the game The ensuing extra-point attempt was blocked, but enough damage was already done and OSU trailed, 6-0.
OSU sophomore linebacker Ryan Shazier said the team had been preparing for that exact play from the Boilermakers.
“They just ran (the play) a little bit differently than we had practice it,” Shazier said. “The thing about that being the big, first play of the game is nobody got down. Everybody knows we have a good offense. Everyone knew we were going to score, so we just had each other’s back.”
Sandwiched between the Boilermakers’ two scoring plays was an 8-yard touchdown run by Miller to briefly give the Buckeyes a 7-6 lead with 5:29 to play in the opening quarter. The rushing score was Miller’s 11th of the season and the 18th of his career.
Before exiting the game in the third quarter, Miller threw 113 yards on 9-of-20 passing with an interception.
On the ensuing kickoff, Purdue sophomore running back Akeem Hunt provided the 100-yard return for a score, taking the ball on his own goal line and scrambling down the field to pay dirt. His score in the stadium’s south end zone put Purdue back on top, 13-7.
Purdue’s fifth possession midway through the second quarter lacked a big play, but it was a methodical drive that spanned more than 10 minutes and 85 yards, setting the Boilermakers up for another score.
On 3rd-and-goal, though, TerBush’s end zone-bound pass was deflected in midflight and corralled by OSU junior safety C.J. Barnett to end the threat. Barnett dropped to his knees in the end zone for a touchback and helped keep the Buckeyes’ deficit at 13-7.
OSU couldn’t produce on the drive to come, though, nor could it muster much production on its remaining drives in the first half. Miller cocked back and hurled a pass that fell short of the end zone and was intercepted as time expired in the half.
The Buckeyes were outgained by the Boilermakers, 183-101, in the first half. Miller was held to just 52 yards passing, completing 6-of-15 passing attempts.
Despite the OSU’s first-half offensive ineptitude, it retook the lead by the 7:41 mark in the 3rd quarter at 14-13 when Hyde scored his first touchdown of the game on a 2-yard run.
Like its 7-6 lead, OSU’s second lead of the game was short lived. Purdue came right back down the field on and took its third lead of the game on a 31-yard touchdown reception from TerBush to junior wide receiver Gary Bush.
Miller tried to spark another comeback, but fumbled with 2:58 to play in the third quarter. After referees pulled bodies off the pile, Purdue junior defensive tackle Bruce Gaston had come up with the ball, and Purdue began work on the ensuing drive from the OSU’s 37-yard line. The air had gone out of Ohio Stadium and Purdue was threatening again, but the Boilermakers drive ended in a blocked field goal.
The defensive had held, and the celebration from OSU’s bench spilled onto the field. The celebration continued when Miller rushed 37 yards on OSU’s next play, but that celebration was halted when t
he quarterback didn’t stand up after the tackle.
Miller, however, would leave the game after the play when he stayed down on the ground after being tackled. Miller was replaced by Guiton at that point, and was later taken to the hospital.
The drive ended with a well-struck field goal attempt by junior kicker Drew Basil from 50 yards, however his attempt clanked off the upright.
OSU’s next drive ended in two points, but the points went to Purdue. Heuerman was called for a block in the back penalty in OSU’s end zone. As a result, the Boilmakers lead was literally and figuratively pushed to 22-14.
OSU got the stop it needed after Basil’s free-kick, halting Purdue short of a first down near midfield with more than six minutes to play.
Guiton finally got OSU’s offense in gear two possessions later, and not a moment too soon.
OSU’s back-up quarterback drove the team down the field to tie the game with three seconds to play, which sent the contest to overtime. There, Hyde provided the eventual game-winning score and the defense prevented a Purdue drive from resulting in points for the 11th time in the game.
The defense allowed just five yards in the overtime period, and 347 yards for the entire game.
“The bottom line is we’re going to build on wins and build on being extremely positive in coaching these kids because they do listen to you,” Meyer said.
OSU will continue Big Ten Conference play next Saturday in State College, Pa., with a scheduled 5:30 p.m. against Penn State.