The road ahead is the only one on Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer’s mind these days.
Meyer and the Buckeyes (8-0, 4-0) are scheduled to travel to West Lafayette, Ind., Saturday to take on Purdue (1-6, 0-3). But even though the Boilermakers have defeated OSU in three out of its last four trips to Ross-Ade Stadium, Meyer said that’s not something he’s thinking about.
“We’re just trying to get the win on the road at Purdue,” Meyer said Monday during a press conference.
Purdue, who is led by a former Buckeye assistant, has not played since losing on the road to Michigan State Oct. 19, 14-0, and currently sits at the bottom of the Big Ten Leaders Division.
The Boilermakers’ early struggles pushed the coaching staff to make major changes schematically on defense, Meyer said.
“They changed — they were all 4-3 defense about three weeks ago before the Nebraska game, (and they) changed completely” Meyer said. “They’re now (a 3-4 defense). So that means they’re just going through some personnel issues and some scheme issues … We’re just trying to figure out what we’re going to see Saturday because it’s completely different from the first half of the season.”
Although Purdue is currently on a five-game losing streak, junior tight end Jeff Heuerman said OSU shouldn’t struggle with finding the motivation to take on the Boilermakers.
“Our coaching staff does a great job (motivating) regardless of who we’re playing,” Heuerman said. “Going into Purdue, I was there my freshman year and it didn’t turn out the way that we wanted it. I think there’s a lot of guys on the team that remember that, my class and stuff. This week is a big week for us, and we got something to prove going back to Purdue.”
The game Heuerman referred to was a 26-23 overtime Purdue victory in 2011, when OSU tied the game with 55 seconds left in regulation after then-junior running back Jordan Hall made a touchdown reception, but the go-ahead extra point was blocked, sending the game into overtime.
OSU kicked a field goal on its opening possession but couldn’t stop Purdue from securing the victory with a one-yard touchdown run from then-junior quarterback Robert Marve.
Senior kicker Drew Basil, who attempted the extra point against the Boilermakers, said Monday he remembers the play very well.
“Being on a grass field, there was a bare spot where the extra point was so I moved the ball over to the right, maybe six inches, just so I could get a good spot for the hold,” Basil said. “And they blocked it from that right side. In hindsight, maybe I shouldn’t have moved the ball over six inches.”
Basil said the loss was tough, but that it’s important for the team to focus on beating Purdue this week.
Junior linebacker Curtis Grant was also on the team that day in West Lafayette, and said no matter the records, Purdue always plays well against OSU.
“It’s always that one team that’s always out to just get you,” Grant said Monday. “Purdue seems like that, since the last two years that I’ve been here, they’re always out to get us. I’m not expecting anything less.”
Grant gave credit to the OSU coaching staff, particularly Meyer, for preventing the team from losing focus during their 20-game winning streak.
“Each and every week (the coaches) don’t let us get complacent,” Grant said. “They come out each and every week with a new task, a new challenge for us to complete.”
Senior running back Carlos Hyde, who has rushed for 549 yards and seven touchdowns since Big Ten play started, said “it’s not difficult at all” to find motivation to play a team with a losing record.
“This is a one-game season,” Hyde said Monday. “We can’t take any opponent lightly because we’re Ohio State, so people are going to give us their best shot.”
The man leading Purdue this season is Darrell Hazell, who was promoted to assistant head coach at OSU under Jim Tressel in 2005 after being wide receivers and kick returns coach with the Buckeyes for a season. Hazell was named the Boilermakers coach at the end of last season after spending two years as the coach of the Kent State squad.
Current OSU defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell coached alongside Hazell under Tressel. He said although Purdue has only won one game so far in 2013, Hazell’s consistency as a coach will allow him to lead the Boilermakers in the right direction.
“You don’t change who you are, and that’s what I know about him,” Fickell said Monday. “It’s not like he’s going to be down or he’s going to do something crazy or something different because they’re in the situation that they are. You gotta battle through tough times and when you’re consistent, your young men learn and they learn that from you.”
Purdue might be struggling this season, but Hyde said he knows it is going to give OSU its best, just like any team the Buckeyes face.
“We’re Ohio State. So people are going to play us their best,” Hyde said. “That’s what I expect. I don’t expect teams to come out and just lay down. I feel like they’re going to come out and give us their best shot. And that’s what I want. I want teams to come out and give us their best shot. So when we win, we say we beat them with their best shot.”
Kickoff is slated for noon at Ross-Ade Stadium.
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