The No. 4-ranked Ohio State football team (9-0, 5-0) went unblemished on the scoreboard in defeating Purdue, 56-0, Saturday, but heads into its second bye week of the season with some injury concerns.
The health of sophomore right tackle Taylor Decker, who suffered a sprained MCL during the third quarter of the game, is the most notable injury from the win, while junior defensive lineman Michael Bennett and linebacker Curtis Grant also went down.
With OSU holding a 49-0 lead late in the third quarter, Decker was the only starting offensive lineman still in the game when he suffered the injury. He received medical attention before walking off the field with the assistance of trainers. Although he eventually walked back to the locker room without assistance, Decker had a noticeable limp and did not return to the game.
OSU coach Urban Meyer said Saturday he expects Decker to be out “for a week or so,” a timetable which could put Decker on track to be back in the lineup when the Buckeyes play their next game against Illinois (3-5, 0-4) in Champaign, Ill., Nov. 16. If Decker is unable to suit up against the Fighting Illini, it will be the first time in 2013 that OSU will have had to replace someone on the offensive line.
Decker is not OSU’s first offensive starter to suffer an MCL sprain this season, however. After suffering an MCL sprain of his own against San Diego State Sept. 7, junior quarterback Braxton Miller missed OSU’s following two games versus California and Florida A&M, respectively.
Decker was playing alongside four backups — redshirt-junior left tackle Darryl Baldwin, redshirt-freshman left guard Pat Elflein, sophomore center Jacoby Boren and redshirt-sophomore right guard Tommy Brown — at the time of his injury. When Decker left the game, Brown slid out to right tackle while redshirt-senior Ivon Blackman entered the game at right guard.
If Decker’s injury causes him to miss any games, Baldwin is likely to take his spot in the lineup. Following OSU’s 63-14 victory against Penn State Oct. 26, offensive line coach Ed Warinner said Baldwin would be the first offensive tackle off the bench if something were to happen to one of OSU’s starters at the position.
“I feel confident if we had to play one of (the backup offensive linemen), we’d be just fine, we’d stay right in stride,” Warinner said Oct. 26.
Decker was not the only OSU starter to leave Saturday’s game because of injury. Junior defensive lineman Michael Bennett left the game in the second quarter with what Meyer called a “stinger.” Junior linebacker Curtis Grant left the game briefly in the first half with an apparent ankle injury, then left the game early in the second half after coming out of halftime with his ankle heavily taped.
“We had some guys get dinged up today,” Meyer said after the game. “We got to get them back.”
Defensive coordinator Luke Fickell said he expects Bennett and Grant to be ready to go for the Buckeyes’ next game against Illinois.
“(Injuries are) a part of the game, and there’s some things you got to fight through,” Fickell said. “This is the ninth week, 10th week of the season, you’re not going to feel great. And if you think you’re going to feel great, then you’re in the wrong sport.”
OSU has the benefit of a bye week before a three-game stretch against Illinois, Indiana and Michigan to finish regular season play.
Although some players on his team may be battling injuries, Meyer said he expects them to improve strength and conditioning during the bye week.
“It’s a great time for a bye week,” Meyer said. “You know why? It’ll be a very intense bye week because you got to know that you’re coming back faster and stronger than when you went into the bye week and that has to happen.”
Fickell said the Buckeyes are “not going to sit and wait and slow down” during the week off.
“We’re going to have to keep pushing forward,” Fickell said.
The game time for OSU’s battle with Illinois has not yet been announced.