To bide time between the off-season and the start of the upcoming season, I like to watch and make videos of past Ohio State football wins. Condensed into a 10-minute or 20-minute compilation, I call these a "Drive-Thru" and upload them to YouTube for Ohio State fans to enjoy. This week's Drive-Thru returns to the 1980s and features Ohio State hosting Purdue in a revenge game of one of Ohio State's two Big Ten losses in the 1984 Big Ten championship and Rose Bowl campaign.
Ohio State was behind the 8-ball just six weeks into the 1985 season. It started with a perfect non-conference sweep of Pittsburgh (in Ohio Stadium's first ever night game), Colorado, and Washington State. Entering Memorial Stadium in Champaign as the country fifth-ranked team, the Buckeyes lost 31-28 to the Illini in what had become a thorn in the side for Ohio State football in the decade. The Buckeyes rebounded the next week against Indiana, defeating the Hoosiers 48-7 in the Horseshoe. However, Purdue was next. The Boilermakers were the first loss in the previous season's outright Big Ten championship campaign and had just defeated Illinois after Illinois beat Ohio State. Ohio State could prevail but still had to host Iowa and visit Michigan. The no. 1 and no. 2 teams in the country in the sixth week of the 1985 college football season, neither team looked like it would lose many games.
Ohio State's precarious situation entering the sixth week of the 1985 football season was compounded by Keith Byars' injury issue. The Heisman runner-up, college football's leader in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns in 1984, Byars broke his foot in a preseason workout and missed the first five games of the season. Byars would be available for this game but it was uncertain if Byars felt ready to play. He wanted it to be his decision. However, the fact that Byars had not even done a contact drill since he broke his foot made it doubtful.
Purdue had its best season in 1984 (a 7-5 campaign) under fourth-year head coach Leon Burtnett, but Purdue was never that good as a team. It entered the game 3-2 with losses to Pittsburgh in the season-opener and a carpet-bombing by Lou Holtz' Minnesota Golden Gophers on its record. However, the Boilermakers had two stars in the making in Jim Everett and Rod Woodson. Rod Woodson had begun to solidify himself as one of the best athletes in all college football, finishing 1985 with his first All-American honors. Jim Everett was on fire as quarterback. He had just one interception thrown in over his last 230 passes entering this game and the led the country in total offense.
However, Purdue had the same nagging injury concerns Ohio State had. Jim Everett's elbow was sore. Further, Purdue's linebacker play was suspect. Kevin Sumlin, yes, that Kevin Sumlin, was playing with a stress fracture and sat out the first quarter. Purdue had talent on defense with cornerback Chris Dishman, linebacker Fred Strickland, Rod Woodson, and a decent nose guard in Brad Hornor. However, injury concerns only magnified a talent differential that already favored Ohio State.
That is the way this game unfolded to start. After Ohio State punted four plays into its first possession, Purdue fumbled the first play from its first offensive series. The game got its first bit of drama when Keith Byars substituted himself into the game for his first snap of the season. However, the immediate play was a carry for fullback George Cooper. Byars eventually saw some of the ball, helping Ohio State to a 7-0 first quarter lead. A Purdue punt on its second offensive series led to Ohio State's second touchdown of the game.
Ohio State started the game 17-0. Purdue's first four drives ended in a fumble, punt, punt, and a fumble. A Tom Tupa 60-yard punt pinned Purdue inside its own five-yard line early into the second quarter for what became the pivotal moment for Purdue. Hamstrung by field position, Purdue's offense played it safe but failed to get a first down. The punt that followed what would have been a three-and-out saw Ohio State hold the long snapper. Given a fresh set of downs, Jim Everett led the Boilermakers to the end zone to cut the deficit to 17-7. It added a field goal at the end of the second quarter to cut the deficit to a touchdown entering halftime.
Purdue began the third quarter like it began the first quarter. Wide receiver Rodney Carter fumbled what would have been a 33-yard gain on the first play from scrimmage. Ohio State's ensuing drive ended in a touchdown toss to sophomore split end, Cris Carter, to give the Buckeyes a 24-10 lead.
From there, Purdue's offense caught fire. Jim Everett led an 80-yard touchdown drive in four plays and 1:25 to cut the deficit to 24-17. Everett led the next Purdue drive to Ohio State's goal line before the Boilermakers had to settle for a field goal. Ohio State's ensuing drive entered the fourth quarter and ended with a field goal to make it a full touchdown lead. The next Purdue drive ended in a touchdown to make it a tie game. After a first quarter that favored the Buckeyes and overwhelmed the Boilermakers, the next two quarters saw Purdue outgain Ohio State by almost 300 yards.
Ohio State responded with a touchdown drive punctuated by a goal line dive by Keith Byars. Byars debuted in the second quarter of this game but finally looked himself in the fourth quarter. For not having any contact drills to initiate him into the season, Byars willed himself 106 yards on 23 carries. By the end of the game, he was dragging Kevin Sumlin through other Purdue defenders and was stiff-arming Fred Strickland to the Ohio Stadium turf.
Jim Everett was almost flawless this game. He finished with 497 passing yards, completing 35 of 55 attempts. Rodney Carter even finished the game with a Purdue receiving record of 15 catches for 190 yards. However, a desperate heave under pressure ended in an interception by Byron Lee. Ohio State scored on the next drive to take a two-touchdown lead with two minutes remaining. Purdue's next drive ended in an interception by Chris Spielman, who otherwise had a lousy day relative to his high standards. Ohio State ran out the clock to conclude a 41-27 win.