WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – With 49 pass completions for 470 yards in Saturday night’s game at Purdue, Dwayne Haskins completed more passes for more yards than any other quarterback ever had before in Ohio State history.
That didn’t come close to factoring into the final outcome of Saturday’s game.
Even though Haskins completed at least 33 passes and threw for more than 400 yards for the third game in a row, Ohio State was thoroughly embarrassed by Purdue on Saturday night, suffering a 49-20 defeat at Ross-Ade Stadium in its first loss of the season.
While Haskins and Ohio State’s prolific passing offense were enough for the Buckeyes in each of their first seven games to overcome their issues in the run game and red zone on offense, and with allowing big plays on defense and committing penalties in all three phases of the game, they weren't nearly enough for the Buckeyes on Saturday.
“You throw for 400 yards and that’s worked a few times (to lead Ohio State to a win),” Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said after Saturday’s game. “But down the stretch here, we got to get some run game.”
For as many yards as Ohio State accumulated through the air in Saturday’s game, the Buckeyes gained just 76 yards on 25 carries, marking the fourth game in a row in which Ohio State averaged less than 3.3 yards per carry.
Most problematically, Ohio State reached the red zone five times (though the last one came on its final play of the game, with no time left on the clock and no real reason to even try to score) and scored just six points. On four drives in which the Buckeyes ran plays inside Purdue’s 15-yard line, they were never able to get the ball into the end zone, settling for three field goal attempts – one of which Blake Haubeil missed – and failing to convert on 4th-and-goal from the 2-yard line on the last.
The biggest reason for that was Ohio State’s inability to run the ball effectively, and while the Buckeyes were able to ride their passing game to victories in their first seven games – scoring 46.3 points per game, the seventh-most in the country – Saturday night proved that they can’t count on Haskins, no matter how many yards he throws for, to single-handedly lead them to wins every week.
“We just got to get something going,” Meyer said of Ohio State’s running game.
That said, Haskins didn’t play his best game either. While his statistics were unprecedented for an Ohio State quarterback, those statistics resulted largely from the fact that he attempted 73 passes, 21 more passes than Ohio State had ever attempted in a game before (Art Schlichter threw for 458 passing yards on 52 attempts, setting both of the previous highs in those categories, in a 36-27 loss to Florida State in 1981).
Haskins acknowledged after the loss that he didn’t ever expect to have attempt that many passes in a game, but that also meant there were 24 passes that he didn’t complete, so he felt like he could have done more to give the Buckeyes a better chance at victory.
“I never thought I would have to throw (73) times for us to win the game, but you got to do what you got to win, and just didn’t do that today,” Haskins said.
Haskins had missed opportunities on each of Ohio State’s four unsuccessful trips to the red zone. On the first trip, he had a 3rd-and-goal pass attempt to Terry McLaurin broken up by Purdue cornerback Antonio Blackmon. On the second trip to the red zone, Blackmon broke up a third-down pass intended for Binjimen Victor in the end zone; Haskins had another 3rd-and-goal incompletion intended for Victor, with Blackmon in coverage, on the next trip to the red zone. On the Buckeyes’ fourth trip to the red zone, Haskins’ pass intended for K.J. Hill on 4th-and-goal from the 2 was broken up by Blackmon.
Haskins also missed a wide open deep ball to McLaurin, got away with three near-interceptions that went off of Purdue defenders’ hands and actually threw an interception that Markus Bailey returned 41 yards for the Boilermakers’ final touchdown of the game. He also continued to be unsuccessful when running the ball himself, gaining no more than four yards on any of his rushing attempts.
So Haskins certainly could have played better than he did on Saturday night despite his big numbers, and therefore, he didn’t want to put the blame on anyone but himself for the Buckeyes’ defeat.
“Every game I play, I want to be perfect when I’m throwing the football … it has nothing to do with J.K. (Dobbins) or Mike (Weber) or the O-line,” Haskins said. “I always can get better somewhere, somehow … I’m going to keep getting better. I’m nowhere near where I can be.”
Before Saturday night’s game, Haskins was considered to be one of the top two candidates for this year’s Heisman Trophy, along with Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Even with his huge numbers on Saturday night, the Buckeyes’ lopsided defeat could still damage his Heisman chances. But when Ohio State next takes the field against Nebraska at Ohio Stadium on Nov. 3, Haskins’ goal is to prove that he does still belong in that conversation – and more importantly, to take his game to another level to increase his team’s chances of getting back in the win column and avoiding another outcome like it had Saturday night.
“Start playing like the best quarterback in the country,” Haskins said when asked what he can do better.