WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – In addition to losing Saturday night’s game at Purdue, Ohio State also might have lost at least one of its starters to injury.
During the third quarter of Saturday’s 49-20 loss, starting wide receiver Austin Mack was shown on the television broadcast with his arm around a trainer on the sideline and tears in his eyes after suffering an apparent lower-body injury. While it was unclear exactly when his injury occurred or what his injury was, he was carted back to the locker room before the end of the third quarter and did not return to the game.
Mack wasn’t the only wide receiver to come out of Saturday’s game with an injury. C.J. Saunders was slow to get up and came out of the game after taking a hard hit from behind after a catch on a 3rd-and-6 conversion in the second quarter. K.J. Hill also came off the field gingerly at one point late in the fourth quarter, though he did not return to action.
With Mack out of the game, Jaylen Harris – who had only played in three lopsided games against Oregon State, Rutgers and Tulane earlier this season – saw some playing time in the rotation at the X receiver spot, along with Binjimen Victor, in the fourth quarter.
Ohio State cornerback Jeffrey Okudah also left the game with an injury in the fourth quarter, but it’s unclear whether he would have been able to return to the game, as Purdue scored on its very next offensive play – a 43-yard touchdown catch-and-run by Rondale Moore – and its offense did not take the field again.
The Buckeyes were already shorthanded at cornerback going into Saturday’s game, as Damon Arnette did not make the trip to West Lafayette due to an undisclosed injury. As a result, Amir Riep – who had been moved to safety this season – saw some playing time as Ohio State’s third outside cornerback, behind Okudah and Kendall Sheffield, in Saturday’s game. Sheffield also left the game with an injury for one play in the second quarter, at which point Shaun Wade moved outside from the slot cornerback position he played for the rest of the night on Saturday, and freshman safety Josh Proctor (wearing No. 33) checked into the game at the nickelback spot.
The good news for Ohio State is that it now has two weeks to get some injured players healthy before its next game, as the Buckeyes have an off week before they host Nebraska at Ohio Stadium on Nov. 3.
“We’re on fumes in the back end of our defense right now, so we got to get some guys healthy,” Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said after the game, though he did not provide any specific injury updates after the game.
Ohio State did have several players come back from injuries to return to the lineup on Saturday night, including left tackle Thayer Munford, defensive end Jonathon Cooper, linebacker Malik Harrison and defensive tackle Robert Landers, though Davon Hamilton started in Landers’ place.
Moore burns the Buckeyes
Before this week, Rondale Moore was perhaps best known to Ohio State fans for the maneuver he made while announcing his commitment at the All-American Bowl last January.
For a brief moment before he put on a Purdue hat and said “Boiler Up” during that announcement on August 6, Moore picked up an Ohio State hat, momentarily faking that he would become a Buckeye instead of becoming a Boilermaker.
After Saturday night, however, the wide receiver who was recruited by Ohio State will probably be best known by Buckeyes fans for how well he played against Ohio State to lead the Boilermakers to their big victory.
While Moore probably wouldn’t be playing much this year if he was at Ohio State, with all the veteran experience the Buckeyes have at wide receiver, he’s become an immediate star at Purdue. That stardom only grew on Saturday, when he caught 12 passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns, gained 24 yards on a pair of rushing attempts, gained 49 yards on three kickoff returns and had a 9-yard punt return.
Moore might not have been a priority in recruiting for Ohio State, who ended up taking four other wide receivers for the class of 2018 – Kamryn Babb, Jaelen Gill, Chris Olave and L’Christian “Blue” Smith – but the 5-foot-9, 175-pound speedster was clearly one of the best players on the field on Saturday. And although Ohio State’s defenders made it clear in the week leading up to the game that they were aware of the threat that Moore would present on Saturday, they couldn’t find a way to bottle him up.
“He’s a good player,” Ohio State safety Jordan Fuller said after the game. “Bright future.”
Fooled by the fake
While Saturday night’s game was one that started out poorly for Ohio State and progressively got worse, the sequence that occurred in the final two minutes of the first half felt like the turning point in which the game started to get away from the Buckeyes.
After a stalled Ohio State drive in the red zone that concluded with Blake Haubeil missing a 33-yard field goal attempt, Purdue took over at its own 20-yard line, yet needed only three plays – a pair of runs by D.J. Knox, followed by a 37-yard pass from David Blough to Isaac Zico – to reach Ohio State’s 20-yard line.
From there, Ohio State’s defense stepped up – though it received help from Moore dropping a pass on a slant route, on one of his only poor plays of the night, that would have converted 3rd-and-3 – to hold Purdue to a field goal attempt, or so it seemed.
Instead of actually kicking the field goal, however, Purdue decided to run a fake field goal, and it worked, as Ohio State’s defense was fooled by the fake and punter Joe Schopper had room to run to the left side of the field for a 4-yard gain to convert 4th-and-3.
"We understand that if we want to win this game, we're going to have to take some chances."
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) October 21, 2018
One play later, Blough connected with Moore for a 9-yard touchdown.
While that sequence was far from the only thing that cost Ohio State the game, it did give Purdue a 14-3 lead before halftime – just a couple minutes after the Buckeyes weren’t far off from taking a lead themselves – and Ohio State never bounced back. And specifically, there might not have been any moment more demoralizing for the Buckeyes within that sequence that their lack of discipline that allowed the Boilermakers to run their fake field goal exactly how they drew it up.
“We have a little bit of a tendency there,” Meyer said of giving up those kind of plays. “They executed, we did not.”