Purdue Debriefing: Explosive Buckeye Offense More Than Enough to Derail Boilermakers' Plans for a Third Top-Three Upset This Season

By Andy Vance on November 14, 2021 at 9:35 am
Carrying the Flag

What a difference a week can make – Ohio State's offense looked positively pedestrian by its own lofty standards for two weeks in a row. But not so versus the Spoilermakers Saturday.

The Buckeyes bogged down in the red zone repeatedly versus Penn State and Nebraska, trading field goals for touchdowns eight times in two outings. Versus Purdue, the Big Ten's resident giant killer this season, the home team flipped the script and turned in one of its most prolific performances to date, winning 59-31 in a game that wasn't as close as the score suggests.

On defense the unit was solid if not spectacular, taking care of business when the outcome was still in the balance, getting sloppy late and leaving fans wringing their hands over a team that by any measure is one of the best in the country.

With eye-popping statistics racked up by a plethora of playmakers, Ohio State reminded the college football universe exactly what it's capable of when the engine is hitting on all cylinders. 

"That could be a team that wins it all," Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm said of the Buckeyes after the game. "We were lucky to hold them to 59."

TL;DR: Just the Facts, Ma'am

Ohio State was on upset alert, coming out swinging with a 21-7 lead after the first quarter that extended to a 45-17 romp by intermission. After two weeks of forgetting how to score from inside the 20, the Buckeyes did it four times versus Purdue, while the revamped Buckeye defense largely shut Purdue down in the first half.

Garrett Wilson stole the show with 177 yards of total offense and an eye-popping four touchdowns as Ohio State cruised to the team's ninth win of the season on a day when it seemed like the team could do no wrong offensively and looked good enough to get the job done on defense.

Special teams was a "nice to have" versus Purdue after being a "had to have" in grind-it-out victories the past two outings. Noah Ruggles was eight for eight on point after attempts and drilled his lone field goal attempt of the day; Jesse Mirco was asked to punt just once, and he promptly pinned the Boilermakers inside the 20.

How It Went Down


The Buckeyes came out humming after their defense forced a three-and-out on the first series of the game and Purdue's punter shanked one that went all of 16 yards. It took Ryan Day's squad just five plays to move the 39 yards to the endzone. The sequence was a harbinger of things to come for the Boilermakers, as Ohio State would go on to score seven additional touchdowns in a game that wasn't close for the final 50 minutes.

C.J. Stroud was practically flawless, throwing for 361 yards, completing 82% of his passes and tossing for five touchdowns against zero interceptions. He made solid decisions, kept the offense in rhythm, and looked as good commanding the offense as he has all season.

After missing last week's trip to Lincoln, Garrett Wilson recaptured the spotlight by scoring three times in the first half and adding one more in the second for good measure. Averaging nearly 13 yards a catch, he also housed a 51-yard sweep midway through the second quarter.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba was again the team's leading receiver, catching nine of 10 balls thrown his way for 139 yards and a touchdown.

Chris Olave would have eclipsed the century mark as well, were it not for a shall we say "borderline" holding call against Jeremy Ruckert on a would-be touchdown pass. Olave finished the day with 85 yards receiving and a touchdown to his credit; he caught nine balls out of 16 targets.

Consider that if your third-best receiver is a sure first-round pick, it's pretty clear you have the best wide receiving corps in America and second place might not be that close.

Oh, and that's to say nothing of the fact that the Buckeyes were a hair's breadth from having a pair of 100-yard running backs in the game too. TreVeyon Henderson finished the day with 98 yards on the ground and a pair of touchdowns, while Miyan Williams finished the day with 117 yards averaging 8.4 per carry.

A week after not being able to get 100 yards rushing as a team, the Buckeyes looked like they could run the ball whenever and wherever they wanted, executing a variety of concepts that will give opposing defensive coordinators fits from now until January 2022. Credit to the Buckeye offensive line not only for paving the way but also for playing a far cleaner game than they have in recent weeks, showing a cohesion and ability to knock defenders off the ball that had been sorely lacking the past two weeks.

Helmet Stickers
  • C.J Stroud: What more could you want from a quarterback (let alone a redshirt freshman)?
  • Garrett Wilson: Stroud's favorite target proved he's one of the best in the business, averaging nearly 13 yards a catch and outrunning the entire Purdue defense on more than one occasion.
  • TreVeyon Henderson: He's fast, he's shifty, he's powerful. he averaged 7.5 yards a carry and reminded everyone that he's the real deal.


The Buckeyes set the tone on the very first series of the game, forcing Purdue to a three-and-out that gave Ohio State's offense incredible field position. It wasn't a flawless game by any stretch, but Purdue only found success on three of its seven first-half drives, and the Buckeyes held them to a field goal on one of those.

The team accounted for 69 total tackles, including five for loss. Although they did not get Boilermaker quarterback Aidan O'Connell to the turf, the Buckeyes did break up four passes and covered several more that kept the insurgent visitors from making big plays and narrowing the score.

Denzel Burke, Ronnie Hickman, Zach Harrison and Steele Chambers all had solid outings, and Jerron Cage once again recovered a fumble at a crucial moment in the game. That said, when you give up 481 yards of total offense, there's plenty to work on moving deeper into November.

What is remarkable about this Buckeye defense, however, is just how far they've come since Week Two. After the loss to Oregon, it was clear that the defense was a liability that no championship-caliber team could overcome, as evidenced by the fact that Ohio State accrued nearly 600 yards of total offense and still lost the game.

Since Matt Barnes took the sticks, the defense has gone from allowing 33 points per game to allowing just 17. The team is now up to No. 13 in the country in SP+ Defense; SP+, you may recall, is "a tempo- and opponent-adjusted measure of college football efficiency." This defense, then, is pretty darn efficient.

Ohio State also has the No. 1 offense in the country according to SP+, and the best special teams play the country, too. The defense is no longer the liability it was following the Oregon debacle when it was rated No. 39.

To put it succinctly, Ohio State held Purdue to just 17 points in the first half, when the game was still more or less in play. The two touchdowns they allowed after halftime were for all intents and purposes garbage-time points.

Have you ever seen a more profound in-season turnaround than what Barnes and Kerry Coombs have orchestrated this season? There are clear deficiencies yet that teams can exploit, but this presumes that the offense that does belongs to a team that can also stymie the most explosive offense in the country.

How many teams, in other words, can overcome a 45-17 halftime deficit?

Helmet Stickers
  • Denzel Burke: The true freshman kept Biletnikoff Award contender David Bell out of the endzone, and broke up at least one pass on the night. Bell crossed the 100-yard mark, but he was a relative non-factor.
  • Zach Harrison: Another solid outing; no sacks, but a pair of tackles for loss look good on the stat sheet.
  • Steele Chambers: Finally got the start, and recorded a pair of solo tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss.

Jim Tressel's Least Favorite Moment of the Game

President Tressel spent much of the morning training for a local Thanksgiving Day 5K and winterizing his lawn mower now that the first frost of the season has come and it's time to put the summer tools in storage for the season.

After sharpening his spare set of blades to clear his head, he spent an hour or so rehearsing for the third in his series of State of the University video addresses and pondering ways to turn around the university's flagging enrollment.

With a solid morning's work behind him and a nourishing luncheon of grilled cheese and tomato soup to replenish both mind and body ("There's very little wrong that a hearty bowl of soup can't solve," he said after the meal was through), Tressel settled into his favorite wingback chair to check in on the state of college football in the sport's most important month.

He rolled his eyes upon seeing that Alabama, ostensibly the No. 2 team in the country, was playing 1-9 New Mexico State this late in the season, and watched the last half of the Penn State game versus That Team Up North with mild interest.

"This Franklin kid has one foot out the door or will soon enough," Tressel told Ellen in disgust, marveling that a man paid that much to coach football could make so many questionable decisions in big games. When he saw on The Twitter that Franklin's teams have lost eight straight versus Top 10 opponents, he simply shook his head.

Then it was on to the main event, his beloved Buckeyes hosting the team that had defeated more highly-ranked teams than anyone this season, the Purdue Spoilermakers. Tressel has no shortage of respect for Purdue, and was intrigued by the matchup given the relative strengths of the two teams.

He liked what he saw from the Buckeyes early, on defense, and thanks to his successful quest to find inner peace was barely troubled at all when Purdue punter Jack Ansell shanked one of the shankiest shanks in the history of shanked shanks on the very first series of the game.

The Buckeye offense hummed right along, scoring early and often, and the Hall of Famer just knew he wasn't going to see any quality kicking this afternoon, what with Ohio State scoring touchdowns on its first six drives.

But then, it happened. Midway through the third quarter, with the game rapidly approaching the "commentators telling the life stories of the losing team's players" portion of a blowout, Ohio State stumbled. Stroud's couldn't complete a first-down pass to Olave, and Henderson was downed behind the line of scrimmage on second and 10 from Ohio State's 42.

When a completion to Olave on third and 11 went six yards to the 47 yard line, Tressel just knew Day was going to go for it. "Fourth and five at midfield? Of course he's going to go for it," the former coach thought.

Instead, the Wonder From Down Under Jesse Mirco trotted out on the field, and promptly boomed one 40 yards to pin the Boilermakers inside the 20.

"My word, that was beautiful," he said. "This is a complete game by a great team." He watched the rest of the game with a satisfied smile on his face; for one afternoon, at least, all was right with the world.

It Was Over When...

...Ohio State took a 45-17 lead into the locker room at halftime. Purdue would score a pair of touchdowns after the break, but Ohio State wasn't done scoring yet, either, and the visitors never threatened to narrow the margin. This one was over by intermission.

Up Next: Ohio State hosts No. 7 Michigan State at high noon, Saturday, Nov. 20. College Gameday will be on hand for a battle of one-loss top-10 conference foes.

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