WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Ohio State’s defense shoved the Buckeyes into the national championship picture on Saturday night.
The fourth-ranked Buckeyes shut down one of the nation’s highest-scoring teams in a 23-7 win over No. 23 Purdue. The Boilermakers had averaged 45 points and 496 yards per game, but Ohio State held them to 272 total yards.
“I didn’t think that their offense had seen a defense like ours,” Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. “But still, it was their place, it was a big game, and they were all fifth-year seniors that have played against everything. Our guys did a great job.”
It was Ohio State’s first win over a ranked team this season, but the Buckeyes (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) were more concerned with maintaining their conference lead.
“If we keep winning, then the rankings will take care of themselves,” quarterback Todd Boeckman said. “If we win the Big Ten, we know we’re going to have a shot at the national championship.”
Purdue (5-1, 1-1) ran for just 4 yards on 17 attempts, and Jared Armstrong tied a school record with 12 punts. Ohio State gave up the shutout with 10 seconds left when Jeff Lindsay caught a 1-yard touchdown pass from Curtis Painter.
“I’d be lying if I wasn’t upset we didn’t put up the big zero,” Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis said. “Overall, to control that offense, you know you’ve done something OK.”
Painter, who had averaged more than 300 passing yards in his first five games, finished with 268. Much of that was gained in the fourth quarter against Buckeye reserves.
Purdue coach Joe Tiller said his offense was out of synch all night. Painter was sacked three times and rushed consistently after he was barely touched his first five games.
“We tried to come after him with an attacking mentality,” Laurinaitis said. “We thought teams hadn’t done a good job of getting pressure on him and getting after him.”
Purdue tight end Dustin Keller caught seven passes for 101 yards and Greg Orton caught 10 for 91.
Purdue’s Dorien Bryant, who had been one of the nation’s leaders in receptions, had the worst game of his career with two catches for minus-4 yards.
Keller said there were no answers.
“Each week, we’ll usually find something weak in the opponent’s defense and just keep attacking and attacking,” he said. “They’re a really strong defense across the board. There’s no weakness there.”
Ohio State had no such problems on offense. Boeckman passed for 200 yards and two touchdowns, Chris Wells ran for 85 yards on 18 carries and Ryan Pretorius made all three of his field goal attempts.
The previous three meetings between the teams had been decided by a touchdown or less, but this game wasn’t close from the start.
Ohio State stopped Purdue to start the game, then scored on its first possession. Boeckman threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Ray Small to finish a nine-play, 87-yard drive that gave the Buckeyes a 7-0 lead.
The Buckeyes forced a three-and-out, then took over at the Purdue 43 after a poor punt. Five plays later, Boeckman threw his second touchdown pass of the opening quarter, a 6-yarder to Brian Hartline.
Pretorius kicked a 44-yard field goal early in the second quarter to stretch the lead to 17-0.
Purdue’s defense tried to keep the Boilermakers in the game early in the second half. Brandon King intercepted Boeckman at the Purdue 28 on a play that was reviewed and reversed. On Ohio State’s next possession, Purdue’s David Pender intercepted Boeckman at the Purdue 2.
Purdue failed to take advantage, and Pretorius kicked a 39-yard field goal with 7:43 left in the third quarter that increased Ohio State’s lead to 20-0. He added a 23-yarder at the beginning of fourth.
The defense allowed Boeckman to get away with throwing three interceptions.
“They’re something else,” Boeckman said. “It’s nice when you go out there and they’re shutting them out the whole game. They’re a great defense, and it’s nice to have around your back.”