WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Junior running back Jordan Hall’s two touchdown receptions in Ohio State’s 26-23 overtime loss to Purdue on Saturday were his first two of the season.
But it wasn’t supposed to be that way.
During spring practice, Hall was being used as a primary target in the passing game, often lining up as a slot receiver or catching passes out of the backfield. Many thought Hall, who ESPN NFL analyst Jon Gruden called OSU’s best player during a spring visit with the team, would be used to help offset what the coaches considered a very young and inexperienced receiving core.
Former OSU coach Jim Tressel said that it was known the team was thin at the wide receiver position before the start of spring practice.
With injuries, suspensions and a freshman quarterback, OSU has produced only 117.1 yards passing per game, which is ranked 117th nationally out of the 120 FBS teams.
Hall had just two receptions for 12 yards heading into Saturday’s game, and it appeared the OSU coaching staff had abandoned its original plan to incorporate him into the passing game. But Hall exploded for three receptions for 58 yards and two touchdowns Saturday against the Boilermakers and seemed an integral part in the OSU game plan. He totaled 150 all-purpose yards and provided a spark for the Buckeyes offense all day.
Hall’s first touchdown catch came with 11:42 remaining in the second quarter when OSU trailed, 10-0. OSU hadn’t had much success moving the ball, but on a third-and-10, Hall caught freshman quarterback Braxton Miller’s pass, eluded two Purdue defenders and ran 38 yards into the end zone to put the Buckeyes on the board. It was OSU’s only score of the first half.
His second touchdown catch came with just 55 seconds remaining in the game and tied the score at 20. Hall escaped out of the backfield, caught an unbalanced throw from Miller across the field, and fell into the end zone.
“I was blocking the edge on the play and I told (Miller) if you scramble I was going to leak out,” Hall said. “He scrambled and I raised my hands and he threw it into that spot.”
Redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Jack Mewhort said he wasn’t surprised Hall was able to make a play in a big moment.
“I saw Jordan grab it,” Mewhort said. “The kid’s a playmaker. I ran over there and gave him a big hug. It was the best thing ever.”
The excitement was short-lived.
A blocked extra point kept the game tied and sent the contest into overtime, and a 1-yard touchdown run by Purdue senior quarterback Robert Marve ended the game and sent the Buckeyes home with a loss.
Next on OSU’s schedule is Penn State. Kickoff is set for Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Ohio Stadium.