Thomas Bradley / Campus editor
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Ohio State will need a miracle to qualify for the Big Ten Championship or BCS bowl games after its 26-23 overtime loss Saturday at Purdue.
With less than a minute left in regulation, a 13-yard touchdown pass by Braxton Miller thrust OSU back into the game it had spent trailing the Boilermakers. An extra-point kick was all that separated the Buckeyes from their third straight come-from-behind win — and a kicker who had converted each of his 28 attempts in the season lined up to try for No. 29, which would tip the scales and all but secure a 21-20 Buckeyes victory.
Purdue blocked the kick. The game went into overtime. And, the Boilermakers claimed a 26-23 victory with a 1-yard touchdown.
Miller’s game-tying touchdown pass to running back Jordan Hall and the following botched extra-point attempt dominated postgame discussion between media and players. It was the play that may prove to keep OSU out of Big Ten title contention.
To qualify for the Conference Championship, the Buckeyes must win their final two games against Penn State and Michigan. Should it accomplish that, OSU still would need a series of other cards to fall into place.
OSU would need Penn State to lose its remaining games against OSU and Wisconsin. And, to top it off, the Buckeyes would need Wisconsin to lose to Illinois on Saturday.
In their Saturday matchup at Purdue, the Buckeyes faced deficits of 10-0, 17-7 and 20-14; their only scores leading up to the final minute of regulation had come on a 34-yard touchdown catch by Hall and a 6-yard run by Miller. Hall’s second touchdown catch, with 55 seconds to play, appeared to have lifted the Buckeyes to victory.
“I thought the game was over after Hall’s touchdown,” said redshirt sophomore right guard Jack Mewhort.
“We knew we were going to score. We planned on scoring, kicking the extra point and getting out of here with a win,” said senior left tackle Mike Adams. “Obviously, that didn’t happen.”
But the Buckeyes weren’t discouraged after Purdue defensive tackle Bruce Gaston sent sophomore kicker Drew Basil’s kick fluttering into the end zone.
“That was a plus for us, tying the game up even after being down,” said OSU senior linebacker John Simon. “We knew we had to come into overtime and execute well and, unfortunately, we didn’t execute as well as we should have.”
After fifth-year senior quarterback Robert Marve reached for the goal line to score Purdue’s game-winning touchdown in overtime, his bench, along with many of the 43,334 fans in attendance at Ross-Ade Stadium, stormed the field.
The loss throws OSU back into a game of catchup in the Big Ten Leaders Division. The Buckeyes dropped to 6-4 overall, 3-3 in conference play. With a 5-1 conference record, Penn State remains No. 1 in the Leaders Division despite its 17-14 loss to Nebraska on Saturday. Wisconsin leapfrogged OSU in the divisional standings after its 43-13 win against Minnesota on Saturday, which improved its conference record to 4-2.
Adams said all the Buckeyes can do now is try to finish the season strong and give themselves something to be proud of.
“It’s about as bad as it gets,” he said of the loss.
Freshman linebacker Ryan Shazier hasn’t given up hope for an eventual Big Ten title.
“We got plenty more years to go,” said Shazier, who recorded seven tackles, one tackle for loss and a forced fumble against the Boilermakers. “We’re just going to do what we can to finish out strong.”
A solid finish would require a win against No. 21 Penn State on Saturday. The Nittany Lions will travel to Ohio Stadium without former coach Joe Paterno, whom the Penn State board of trustees fired Thursday. The game is scheduled to kick off at 3:30 p.m. at the ‘Shoe.
Simon, who has 11 tackles for loss in the Buckeyes’ past five games, said his team is focused solely on its next matchup.
“Penn State will be our only focus,” he said. “We just got to take it one game at a time; that’s all we can do.”