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Football: Depleted Ohio State defense to be tested by Purdue

Ryan Day is never satisfied.

Even though the Ohio State offense averages 46.3 points per game and 556.9 yards of offense per game, both of which lead the Big Ten, the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach sees where the unit can improve as a whole.

“It’s a good problem to have when you are putting up that kind of production and you still don’t feel you have maxed out yet,” Day said. “I think that is a good thing though because we are still hungry. We are still trying to figure out how we can maximize everyone on the field.”

However, heading into the Buckeyes’ next game of the season, the explosiveness of the Ohio State offense will not be unique.

No. 2 Ohio State (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) will face Purdue (3-3, 2-1 Big Ten) on Saturday at 7:30 p.m., the only other offense in the Big Ten that averages over 500 yards of offense per game and is No. 2 behind the Buckeyes, averaging 330.8 passing yards per game with quarterbacks completing 66.8 percent of passes.

The pass-friendly Boilermaker offense is led by a quarterback who has a lot of collegiate experience: redshirt senior David Blough. In the first six games of the season, Blough has completed 68.4 percent of his attempts for an average of 282.5 passing yards per game. Not much of a threat on the ground, he has also thrown 10 passing touchdowns with two interceptions.

Blough’s stats are helped by the fact that he has one of the more dynamic playmakers in the Big Ten to throw to.

In six games, freshman wide receiver Rondale Moore has been explosive, leading Purdue with 45 receptions, 25 more than the second-leading receiver, and 558 yards, averaging 93 yards per game.

Defensive coordinator Greg Schiano described Moore as a quick and productive receiver in the Boilermaker offense, highlighting his ability to change direction and use his speed in the open space.

With the combination of Blough and Moore, and considering redshirt senior running back D.J. Knox, who has averaged 6.2 yards per rush and averages 90 yards per game, Schiano said the Purdue offense will be a challenge in many different ways.

“Schematically, they use a ton of different personnel groups and then, schematically, they also do a lot of formations, they do a lot of trick plays,” Schiano said. “They make you dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t.’ That’s the kind of outfit they are.”  

For the Ohio State defense, many of the storylines from the Buckeyes’ 30-14 win over Minnesota on Saturday have been about the players not on the field.

Ohio State had five defensive starters miss a significant amount of time in the win over the Golden Gophers. Head coach Urban Meyer said Monday junior linebacker Malik Harrison and junior defensive end Jonathon Cooper are back with the team after staying sidelined amid concussion protocol. Meyer also said redshirt junior defensive lineman Robert Landers is probable after battling an undisclosed injury.

Ohio State will also be without junior All-American defensive end Nick Bosa for the rest of the season, when it was announced he would be withdrawing from the university to rehab his core muscle injury suffered against TCU on Sept. 15 and prepare for the 2019 NFL Draft.

However, with the struggles the secondary has had over the first seven games, Ohio State could be missing one of its key contributors on Saturday.

After suffering an injury against the Golden Gophers on Saturday, redshirt junior cornerback Damon Arnette is questionable heading into the Purdue game, with Schiano saying his status is “up in the air.”

With the offense Purdue runs, Schiano said this loss for Ohio State could prove to be huge.

“It would be big,” Schiano said. “We are getting thinned out a little bit back there and we weren’t overly experienced to start with. And they’re going to throw the ball, that’s for sure.”

Even if Arnette is not in the lineup, the Ohio State defense comes into its game against Purdue banged up and knowing its main leader on the defensive line will not be back.

This gives Schiano a chance to play players who may not have the experience of an Arnette or a Bosa, something that he wishes he did not have to do.

“You get experience because you play through it and the thing that we as coaches have to do is make sure that we don’t make the same mistakes twice, and we have done that a couple of times,” Schiano said. “As long as they are making different mistakes, eventually you run out of the big ones.”

Even though Ohio State is facing a team with three losses this season, the Buckeye defense has this game circled around the calendar.

“We know it’s a big challenge,” junior safety Jordan Fuller said. “Night game, primetime against a team that’s putting up a lot of points. It’s a big challenge.”  

Prediction

Ohio State’s success against Purdue on Saturday comes down to one question: Will the Ohio State defense be able to stop Purdue’s pass offense one or two times?

The Boilermakers and the Buckeyes bring the only two offenses in the Big Ten that average over 500 yards of offense per game. The Purdue offense, with Blough and Moore at the helm, has shown its affinity to beat opponents in the passing game.

It’s a clear mismatch for Ohio State, the strength of the Purdue pass offense compared to weakness of the Buckeye secondary that has plagued the team all season.

However, based on talent alone, Ohio State should be able to get the win anyways.

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins has thrown for over 400 yards passing in each of the past two games, becoming the only quarterback in Ohio State history to record 400 yards passing in two games in his career.

With the inability of the running game, with both sophomore J.K. Dobbins and redshirt junior Mike Weber averaging career lows in yards per carry, Haskins has carried the Ohio State offense, carrying Ohio State to seven straight wins to start the season.

Ohio State and Purdue have been two of the most explosive offenses in the Big Ten all season. The team that wins will be the defense that is able to stop an explosive offense first, and, based on the talent on Ohio State’s defense, it should be the Buckeyes.

Wyatt Crosher: 45-31 Ohio State

Colin Gay: 49-42 Ohio State

Edward Sutelan: 49-35 Ohio State

Rachel Bules: 31-17 Ohio State

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