No. 2 Buckeyes still seeking improvement on trip to Purdue
Jeff Brohm sees all sorts of challenges in No. 2 Ohio State.
Purdue’s coach knows the Buckeyes are big and strong, capable of scoring dozens of points and of making life miserable for opponents.
Urban Meyer views his team quite differently. No, he won’t quibble with the impressive wins or the undefeated record but he knows Ohio State still needs to improve.
“We can play much better,” Meyer said. “As I made a comment to you many times, you enhance your strengths and work on your weaknesses. Every team has weaknesses, and there are some things we have to work on.”
It’s a scary thought.
The Buckeyes (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) are No. 2 nationally in total offense, No. 6 in scoring offense, No. 25 in scoring defense, tied for No. 13 in turnover margin and share the East Division lead with No. 6 Michigan. Quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. leads the nation with 28 touchdown passes.
And yet, around Columbus, Ohio, all the talk seems to be focused on a ground game that has not yet met the traditional standard. Brohm knows just how flawed such an assessment truly is.
“The thing that really impressed me the most about them is they have had a couple games that have been a little bit close and these guys just know how to win,” Brohm said. “They know how to find a way to win. They have a lot of history and tradition and it’s going to be a very tough matchup.”
The timing couldn’t be better for the Boilermakers (3-3, 2-1).
They’ve been building momentum since starting 0-3 and now find themselves back in the West Division title chase. Quarterback David Blough has played the finest football of his career since replacing the injured Elijah Sindelar, and the defense has started coming around, too.
It’s enough to gin up excitement in the fan base, prompt network executives to put Purdue in a rare nationally televised night-time slot and, yes, draw the attention of a two-time national champion coach.
“It’s a big road game, a team that is very good on film, obviously, and scoring a lot of points,” Meyer said. “We’ve got to get some guys healthy and get ready to go.”
WORK IN PROGRESS
Ohio State’s defense is banged up and surrendering some big plays, suggesting there is a weak link. Meyer is not overreacting to the chatter about any problems.
“We held (Minnesota) without scoring for the better part of three quarters, and had three turnovers and three sacks,” he said. “I see what you see, as well. We expect them to be snuffed out. But this will be a big challenge this week. That’s what we do all day (during the week) is just constant evaluation.”
Defensive end Jonathan Cooper and starting linebacker Malik Harrison are both expected to return this weekend after going into the concussion protocol following the Indiana game earlier this month. Starting defensive tackle Robert Landers is probable with an undisclosed injury and cornerback Damon Arnette is listed as questionable after getting hurt against Penn State.
The Boilermakers have won three straight for the second straight year under Brohm, marking the first time Purdue has achieved that feat since the late Joe Tiller won eight in a row — the last three of the 2006 season and the first five in 2007. Purdue’s streak includes its only upset of a ranked opponent in its last 20 games and back-to-back road wins, at Nebraska and Illinois. The Buckeyes, meanwhile, will be the highest ranked foe to visit Ross-Ade Stadium since then No. 2 Penn State won 31-25 against the Drew Brees-led Boilermakers on Oct. 23, 1999.
LIFE WITHOUT BOSA
The glimmer of hope that Nick Bosa would return from injury this season was snuffed out when the All-American defensive end announced this week he’s leaving school to prepare for the NFL draft. Bosa hasn’t played in more than a month, since tearing a lower abdominal muscle.
“We’ve been without him for so long, we’ve adapted to it, we’re used to it, we’ve adjusted,” defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones said. “We wish he were here just to have him around to hang out, but that’s how it goes. He decided to leave. That’s real life.”
Associated Press Sports Writer Mitch Stacy in Columbus, Ohio, also contributed to this report.