WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Some reputations change, others don’t.
For the second game in a row, Ohio State’s often-criticized defense took another step forward when the No. 4 Buckeyes beat Purdue 56-0 on Saturday.
And Purdue? Well, the Boilermakers (1-7, 0-4 Big Ten) were exactly what their reputation said they were.
Ohio State (9-0, 5-0 Big Ten) stretched its winning streak to 21 games in a game that was for all practical purposes over after the first 3 ½ minutes.
Purdue, which hasn’t won since Sept. 7, aided and abetted its own abrupt demise in the first few minutes of the game.
Ohio State went up 14-0 in a hurry when Purdue freshman quarterback Danny Etling threw a pick six to Doran Grant in the game’s first minute, the Boilermakers’ nationally ranked punter shanked a 15-yarder and their defense left OSU tight end Jeff Heuerman all by himself on a 40-yard touchdown pass from Braxton Miller.
OSU led 28-0 after one quarter and was up 42-0 at halftime. Any talk of a repeat of Ohio State losses in Ross-Ade Stadium in 2011 and 2009 and an overtime win last year in Columbus were swept away in a torrent of points and defensive pressure.
Ohio State’s momentum – and the continued rehabilitation of the defense’s reputation – started with Grant’s interception, just like an early interception by Corey Brown helped set the tone in OSU’s 63-14 win over Penn State last week.
“It meant a lot to me but it meant a whole lot more to the team. It was great momentum. It got the team going,” Grant said.
Purdue coach Darrell Hazell, a former Ohio State assistant, said, “Anytime you go out and play a good football team, you can’t spot them the way we did.
“You can’t throw interceptions for touchdowns. We came back in the second series and shanked a punt. We talked all week long about getting off to a good start and we did just the opposite,” he said.
Miller completed 19 of 23 passes for 233 yards and matched his career high with four touchdown passes. Carlos Hyde rushed for 111 yards on eight carries and Heuerman had a career day with five catches for 116 yards and a touchdown.
He became the first Ohio State tight end to have 100 yards or more receiving since Rickey Dudley in 1996.
When Ohio State pulled almost all of its starters early in the second half, Kenny Guiton came on to complete 8 of 11 passes, including a touchdown pass, and rush for 98 yards and two scores.
Ohio State’s 640 yards total offense was the second game in a row it crossed the 600-yard mark.
Miller has completed 79 percent of his passes in the last three games and has hit 72 percent for the season.
“The last two games against Purdue haven’t been pretty. We knew we had to come in and make a statement with our win,” Heuerman said. “It’s a big thing we talked about all week.”
Miller said the openings Heuerman found in Purdue’s defense were evident in films of the Boilermakers defense. “It was a perfect defense for Jeff,” he said.
OSU coach Urban Meyer said he’s seeing a different Heuerman than he saw earlier this season.
“Early in the season Jeff wasn’t playing like he is now. He’s playing at a much higher level than he was the first five games,” Meyer said.
Meyer was even happier to see a different pass defense than he saw earlier in the season.
“Anytime we play pass defense like that we have a chance to be really good,” Meyer said.
“Doran Grant with the pass interception, that’s a sign we’re playing better pass defense. The most positive sign is we’ve taken a weakness, pass defense, and I don’t want to say it’s a strength yet, but it’s much improved,” he said.
Purdue, the lowest-scoring offense in the Big Ten, gained only 116 yards total. Etling was 13 of 29 for 89 yards, with an interception, and he was sacked six times.