Mistakes could determine Purdue-Ohio St winner

Oct 16, 2009 - 7:01 AM By CLIFF BRUNT AP Sports Writer

INDIANAPOLIS(AP) -- Ohio State gained just 184 yards last week, yet the Buckeyes beat Wisconsin 31-13 because they returned two interceptions and a kickoff for touchdowns.

Purdue gained 402 yards last week, but Minnesota beat the Boilermakers 35-20 after taking advantage of Purdue's miscues and returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown.

Those scenarios offer a synopsis of each team's season.

Seventh-ranked Ohio State (5-1, 3-0 Big Ten) sometimes struggles on offense but plays dominant defense, forces enough turnovers and makes enough big plays to win. Purdue (1-5, 0-2) moves the ball almost at will, but makes critical mistakes and finds ways to lose. These two teams meet on Saturday, fully aware that the gap in their talent levels isn't nearly as significant as their flip-flopped records.

"They're definitely better than their record indicates," Ohio State linebacker Ross Homan said. "They're a great team. You watch film on these guys and they're attacking and making plays and getting scores and getting points. They're in every game. They could be undefeated, easily, but it's just how their record has played out."

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said he is preparing his team for a tough game. A loss to the Boilermakers likely would kill the team's outside shot at a national championship.

"If Purdue doesn't have a turnover here or a turnover there or a special teams problem here or there, who knows what their record is?" he said. "We've got to make sure that we attack this challenge the same way you do any other and that's simply by film study."

A win for the Buckeyes would be their 17th straight conference road win, which would tie the Big Ten record. Ohio State has won the past two meetings in the series and Purdue hasn't beaten a ranked team since 2003.

Still, Purdue has been strong against its toughest opponents this season. The Boilermakers lost 38-36 at Oregon and 24-21 at home against Notre Dame.

Purdue took a 10-0 lead against Minnesota last week before imploding. Two turnovers led to two Minnesota touchdowns, and the Golden Gophers led 35-13 at the end of the third quarter.

The Boilermakers have been making those kinds of mistakes all season. They are last in the Big Ten and 115th out of 120 teams nationally with a minus-1.5 average turnover ratio. The team's five losses are by a combined 33 points.

"We've had a series of events that have really killed our football team, and it's cost us the win, and it's happened in the second or third quarter," Purdue coach Danny Hope said.

Ohio State is concerned about its 86th-ranked offense. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor completed just 5 of 13 passes for 87 yards and ran 10 times for 35 yards against Wisconsin. Tressel wants more from Pryor, but he said his quarterback is doing what matters most - leading the Buckeyes to victories.

"I don't think Terrelle would enjoy rushing for 110 and throwing for 300 and being 1-5, being 2-4," Tressel said. "I don't think that would interest him. Here's what would interest all of us, run for 110, throw for 250 and be 6-0. That's what the second half of the season goal is, and we'll see if we can go after it."

Ohio State running back Dan Herron is expected to miss the game with an undisclosed injury. He has rushed for 241 yards and five touchdowns this season. Brandon Saine, who has rushed for 349 yards and 5.5 yards per carry, is expected to start.

The Buckeyes might be able to get things going against Purdue. The Boilermakers rank 76th in total defense and 99th in scoring defense.

Purdue quarterback Joey Elliott leads the Big Ten in yards passing per game, touchdown passes and total offense. His top receiver is Keith Smith, whose totals of 42 catches and 585 yards are second in the Big Ten. Aaron Valentin, Purdue's top outside threat, has five touchdown receptions and leads the conference in all-purpose yards.

Ralph Bolden is second in the Big Ten with 599 yards.

The Boilermakers will play their toughest defensive opponent yet. The Buckeyes rank seventh nationally in scoring defense and 11th in total defense.

"They are really good at everything," Hope said. "They are a physical football team, they are very fast, and their linebackers are exceptional about getting off the block."

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