Sunday, October 10, 1999

Ohio State 25, Purdue 22

Emotional Buckeyes make up deficit

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COLUMBUS — On a miserable day, Ohio State may have saved itself from a miserable season.

        Battered and berated in their lackluster 3-2 start to the season, the 21st-ranked Buckeyes on Saturday showed the kind of determination they'd been lacking, fighting back to beat No.17 Purdue 25-22 on a sloppy Ohio Stadium field saturated by a constant rain.

        Tailback Jonathan Wells' 2-yard touchdown run with 5:13 to play brought OSU from a 22-17 deficit to a late lead, and defensive end Brent Johnson sealed the win with a dramatic block of what would have been the game-tying field goal with less than a minute remaining.

        “We're not the most talented team we've had, but the one thing we did is for 60 minutes we fought, and that's what I'm proud of,” OSU coach John Cooper said.

        A loss could have killed the Buckeyes' bowl hopes. Instead, the victory renewed their hope in themselves.

        “I don't know if it had to be dramatic,” said junior linebacker Na'il Diggs, “but we had to come out and have a win. Period.”

        “It was huge. It's really a benchmark for this team,” senior offensive tackle Tyson Walter said. “Hopefully, it's a sign of things to come. It's a real eye-opening game. We showed a lot of heart.”

        The Buckeyes fumbled the slippery ball twice on their decisive scoring drive, one each from tailbacks Wells and Michael Wiley, yet recovered both.

        The emotional tide, which appeared to swing back to Purdue as quarterback Drew Brees marched the Boilermakers down the field in the dwindling minutes, then catapulted back to Ohio State when Johnson leapt in front of Purdue kicker Travis Dorsch's 29-yard field goal attempt and stuck his right forearm on the ball, sending it to the ground and Ohio State into celebration.

        “I was desperately flailing, but I knew we had to do something. We had to step up,” said Johnson, displaying a welt from the ball. “I got my hands up. It just happened. The whole line got good penetration.”

        “To fight 60 minutes, fighting and clawing and scratching, you can't describe that feeling,” senior cornerback Ahmed Plummer said. “You go through so many emotional changes, but when you get that high, it's undescribable.”

        It was a gutty performance Ohio State (4-2, 1-1 Big Ten) had not yet mustered this season. OSU was blown over in losses to Miami and Wisconsin and seemed to sleepwalk through uninspiring wins over Ohio and Cincinnati. But Saturday, the Buckeyes finally seemed to accept that their moderate talent meant they needed an all-out effort, and they got it.

        “Absolutely, we're going to have to have a fanatical effort every game, and our team knows it,” Cooper said. “I wish we could go out and dominate from the get-go, but we're not the mature and polished football team we have been.”

        The Bucks held Brees (24-of-39 for 205 yards), a Heisman Trophy hopeful, without a touchdown pass for the first time in his 19-game career as a starter. They gave up 153 rushing yards to unheralded tailback Montrell Lowe and allowed Purdue to push from its own 20 to the OSU 12 on the Boilers' final drive. But they made the critical stop on third-and-2 as cornerback Nate Clements batted away a Brees pass to make the field goal try necessary.

        OSU struggled offensively at times. Sophomore quarterback Steve Bellisari severely underthrew receivers at key moments and gift-wrapped an interception to set up the go-ahead Purdue score. But the Buckeyes marched 13 plays and 76 yards on their fourth-quarter drive, converting the crucial plays at the crucial moments: Bellisari's 9-yard scramble on a fourth-down quarterback sneak and Wells' 2-yard scamper two plays later for the lead.

        “We couldn't just roll over there. I knew we had to get something started,” said Bellisari (10-of-26 for 174 yards passing, 17 carries for 96 yards rushing). “I could look in the guys' eyes, and I knew we were going to score. We were going to win the game. I know we've had (that look), but today it was real evident.”

        Purdue ....... 7 6 0 9—22

        Ohio St. ....... 7 0 10 8—25

        First Quarter

        OSU—Combs 5 run (Stultz kick), 12:15

        Pur—Brees 12 pass from Sutherland (Dorsch kick), 8:03

        Second Quarter

        Pur—FG Dorsch 40, 12:43

        Pur—FG Dorsch 32, :59

        Third Quarter

        OSU—Sanders 7 pass from Wiley (Stultz kick), 8:45

        OSU—FG Stultz 45, 4:24

        Fourth Quarter

        Pur—FG Dorsch 22, 14:10

        Pur—Lowe 5 run (pass failed), 13:42

        OSU—Wells 2 run (Wiley run), 5:13


        Purdue OSU        

First downs ....... 21   19

        Rushes-yards ....... 30-163  38-188

        Passing ....... 217   181

        Comp-Att-Int ....... 25-40-0  11-27-2

        Return Yards ....... 146   153

        Punts-Avg. ....... 5-39.8  4-43.8

        Fumbles-Lost ....... 3-1   3-1

        Penalties-Yards ....... 12-86   7-62

        Time of Possession ....... 34:07   25:53


        RUSHING—Purdue, Lowe 25-153, Brees 3-8, Brown 1-2, Sutherland 1-0. Ohio St., Bellisari 17-96, Wiley 8-67, Combs 6-17, Wells 5-9, Martin 1-1, Team 1-(minus 2).

        PASSING—Purdue, Brees 24-39-0-205, Sutherland 1-1-0-12. Ohio St., Bellisari 10-26-2-174, Wiley 1-1-0-7.

        RECEIVING—Purdue, Daniels 11-76, Stratton 5-70, Lane 3-14, Tolbert 2-12, James 2-8, Brown 1-25, Brees 1-12. Ohio St., Germany 3-68, Rambo 3-61, Wiley 2-34, Sanders 1-7, Houser 1-6, Martin 1-5.



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