Buckeyes wary of trip to play Boilermakers
By RUSTY MILLER
AP Sports Writer
COLUMBUS — Ohio State interim coach Luke Fickell isn’t sure about the standings in his own Big Ten division.
He’s also is not certain what other teams around the country are up to.
Yet he knows that the Buckeyes are just 2-2 in their last four trips to West Lafayette, Ind. That fact is of prime importance since Ohio State (6-3, 3-2) rides a three-game winning streak into Ross-Ade Stadium to play the Boilermakers (4-5, 2-3) on Saturday.
“We’ve been pretty successful here in the last 10 years, as much as any program in the country,” Fickell said of the Buckeyes’ 94-21 record (not counting the 12-1 mark from last year vacated due to NCAA violations). “We’re 2-2 over there (at Purdue) in the last 10 years. If that’s not enough to open your eyes and make sure you understand …”
The Buckeyes are a touchdown favorite, but that hasn’t meant much in recent years.
In 2009, the seventh-ranked Buckeyes were unbeaten in conference play and Purdue was winless and stuck in a five-game slide. But the Boilermakers still pulled out a stunning 26-18 upset.
The night before, former Purdue quarterback Drew Brees had texted a message to the Boilermakers’ QB at the time, Joey Elliott: “Hey, go out there and shock the world.”
Elliott threw for 281 yards and two touchdowns in the win. It was a lethal setback for the Buckeyes, effectively taking them out of national title contention.
It’s a lesson for the current Buckeyes, who are still in the race to represent the Big Ten’s Leaders Division, tied for second with Wisconsin and two games back of Penn State (5-0).
But not all the players put a whole lot of stock in what happened in the past.
“Those things are in the back of people’s minds,” defensive back Tyler Moeller said of that ’09 defeat. “But you can’t really take into effect those things. It’s a different team this year. I get excited to play at stadiums and atmospheres like that. They have great crowds, they have great fans. I’m excited to go there. I’m excited to play there.”
In a year of NCAA suspensions and key injuries, the Buckeyes haven’t exactly been road warriors, either.
They are 1-2 away from home, losing at Miami 24-6 and at Nebraska 34-27 and winning at Illinois, 17-7.
“Whether you’re on the road, whether you’re at home, it’s about you,” Fickell said. “If we’re away, it’s on us to take the emotion away from the home team.”
Fickell usually declines to recall details from past games, saying he doesn’t dwell on such matters. But without prompting he quickly mentioned a couple of the problems Ohio State has had at Purdue.
“I remember we had five turnovers, dropped a punt down inside the 20-yard line. They hit a screen there to make it 23-7,” he said. “Do you want me to go through the whole game? I can remember every bad play that happened.”
He also referred to how the Buckeyes were unbeaten in 2002 and had to go to overtime to pull a narrow win out of the fire.
After the 2009 loss, then-Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor said the Buckeyes were flat.
“Every week, you have to fear the underdog,” he said. “And the underdog took care of us today.”
Fickell is trying to guard against another Buckeye uttering those words again on Saturday.
Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/rustymillerap .