Boilermakers' Orton had solid day -- except for two key fumbles
Posted: Saturday November 15, 2003 10:38PM; Updated: Saturday November 15, 2003 10:38PM
By Stewart Mandel, SI.com
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Considering the daunting circumstances -- playing in front of more than 105,000 at Ohio Stadium, on Ohio State's Senior Day, no less -- Purdue coach Joe Tiller couldn't have asked for much more from his quarterback.
Facing one of the nation's toughest defenses, Kyle Orton stood tall under pressure. One after another, he completed quick sideline passes to his receivers. Several times when his protection broke down, the junior turned in a big play with his feet.
He completed 27 of 47 throws for 249 yards and no interceptions while also running 11 times for 53 yards.
And yet, one single mistake by Orton proved to be the biggest play of the day for Ohio State in its 16-13 overtime victory Saturday.
As had been the case all day long, Purdue was dealing with awful field position when Orton took the snap on third-and-7 at his own 8-yard line with the score tied 6-6 early in the fourth quarter. As had also been the case all day long, Orton quickly found himself under pressure, with Buckeyes defensive linemen Will Smith and Tim Anderson bearing down on him near the end zone.
As Smith and Anderson got to Orton, the quarterback fumbled the ball, which backup defender Mike Kudla scooped up in the end zone to give Ohio State a 13-6 lead. Strangely, though, no one seems to know who caused the fumble.
"We knew we needed a big play, we needed a turnover," said Smith. "It just so happened that they said I knocked the ball out, and I hit the ball, but I didn't think I knocked it out."
"I'm not sure what happened to be quite honest with you," said Anderson. "I just bullrushed my guy. I don't know who got the ball out but somebody did, and we got it back."
The score proved to be pivotal because this was another one of those games where Ohio State's offense couldn't get in the end zone. QB Craig Krenzel had a decent day passing and tailback Lydell Ross burst for a couple big runs. But mostly, they bogged down before they even got in the red zone, managing only 15 first downs and going 4-of-17 on third-down conversions.
As it turned out, the Buckeyes would need the points, because late in the game Orton, in his finest moment, drove the Boilermakers 92 yards in eight plays to tie the score, completing four straight passes for 63 yards and gaining 18 on a run.
And yet even then, he almost cost his team the game again when he fumbled the snap on the Boilers' final possession of regulation, allowing the Buckeyes to take over at Purdue's 29. Orton got a reprieve on that one, with his team blocking Mike Nugent's 41-yard field goal attempt at the final gun.
Orton got one last chance to be the hero in overtime, completing a 12-yard pass to Taylor Stubblefield on third-and-11, but his next three attempts fell incomplete, and Ben Jones' 37-yard attempt to tie missed wide left.
"Throughout the game we had chances to make plays and pull away, but we just didn't do it," said Orton.
The Buckeyes' defense deserves much of the credit. Though they allowed a few more yards (355) than they're normally accustomed to, they stepped up time and again with big plays. Constantly picked-on cornerback Dustin Fox made 10 tackles and broke up four passes. Defensive linemen Smith and Darrion Scott constantly got into the backfield. And linebacker A.J. Hawk, though credited with only four tackles, seemed to be all over the field.
"Our defense is special," said Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel. "People come in with great plans against them and it's the game of their life to have a chance to play against out defense and our guys just keep fighting and keep fighting and believing in each other."