Work in Sports
WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana (Ticker) -- Drew Brees and Purdue are smelling roses.
Brees threw a 64-yard touchdown pass to Seth Morales with 1:55 remaining as the 16th-ranked Boilermakers moved closer to their first Rose Bowl appearance in 34 years with a pivotal 31-27 Big Ten Conference victory over No. 13 Ohio State.
Purdue (7-2, 5-1 Big Ten) overcame a huge hurdle today and can clinch its first trip to Pasadena since 1966 by winning its final two games against Michigan State and Indiana.
The Boilermakers moved into sole possession of first place, one-half game ahead of idle Michigan. However, they defeated the Wolverines, 32-31, on October 7 and own the tiebreaker edge. Purdue only conference defeat came to Penn State, which is not in the race.
Ohio State (6-2, 3-2) dropped 1 1/2 games behind Purdue, virtually ending its Rose Bowl hopes.
Just moments before Hollins' winning touchdown, Brees tossed his fourth interception and it appeared the untimely mistake would cost the Boilermakers the victory.
Michael Doss returned the interception to the Purdue 2, setting up Jerry Westbrooks' two-yard touchdown run on third down that gave Ohio State a 27-24 lead with 2:16 left.
But Brees shook it off, hitting Morales for the winning score just two plays later. Purdue sealed perhaps its biggest win in 34 years when linebacker Landon Johnson recovered a fumble on Ohio State's ensuing possession.
"I knew we would get another chance because if they scored, we were going into the two-minute drill," Brees said. "I stepped into the huddle and told the guys this is the way it is supposed to be."
"I didn't know it would happen like it did, but it happened, didn't it?," Brees continued. It's hard not to think about the mistakes, but I guess I redeemed myself."
Following the victory, delirious Purdue fans stormed the field and tore down the goalposts at Ross-Ade Stadium. A banner summed up the feelings of the Boilermakers' supporters: "Hey, Pasadena -- A Strong Brees Is Coming."
Purdue coach Joe Tiller recalled Purdue's 31-25 loss to Penn State last season, when the Boilermakers could not score after getting four cracks from the 12 in the final minute.
"It's as though we had to beat them twice," Tiller said. "I have to admit I had visions of Penn State from a year ago but our guy (Brees) came back and made a big play."
"He's got my vote for the Heisman, that's for sure," Ohio State quarterback Steve Bellisari added. "He's a great quarterback and a great competitor."
Brees rallied Purdue to 21 fourth-quarter points, completing 39-of-65 passes for 455 yards and three touchdowns. Ohio State had been the only team against whom he had not thrown a TD pass.
"I don't care if we throw it 50 times, 60 times or 70 times," Tiller said. "We're going to do whetever it takes to win. As long as you throw the football, you have a chance to win any game."
Nate Clements' 84-yard punt return had given the Buckeyes a 20-10 lead with 1:53 left in the third quarter.
Brees fired TD passes of five yards to John Standeford and 19 yards to Vinny Sutherland in the first nine minutes of the final period to give the Boilermakers a 24-20 lead.
Purdue had three receivers with at least 100 yards. Tight end Tim Stratton grabbed 12 receptions for 100 yards, Sutherland 10 for 142 yards, and Morales seven for 115 yards.
The Buckeyes came in to the game leading the Big Ten in total defense, but could not slow down Purdue's high-powered attack, getting outgained, 486-278.
"Coming into this game, if we knew Drew Brees was going to throw four interceptions, we think that we win the game," Doss said.
Brees actually prevented a touchdown on Doss' return, knocking him out of bounds on the 2. Three plays later Westbrooks gave Ohio State a lead that lasted just 21 seconds.
"This is the reason I came to Purdue, to play in the Big Ten and because of games like this one," Boilermakers defensive end Akin Ayodele said. "To play a team like Ohio State and have a chance to win a conference championship is what I wanted. I also wanted to win this for Drew, Brandon (Gorin), Vinny and the other seniors."
After one incompletion, a wide-open Morales got behind the Ohio State secondary and caught the ball on the fly, then raced untouched to the end zone.
"It was a great play on Drew Brees' part," Ohio State coach John Cooper said. "We were playing a zone and they broke the coverage. I'm disappointed we allowed him come back and win the ballgame. We can't let them get the big plays."
Bellisari completed 17-of-29 yards for 208 yards for Ohio State, but was sacked four times and did not throw any TD passes. Derek Combs rushed for 73 yards on 14 carries for the Buckeyes.