WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana (Ticker) -- Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said quarterback Craig Krenzel one day would be needed to step up and win a big game for the Buckeyes.
Krenzel picked the most dramatic time to do just that, lofting a 37-yard touchdown pass to Michael Jenkins with 1:36 left as third-ranked Ohio State remained unbeaten with a 10-6 victory over Purdue in the Big Ten Conference.
"He did what was really crucial. He stepped up, slid forward and and gave Mike Jenkins that extra time to get separation," Tressel said.
Ohio State (11-0, 6-0) has won its first 11 games for the first time since 1995 and remained in the chase for the national title despite playing a good portion of the game without Maurice Clarett.
The star tailback carried 14 times for 52 yards and left early in the third quarter with a shoulder stinger that forced him to miss last week's game with Minnesota.
Purdue (4-6, 2-4) had taken a 6-3 lead on a 21-yard field goal by Berin Lacevic with 7:50 left and seemed poised to complete the huge upset.
But the Buckeyes used a big pass from Krenzel and a controversial field goal late in the second quarter to escape with a win.
Krenzel saved the day on 4th-and-1 from the 37. Expecting a run from the normally cautious Buckeyes, Purdue blitzed several players. But Krenzel stepped up in the pocket and tossed a perfect pass on the run to Jenkins, who beat Antwaun Rogers in man-to-man coverage.
"Purdue's defense seemed to think that we were running," Krenzel said. "I would probably think that on 4th-and-1. I was throwing into the wind. Fortunately our offense stepped up, I stepped into the pass and it floated over his shoulder."
The Buckeyes, who are second in the latest BCS poll, remained in contention for a bid to the Fiesta Bowl. The Buckeyes close the regular season with games at Illinois and at home against Michigan.
"We kept hanging in there, plugging away," Tressel said. "And we always talk about about the fact that if we keep banging, something good is going to happen."
Krenzel completed 13-of-20 passes for 173 yards. Jenkins caught five passes for 87 yards and also blocked a punt late in the third quarter.
Cornerback Chris Gamble picked off Kyle Orton for his team-high fourth interception of the season pass minutes later to seal the win. Gamble started at wide receiver and cornerback for the third straight game and caught three passes for 51 yards.
Purdue had moved into position for the go-ahead field goal midway through the fourth quarter on a 58-yard pass from freshman Brandon Kirsch to Ray Williams. It was the longest play from scrimmage against the Buckeyes this season.
"We didn't run too well and didn't pass like we expected to, but we came away with a victory," Ohio State tailback Maurice Hall said.
Purdue kept it a low-scoring game, but lost for the fourth time in five games.
"This may or may not be hard to believe, but the game played out exactly as we hoped," coach Joe Tiller said. "Ohio State has the best defense in the Big Ten and one of the best in the nation, so we just wanted to be in position to win the game in the fourth quarter."
Interceptions led to both first-half scores.
Purdue linebacker Niko Koutouvides picked off Krenzel and returned it 21 yards to the Ohio State 23, leading to a 21-yard field goal by Lacevic with 42 seconds left in the first quarter.
Lacevic missed on a 36-yard attempt early in the second.
Later in the period, Ohio State linebacker Matt Wilhelm intercepted Orton at the Purdue 41. Krenzel had a 15-yard run and later scrambled for seven yards to the Purdue 5.
Ohio State barely got its field goal unit on the field in time and Mike Nugent kicked a 21-yarder as time expired to make it 3-3 at halftime. Tiller argued to no avail that time expired before the kick.
Nugent has made all 21 of his field-goal attempts this season and a school-record 22 straight, dating to last season.
Orton finished 18-of-28 for 169 yards with three interceptions. Kirsch was 9-of-11 for 116 yards.