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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Four quarters weren't enough to make it happen, but the Ohio State football team stilled pulled off its most improbable win of the season on Saturday, with a 29-22 victory over Purdue. After the game, Buckeyes players and coaches discussed the win, which saw a backup quarterback lead an final minute drive and complete a two-point conversion, before finally winning the game after one series of extra play.
Trailing by eight points, with no timeouts left, and 47 seconds remaining in the game, OSU quarterback Kenny Guiton led the Buckeyes 61 yards for what would prove to be the game-tying touchdown, which was capped off with a two-yard pass to wide receiver Chris Fields with three seconds left in regulation.
"After that catch, I think I told (Fields) 'thank you' a million times," Guiton said. "Once I saw his hands under the ball, I knew he had it."
Guiton, however, didn't officially tie the game for the Buckeyes until the ensuing two-point conversion attempt. That's when the OSU backup quarterback lobbed a pass in the direction of tight end Jeff Heuerman, who completed the catch to keep the Buckeyes' undefeated season alive.
"It's a delay play. The tight end blocks and then releases. It's hard for the defense to recognize and it works almost every time in practice," Heuerman said. "Thankfully it also worked today."
Numbers don't lie
After a first half effort that saw the Buckeyes only gain 101 yards on 31 plays, OSU's offense got clicking after halftime, gaining 241 yards in the team's come-from-behind effort. Most of those yards and subsequent points came after the Buckeyes lost quarterback Braxton Miller and wide receiver Corey Brown to injuries that held them out of the remainder of the game.
"When Braxton went down it was detrimental to our offense, but we knew Kenny would step up because he knows plays and can come in and execute just like Braxton," OSU running back Carlos Hyde said. "He works so hard to get his chance to play is great."
Much like its offensive counterpart, the OSU defense also shored up in the second half, bouncing back from a first half effort that saw the Buckeyes surrender 182 yards, only allowing the Boilermakers to gain 165 post-halftime yards.
"We had a solid defensive game plan and we executed very well today," defensive end/outside linebacker Nathan Williams said. "We knew the offense was struggling, especially when Braxton went out, so we had to step up and make plays."
Although he failed to top the century mark after doing so in each of the Buckeyes' past two games, Hyde put together another solid game with 91 rushing yards and two touchdowns- one of which proved to be OSU's game-winner. Hyde's performance was all the more crucial on Saturday, given the absences of Miller and Brown in the second half.
"That was hard for us too but it showed we have guys who can step up," Hyde said. "We all prepare during the week to play; our back-ups prepare as well to be able to step on the field like starters."
On the defensive side of the ball, OSU linebacker Ryan Shazier played perhaps his best game of the season, making 12 tackles, 1.5 of which came for a loss, breaking up a pass, and recording a quarterback hurry. After a week that saw the OSU defense criticized for giving up 49 points to Indiana a week ago, the sophomore linebacker was just happy to see the Buckeyes walk away with a win.
"Words can't even explain it. We've been grinding so much, working so hard. We've been going through everything together," Shazier said. "These guys are my brothers. I would do anything for them. It was amazing to have a win like that, once in a lifetime."
Cause for concern
Any time a team loses its starting quarterback, there is bound to be some worried faces on the injured player's sideline. That was especially the case on Saturday, when Miller was carted off the field and taken in an ambulance to Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center to be examined for a concussion. The Buckeyes' Heisman Trophy candidate was ultimately discharged on Saturday and deemed "symptom-free" by the school, but his playing status moving forward remains unknown.
"I have concern, and especially I think it's ahead and that concerns of all us," OSU coach Urban Meyer said after the game.
Although it ultimately made up for its shortcomings, the Buckeyes' defense looked less-than-improved as soon as the first play of the game, when the Boilermakers jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead thanks to an 83-yard touchdown reception from running back Akeem Shavers. Along with a 100-yard kickoff return touchdown from Akeem Hunt, it's a safe bet that tackling will again be emphasized throughout the upcoming week of practice for the Buckeyes.
"We had a good defensive unit today," Bryant said. "Besides the two plays we gave up, we did our job and contained the football like the coaches told us to do this entire week in practice."
You don't win two national championships and complete a 12-0 season in college football without being in a few close calls, but what Meyer saw on Saturday was unlike anything he's witnessed in his 10-year coaching career. The win was even more impressive to Meyer given the Buckeyes' injury situation, which in addition to the loss of Miller and Brown saw the team play a defensive end and a fullback at linebacker, and miss three defensive backs on its kickoff unit.
"I've never seen anything swing like that," Meyer said. "And then with where we're at as far as we're full speed, full strength, that's a whole different animal."
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