A wet field, a bad kick and a big hand conspired to keep Ohio State's season alive.
Brent Johnson blocked a tying field goal with 53 seconds left and Steve Bellisari's late 68-yard run preserved the lead as No. 21 Ohio State held off No. 17 Purdue 25-22 Saturday.
"That was a gutty performance," Ohio State coach John Cooper said. "We're not the most talented team. This is not the best team we've had around here. But what can I say? They laid it on the line today."
Quarterback Drew Brees drove Purdue from its own 20 to the Ohio State 14 with just under a minute left. Brees' third-and-3 pass for Chris Daniels was tipped away by Buckeye cornerback Nate Clements, and coach Joe Tiller sent his field goal unit onto the field.
But the 29-yard try by Travis Dorsch was a low linedrive. Johnson, who broke through the wall over the middle of the line, batted the ball down with his right hand as he was falling to the soggy turf.
"The opportunity presented itself. I was there and I made it happen," the junior defensve end said. "I was just happy I had a part in the game."
Dorsch said it was difficult to remember details of the pivotal play.
"It's hard to tell because everything happened so fast," he said. "We're all out there with on common goal to make the kick and it didn't happen."
Two plays later, Bellisari slashed through a gap around left end and raced to the Purdue 21 to end the Boilermakers' hopes.
Ohio State (4-2, 1-1) took the lead for the final time on Jonathan Wells' 2-yard run with 5:13 remaining. Michael Wiley added the two-point conversion run after a Purdue pass interference call.
Ohio State won despite being beaten in most statistical categories. Purdue had more yards (380-369) and first downs (21-19) and kept the ball for almost nine minutes longer than the Buckeyes.
"It wasn't a well-played game," Cooper said. "We can play better than that."
Not until Bellisari's late dash on turf made slippery by an all-day rain did the Buckeyes rush for more yardage than Purdue redshirt freshman tailback Montrell Lowe, who piled up 153 yards on 25 attempts.
The game was every bit as sloppy as the weather. Purdue had 12 penalties for 86 yards and Ohio State had three turnovers that led to 16 Boilermaker points. The Buckeyes fumbled the ball twice in their last touchdown drive, but came up with the recovery each time.
"We were in a position to win in the fourth quarter and that's what you want," Tiller said.
Brees, heralded as a Heisman Trophy contender, completed 24-of-39 passes for 205 yards and was held without a touchdown pass for the first time in 19 games. He came in averaging two touchdown passes and 322 yards passing per game.
"It's frustrating because we've been known as a team that if the offense needs a score late, we can get it done," Brees said. "But today we didn't."
Bellisari struggled through the air, throwing two interceptions while completing just 10-of-26 passes for 174 yards. But he ended up leading the Buckeyes with 96 rushing yards on 17 carries.
Purdue led 13-7 at the half, but Ohio State retook the lead on Wiley's 7-yard halfback pass to tight end Darnell Sanders. Wiley lost two critical fumbles in last week's 42-17 blowout loss to Wisconsin and was held out of the starting lineup for missing a class this week.
He has now completed eight of his nine career pass attempts and has thrown for two touchdowns.
After Dan Stultz's 45-yard field goal put Ohio State ahead 17-13, Purdue took a 22-17 advantage on Dorsch's 22-yard field goal and Lowe's 5-yard run at the outset of the fourth quarter. Lowe's TD was set up by Willie Fells' interception and 29-yard return to the Ohio State 5.
Purdue fumbled the opening kickoff and seven plays later Derek Combs sidestepped two tackles on a 5-yard touchdown run.
The Boilermakers pulled even after Adrian Beasley's interception gave them the ball at the Ohio State 27.
After a first down, Brees handed the ball to wide receiver Vinny Sutherland on the reverse. Sutherland stopped quickly at right end and lofted a looping pass back to the left sideline. With no Ohio State defender within 15 yards, Brees waited on the pass, tightroped along the sideline and completed the 12-yard scoring play.
Ohio State travels to No. 2 Penn State Saturday.
"If we put it together, we can be a good team," Cooper said. "We can win out."
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