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Purdue key vs. Ohio State – go beyond the norm

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Kickoff: Ohio State at Purdue, noon, Saturday
RADIO: 1380-AM

Online: For more on college sports, follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at www.twitter.com/pdiprimio

Boilers face 'huge task' against No. 4 Buckeyes

Thursday, October 31, 2013 - 7:48 am

Purdue linebackers coach Marcus Freeman has seen the film and it does not lie. He has analyzed the numbers and they do not distort.

Ohio State is an unbeaten juggernaut with national title aspirations. The struggling Boilers are 31-point underdogs in their own stadium.

“You've got to prepare harder and do what you haven't done,” Freeman said. “You can't do the things you've been doing for the last six to seven weeks and think things will change.”

Saturday No. 4 Ohio State comes to Ross-Ade Stadium with an 8-0 record, 4-0 in the Big Ten, and nobody expects recent futility (the Buckeyes have lost three of the last four times they've been to West Lafayette) to continue.

No matter. Freeman and the Boilers (1-6, 0-3) are focused on getting the upset.

“Saturday will be about doing everything it takes to win,” he said.

Everything might not be enough given Ohio State's offensive firepower. It leads the Big Ten in scoring (47.2 points), total offense (517.2 yards) and pass efficiency. It is No. 2 in rushing (295.6 yards).

The Buckeyes scored 63 points against Penn State last week while gaining more than 700 total yards.

Quarterback Braxton Miller is a Heisman Trophy contender despite missing two games with a knee injury. He's thrown for 11 touchdowns against two interceptions while completing 70.6 percent of his passes. He threw for 252 yards and three touchdowns against Penn State.

However, Miller hasn't been nearly as effective against Purdue. Last year he was just 9 for 20 for 113 yards and an interception. As a freshman he was 8 for 18 for 132 yards and two touchdowns.

Miller is a far better quarterback this season, but if he struggles again, the Buckeyes can go with tailbacks such as Carlos Hyde, who has rushed for 464 yards and seven touchdowns in the last three games, and has 590 rushing yards in five games. Fellow tailback Jordan Hall has 519 yards and eight touchdowns. Former Harding standout Rod Smith has 87 yards in a limited role.

“Ohio State is hard to stop,” Freeman said. “The more you watch it, the more frustrated and aggravated you get. It will be a huge task for our defense. You stop one thing and another thing comes open.”

Freeman understands the Buckeyes challenge as well as anyone. He's a former Ohio State linebacker. But that's not an issue this weekend. His loyalty is to Purdue and his job is to ensure his linebackers are ready for what awaits.

“Our linebackers haven't prepared hard enough and haven't executed well enough,” he said.

Purdue could have veteran safety Landon Feichter back. He hasn't played since the second game because of a broken leg. Last week he resumed practicing. Coach Darrell Hazell calls the former Bishop Dwenger standout "questionable," but is optimistic Feichter could see some action.

As far as the offense, it is last in the Big Ten in scoring (13.1 points) and next to last in points allowed (34.4 points). The Boilers have scored just seven points in their last two games, both with true freshman Danny Etling starting at quarterback.

“We have to keep preparing harder and harder,” Etling said. “We look at this as a big opportunity to show what we can do."

One big plus is the return of wide receiver B.J. Knauf. He was suspended for the last two games because of an off-the-field shop-lifting incident.

“Ohio State's defense will do a lot of man coverage. They hide what they're doing until the last possible second. They do a great job of not giving you any clues. They're a very well-coached team,” Etling said.

How does Purdue counter that?

“We need to play better and play well,” Etling said. “We need to show what we can do and take another big step forward.”