WEST LAFAYETTE – Fifth-year seniors Joey Elliott and Mike Neal didn’t know the last time Purdue had beaten a ranked opponent.
Junior Keith Smith had an idea, thinking it had been about 18 games.
Not surprising they struggled with the answer – none has such a victory.
They’ll get their first chance of the season Saturday when the Boilermakers play No. 7 Ohio State (5-1, 3-0 Big Ten) at Ross-Ade Stadium.
Purdue has lost 19 consecutive games to ranked opponents and hasn’t beaten one since Nov. 8, 2003, when the 16th-ranked Boilermakers defeated No. 10 Iowa 27-14 in West Lafayette.
Whew, it’s been awhile, quarterback Elliott said. Whenever you have an opportunity to beat a ranked opponent, you can’t let things go sideways.
The last three, four years since I’ve been here, Purdue has had great games in Ross-Ade Stadium and have a lot of things to look forward to.
We just haven’t been able to capitalize when we need to to come away with the win.
Neal, a senior defensive tackle, didn’t even guess how long it had been since Purdue had a signature victory, saying all that matters is the present.
Purdue (1-5) is coming off a 35-20 loss to Minnesota, the only one of the five consecutive losses that didn’t come down to the final series. Next up is the toughest challenge of the year.
The Buckeyes rank in the top 15 in the nation in five defensive categories, including seventh in scoring defense (12 points per game) and 11th in total defense (272 yards per game).
Ohio State has been so dominant that Purdue first-year coach Danny Hope said he and his staff hardly have been able to watch film on critical situations – the defense on the goal line, for example – because the Buckeyes haven’t been in many of them.
They’re a dominant defense in every phase, Hope said.
Their front is exceptional. They’re very sound how they line up and very confident how they line up. They don’t have to do a lot. They’re good enough to line up to get after you and shut you down.
They’ve proven it week in and week out. They’re certainly one of the great defenses in the country.
With dynamic quarterback Terrell Pryor running things, the Buckeyes aren’t bad offensively either.
Pryor presents a unique test for defenses because of his size (6-foot-6, 235 pounds), speed and agility.
Pryor has thrown for nearly 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns and run for 333 yards and three touchdowns.
But Neal thinks Purdue’s defense is playing well, saying it has been victimized by turnovers and forced to defend short fields.
He also said that Purdue didn’t give up an offensive touchdown in its 16-3 loss to Ohio State last season.
Pryor had only 97 yards passing and 27 rushing yards on 14 carries.
There’s a certain degree of confidence that we have about ourselves that if we were able to do it before, we can do it again, Neal said.