Can Purdue take a giant leap against Ohio State?

By Jim Naveau -

COLUMBUS – There might be a connection between a football game Purdue won against Ohio State in the 1940s and the college choice of Neil Armstrong, the first human to walk on the moon.

According to several news stories, watching Purdue upset No. 4-ranked Ohio State 35-13 at Ohio Stadium in 1945 helped convince Armstrong, then a high school student from Wapakoneta, to enroll at Purdue.

Armstrong started school at Purdue in 1947. After two years of college he spent three years in the Navy, then returned to Purdue and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering in 1955.

Armstrong might have given a hint of what the future would hold for him when, as a 16-year-old who had recently gotten his pilot’s license, he flew to Purdue to register for classes.

At Purdue, he was in the marching band, wrote and directed two musicals, joined a fraternity and met his first wife.

He is one of 24 astronauts who have a degree from Purdue and the main building of its college of engineering is named for him.

Armstrong took a Purdue banner with him to the moon on Apollo 11 and donated a massive collection of papers, memorabilia, lunar maps and correspondence, including 70,000 of what has been described as fan letters, to the school.

Purdue space historian John Norberg described Armstrong this way in a story in The Times of Northwest Indiana: “He was a complex man for sure, but a very nice one. And he loved Purdue.”

So, is Purdue capable of upsetting No. 2 Ohio State today in West Lafayette and maybe influencing some current high school student’s college choice?

The Boilermakers are capable. Whether they can do it is less certain.

Some people want to play the history card and point out that Ohio State is 3-4 in seven games at Purdue since 2000.

That is more a statistical oddity than an indicator of trouble for this year’s Buckeyes. And the most recent of those losses was in 2011 when most of the players on the field today were in junior high school or middle school.

The biggest danger for Ohio State is that Purdue has a big-play quarterback, David Blough, and OSU has not done well at stopping big plays. The most consistent thing about the Buckeyes’ linebackers and defensive backs has been their inconsistency.

Add Nick Bosa’s absence and the lingering injuries several defensive linemen are trying to play through and there could be some cause for concern.

Offensively, OSU has gone from leading the Big Ten in rushing in 2017 to being seventh in that category after seven games this year. In the last three games, the running game has averaged 3.1 yards a carry.

So, tonight’s game could turn into a late night battle between OSU’s Dwayne Haskins (2,331 yards, 28 touchdown passes) and Blough (1,695 yards, 10 touchdown passes).

Ohio State’s defensive players and coaches are quick to point out the defense has played well in the second half the last three games against Penn State, Indiana and Minnesota. The unanswered question, though, is why it takes them so long to figure out what isn’t working.

This is the Super Bowl for Purdue (3-3, 2-1 Big Ten). No. 2 Ohio State (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) hasn’t looked like the super team some people thought it would be. But, barring something crazy happening, the Buckeyes should be 8-0 when this game is over.

The prediction: Ohio State 42, Purdue 28.

By Jim Naveau