- Austin Ward, ESPN Staff Writer
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A few things Ohio State will feel good about and some issues it will need to correct after surviving for one more victory in a 29-22 thriller over Purdue in overtime on Saturday at Ohio Stadium:
1. The closer: Kenny Guiton had to do more than finish off a drive this time, and while the success wasn't nearly as instant against the Boilermakers, his relief appearance at quarterback will go down as perhaps the most memorable performance of the season for the Buckeyes. Up against seemingly insurmountable odds, needing a touchdown and a two-point conversion on the final drive with no timeouts and only 47 seconds, Guiton delivered both to further enhance his reputation.
2. Call and answer: The beleaguered defense picked up right where it left off by giving up a long touchdown on the first play of the game, looking more like the unit that had been gashed over the previous two weeks than one that had made corrections. But things got much better after that for the Buckeyes, thanks mostly to pressure from the defensive front and the relentless tackling of Ryan Shazier, and they sealed the win with a four-down stop in overtime.
3. Open fields: Meet the newest weapon for the Buckeyes. Chris Fields didn't exactly come out of nowhere, as he's in his fourth year in the program at receiver, but the redshirt junior came into the game without a single catch this season to his credit -- and finished it with 3 for 44 yards and the critical touchdown reception that extended the game in the final seconds.
1. Kicking it: The special teams continued its up-and-down campaign, and the 100-yard kickoff return it allowed for a touchdown nearly came back to haunt the Buckeyes in a big way. Injuries are really starting to take a toll in the kicking game, and it will take more shuffling and likely more significant contributions from starters moving forward to get the recurring issues fixed.
2. Cut it loose: Braxton Miller didn't have benefit of playing the fourth quarter to atone for a somewhat sluggish start, and the sophomore had just shown a clear sign he was ready to take over when he snapped off a 37-yard run before getting driven into the turn and leaving with an apparent head injury. But over almost three quarters, he seemed hesitant to use his legs against the Boilermakers and had been largely contained on the ground when he did rush -- finishing with just 47 yards on 12 carries.
3. Protect the rock: The Buckeyes have now survived twice in Big Ten games in which they finished minus-three in the turnover battle, but that's a dangerous way to live. It's no surprise that those two wins were really Ohio State's biggest struggles from start to finish, and after fumbling twice and throwing two interceptions, ball protection will again be an emphasis in practice.
2dDan Murphy and Mitch Sherman
6dDan Murphy and Brian Bennett