BY DAVID CHOUGH
David Blough, QB, Purdue
D.J. Knox, RB, Purdue
It takes a full team effort to topple the No. 2 school in the country. And while it would be almost impossible to detail every player whose contributions were necessary for Purdue to stage its massive upset of Ohio State on Saturday, it’s most certainly necessary to highlight the efforts of the two men who led the charge: David Blough and D.J. Knox. The backfield duo combined for over 500 yards of offense against the Buckeyes, and they did it in an efficient and collaborative effort.
Early on, it looked like Ohio State’s defensive plan was to force Blough to throw the ball, and the Boilermakers happily obliged. After punting on their first two drives of the game, the senior signal caller eventually made the Buckeyes pay. With the offense backed up on its own two-yard line, Blough calmly directed a 15-play drive that included a three-yard rush to convert a fourth down. Blough and Knox connected for a 23-yard catch and run to set the Boilermakers up in the red zone before Blough threw a gorgeous pass to the end zone that gave Purdue the lead.
With time running down at the end of the half in what was, to that point, a low-scoring affair, the opportunity seemed ripe for Purdue to seize advantage. Knox kickstarted the drive with a 19-yard scamper, and just a few plays later, Blough sprinted out right and threw a bullet on the run to give his receiver a wide-open lane to the end zone and the Boilermakers a 14-3 lead at the half.
When taking on such a highly-ranked squad, it’s important to make the proper adjustments at halftime, and apparently, Purdue’s were to keep the ball in the hands of their starting quarterback and tailback. After getting a second chance at the first drive of the third quarter when Ohio State was called for roughing the kicker, Blough kept the ball moving up until the one-yard line. Then, he turned around and gave the ball to Knox, who delivered with a touchdown to give the Boilermakers a 15-point lead.
With the Ohio State defense now keying in on Purdue’s red-hot quarterback, Knox decided it was time to take matters into his own hands. On a third-down inside draw, he displayed his trademark speed and shiftiness, setting up the single-high safety up with a head fake to the right before taking off into the end zone. In the waning minutes, Knox then took it upon himself to put the dagger in the hearts of the Buckeyes. On perhaps the easiest run of his life, Knox took the handoff on a simple counter and ran down the middle of the field for 40 yards.
With Blough’s 379 yards and three touchdowns and Knox’s 128 yards and three touchdowns of his own, the senior duo took down Ohio State with a convincing 49-20 victory. Though it might be tough for Purdue to make it to the Big Ten championship game, there’s still a bowl berth on the line for them. And given the way these two players balled out on Saturday, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them make some more magic memories for Purdue down the stretch.
Michael Dogbe, DL, Temple
The senior Owl has always been a presence on the defensive line for Temple, but pressure doesn’t equate to sacks. Be that as it may, Dogbe has found his groove in taking the quarterback to the ground. After registering zero sacks in 2017, Dogbe already has five on the season, including 1.5 sacks in a crucial overtime victory over Cincinnati.
Jaylon Ferguson, DE, Louisiana Tech
Ferguson has already shown his ability to dominate a game when it matters most, including his four-sack performance against North Texas earlier this year. And he was at it again this past weekend against UTEP. With just under two minutes to go and his team clinging to the lead, Ferguson registered a sack to force UTEP to burn a time out. Then on third and goal from the 8-yard line, Ferguson stymied the UTEP offense with another sack for a 12-yard loss. All in all, he finished with 3.5 sacks on the day to preserve victory.
Ronald Cleveland, WR, Air Force
Playing for a service academy means that the wide receivers rarely get time to shine, but Cleveland found himself in the perfect situation against UNLV. As the shootout took off in the second half, Cleveland managed to outdo the UNLV defense, registering 100 yards receiving, including a 69-yard touchdown. Cleveland, who is the school’s active leader in career rushing yards, did damage on the ground as well with 40 yards on six carries.