Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Best Wins of the Tiller Era #1 Ohio State 2000

This has been an incredibly fun series to write about. I have appreciated everyone’s comments and their own memories from each game. As I have gone back through these games my own memories from them have all come flooding back. It was a pleasure to be in the stands for every single game on this list that was played at Ross-Ade Stadium except the Wisconsin 1997 game. As far as the road games, I remember where I was when I watched every single one of them on TV. I do want to thank Lake the Posts for the idea of the countdown, as well as Spoilermaker for doing all the hard work and uploading all these videos over the years. Before we get to #1, here is a recap from the rest of our countdown:

Games 16-20 in the Memorial Day entry
#15 Indiana 2004 (1 vote)
#14 Michigan State 2002 (1 vote)
#13 Wisconsin 1997 (1 vote)
#12 Indiana 2000 (1 vote)
#11 Penn State 2004 (2 votes)
#10 Wisconsin 2003 (2 votes)
#9 Wisconsin 2000 (2 votes)
#8 Oklahoma State 1997 (3 votes)
#7 Michigan State 1999 (3 votes)
#6 Michigan State 1997 (9 votes)
#5 Michigan 2000 (21 votes)
#4 Notre Dame 1997 (43 votes)
#3 Notre Dame 2004 (47 votes)
#2 Kansas State 1998 (95 votes)

That brings us to number 1. This was the overwhelming favorite with 126 votes. With more than a third of the votes cast going to this game it is certainly worthy of its choice as the best win of the Tiller Era. Without further ado, I give you the 2000 season 31-27 win over Ohio State, chosen by the readers of Off the Tracks as the best win of the Tiller Era.

Date: October 28, 2000

Place: Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, Indiana

Incoming Purdue record: 6-2, 4-1 Big Ten (ranked 16th)

Incoming Ohio State record: 6-1, 3-1 Big Ten (ranked 12th)

It had been ages since we had played this late into a season with hopes for the Rose Bowl on the line. Coming into the 2000 season it certainly seemed like a possibility, but October loomed. Historically, the month of October has been where Purdue football seasons went to die. It happened in 1998, 1999, 2001, 2004, and 2006. 2000 appeared to be no different with a slate of Michigan, at Northwestern (who made a surprising run to share the Big Ten with us), at Wisconsin, and home for Ohio State. What made matters worse was the September 30th loss at Penn State appeared to ruin things before the month even started.

But something happened in that Michigan game. The miracle second half comeback made that team believe in itself. We had finally beaten one of the major teams in the conference. Northwestern and Wisconsin fell on the road, leaving Ohio State standing in our way of the perfect month.

It was like a whisper going around campus that week. The Buckeyes were coming. Michigan, Purdue, Northwestern and Ohio State all had one loss in conference play, but we already had the tiebreaker over Northwestern and Michigan. It was plain and simple: beat the Buckeyes and we controlled our fate for Pasadena. A later kickoff meant a sunset game at Ross-Ade. The Buckeyes were the evil empire. They were the unstoppable team that always won. We were the upstart, hoping we had one more shocking win in a magical season. For Ohio State making the Rose Bowl means nothing. They’ve done it dozens of times. For Purdue it had been 34 years since the one and only time. That 1966 team was legendary. I was in my junior year and all week there was discussion of when people were getting to the stadium and who you would be sitting with. It was the biggest home game in decades, and I would have a fifth row seat for it.

The Game:

I would say I settled into my seat early, but I stood the entire game screaming my head off. Both teams made mistakes on their first drives. Ohio State took the opening kickoff and drove into Purdue territory at the 32. Dan Stultz then missed a 49 yard field goal to give Purdue the ball for the first time. Purdue headed the other way on offense, but also bogged down. On second and 8 from the Buckeye 31 Drew Brees was picked off by Mike Doss. The teams then exchanged punts to end the first quarter scoreless.

After Ohio State accomplished nothing on its first possession of the second quarter Purdue took over at its own 14. Brees drove us to midfield, but was picked off for a second time by a guy that is still playing on Sundays when Nate Clements got him. Clements got a big return to the Purdue 24, but the defense held them to a field goal attempt. This time Stultz was good from 35 to make it 3-0 Ohio State with 9:02 left in the first half.

The Purdue offense continued to stall on its next possession, gaining just 6 yards before another punt gave the ball back to Ohio State. This time it was Steve Bellisari that was picked off by Akin Ayodele, however, and Purdue was in business at the Buckeye 45. Brees used three completions and a six yard run to get down to the two where he allowed Steve Ennis (a.k.a. the Closer that season) to score from two yards out. Ennis was the goal-line specialist that season, and I can’t remember how many 1 and 2 yard TD runs he had. We were cautiously optimistic as his score with 3:41 left in the half held up and Purdue went to the locker room up 7-3.

Even though I thought I had learned my lesson from the Michigan game that season and Notre Dame 3 years before I was still terrified. I felt like a Red Sox fan waiting for the other shoe to drop. Surely that was going to happen in this game and our hearts would be ripped out (Ed. Note: this game did allow me to let my guard down, making That Game in 2004 hurt that much more).

Purdue got the ball to start the second half and we were able to move for the first time all day. Brees moved us from our own 17 to the Ohio State 17 in a little over two minutes thanks to a 45 yard catch by Vinny Sutherland. Travis Dorsch banged home a 34-yarder to make it 10-3. The defense bent on its next possession, but still only allowed a 45 yard field goal by Stultz. With 8:52 left in the third it looked like we were going to win it with defense.

On our next drive we couldn’t even take advantage of a roughing the kicker call that gave us the ball back after a punt. We were forced to punt again, and Ohio State finally broke through with a 62 yard touchdown drive to take the lead. This is where I thought the other shoe began to drop. Things went from bad to worse when Purdue went three and out, followed by Clements returning a Scott Kurz punt 83 yards for a backbreaking touchdown. Yes we had come back against Michigan, but with 1:53 left in the third we were down 20-10 and all the Ohio State fans we were rocking.

One of the comments on a previous entry mentioned about how Brees had tangible intangibles. I have to agree with this. When Brees was in West Lafayette you never felt like we were out of a game. He was one of those quarterbacks that you could tell was a true leader of the team. He is the one player I felt Purdue has had under Tiller that could single-handedly change a game or fix his mistake because of this. We were never out of a game as long as we had Drew, and everyone felt it. As good as Orton was, I feel he lacked that quality. I feel the same with Painter, but I think he may be closer to Brees than Orton. Down by 10 points with little more than 16 minutes left before our dream died that was never more evident in Drew Brees.

Drew immediately delivered by completing six of 10 passes on an 11 play, 73 yard drive. His final pass, a five yard scoring strike to John Standeford on 3rd and goal from the five is a thing of beauty. Just watch as he buys time by dancing away from defenders before he threads a needle to Standeford in the back corner of the end zone.

We still needed the defense to rise to the challenge and they did just that. Ohio State had the ball for just a minute and 29 seconds before punting it back to us. The Boilers took over on their own nine yard line and Brees drove 91 yards in 13 plays. The drive took more than five minutes and was capped by a brilliant 19 yard catch and run to the corner of the end zone by Vinny Sutherland. Brees was 8 of 10 on the drive, completing passes to five different receivers.

With 5:59 left Purdue only needed a defensive stop and they would be able to run out the clock with a 24-20 lead. If you think it is that easy you have obviously never watched Purdue football. The Boilers got the stop with a quick three and out, taking over at their own 26 with 4:37 remaining. Montrell Lowe lost two yards on first down, but Brees gained six with his feet to set up 3rd and six from the 30.

What followed was the worst pass of Drew’s career. Brees was pressured and lofted a lazy fly ball that was picked off by Doss. Doss had open field in front of him down the sideline and was prevented from scoring only by Brees, who tackled him at the two. 60,000+ shrieked in horror the instant the ugly pass was released, as Brees simply should have taken the sack. Jerry Westbrooks plunged in three plays later and Purdue trailed 27-24. In the student section we were crushed. It had to be over.

We still had Drew. In the postgame interview on the field with ABC Drew stated that Ike Moore told him he had broken it, so he needed to fix it. This marks the difference between Brees and Orton. Both this interception and The Fumble were similar plays. With Brees we knew we had a chance. With Orton, it was over. Ben Jones’ miss was pre-ordained. With Drew, he could fix it.

After the kickoff we took over at the Ohio State 36. Brees tried to go to Seth Morales on first down but the pass was batted away. On second down the offensive line gave Brees an eternity to go through his receivers. Doss cheated up and Morales got behind him. He was wide open, so Brees went deep.

On my computer I have simply named the file, “The Catch”. Sitting in row five of the student section the ball hung in the twilight air forever. It’s the only time in my life I have seen in slow motion at a sporting event. I saw Morales open and I saw the pass would be perfect. I knew that if we were truly Purdue, he would drop it. I begged for him to just catch it as it hung in the air. I didn’t care if he fell flat on his face after he caught it because we would at least be in field goal range.

Come on, Seth, just catch the ball, please.

I know I wasn’t alone in thinking this. It was almost exactly like Morales’ long TD at Wisconsin a week earlier. I think it’s the only time I have seen 60,000 people praying simultaneously.

He caught it.

I don’t remember seeing him go into the end zone. I think I passed out from joy. The student section was absolute bedlam. To this day I have no idea who I was sitting with or what their names were, but I am sure we hugged and celebrated like long-lost relatives in that moment. The roar that went up was unlike anything I had ever heard at Ross-Ade. It was like a miracle had been delivered just for us. Drew Brees became a saint in that moment. If he announced he was going to walk across the Wabash after that pass I would have followed him down to the riverbank. We couldn’t believe it, and I don’t think even Drew could from his reaction on the video.

The crowd was now screaming at afterburner levels for one more stop, and we got it. On second and seven an Ohio State player went in motion. Bellisari called for the snap at the wrong time and it went off the player’s leg. Landon Johnson pounced on it and Purdue ran out the clock to seal the win.

After the Game:

For the second home game in a row we rushed the field. It was much smoother than the Michigan game, and probably more deliriously happy. We hadn’t beaten Ohio State in 12 years, and it had been more than 20 since we had beaten both OSU and Michigan in the same season.

Brees threw for 455 yards and three TD’s. Sure he had thrown four interceptions, but that was all erased with the pass to Morales. I don’t think there is a more well-known play in the history of Purdue football. We finally had a topper for the George Catavolos interception in the 1967 Rose Bowl. Morales finished with seven catches for 115 yards and will forever be known as the greatest fourth option on a play in Purdue football history.

Credit also needs to be given to the offensive line. As the wallpaper on my personal laptop I have the cover of the 2000 Football Preview issue from GBI of the six guys and Brees. They are dressed in suits with sunglasses and are escorting a uniformed Drew Brees from a stretch limo outside Ross-Ade. The headline simply says, “Protecting the Franchise”. They earned their money this day, as Brees had all day to throw on the winning play. He could have sat down, had a cup of coffee, read a newspaper, then gone through his progressions and still had plenty of time to throw.

Simply put, this is the game that sent us to the Rose Bowl. We still had some work to do, and if not for gifts from Northwestern and Iowa we wouldn’t have survived the stumble two weeks later in East Lansing. Barring a miracle Big Ten title this year or upset in Columbus, this game will forever go down as Tiller’s best.


BoilerGuru said...

You are way to hard on Orton, he might not have been Drew, but he could play ball. The first 5 games of his senior season he was playing at a level even higher then Drew played. How you can blame him for the Ben Jones miss is beyond me - he got us into position to tie that game.

T-Mill said...

I just never felt as confidant with Orton as I did with Drew. I certainly don't blame him for the miss, but I meant that there was so much bad karma in the place after The Fumble that it was pre-ordained. I think that lack of confidence came from not beleiving in Orton.

I will say that Kyle's drive for a touchdown at Ohio State the year before was incredibly impressive.

Anonymous said...

Why cant we just appreciate Orton for what he accomplished? In terms of hype, the 2004 Homecoming game takes the cake, and I believe Orton performed admirably under the pressure.

For you to say that Orton's teammates did not believe in him that chilly night in October is a slap in the face to the entire 2004squad. We are taling about a QB who had just led his team to 14 wins in 18 games , an impressive strech for any school let alone Purdue.

If Orton had not been injured later in the season, who knows what this countdown would look like.

T-Mill said...

Very good point. I do think Orton takes a lot of unwarranted crap for that one play, and that is from me included. I guess in the view of revisionist history it is easy to say that Brees was better because he recovered to win the game after similar play while Orton (and the entire team) crashed and burned. The bottom line is this:
1. Orton did not miss the field goal against Wisconsin.
2. Orton did not fumble in field goal range against Michigan the next week.
3. Orton did not throw four picks against Iowa.

It was an unfair comparison.

Anonymous said...

Another thing to keep in mind (at least in my memory of The Catch), is that you could almost hear a pin drop, during the flight of the ball to Morales. I remember seeing him get open and experiencing the slow-mo effect like you did. Unbelievable

4thandshort said...

Had fun reading this series. I hardly had any voice left after this game and will always remember the catch.

Have you noticed that out of all these “best wins” none have come after 2004. The last three years have been rather forgettable. Hopefully we will see some more games like the ones on this list again soon.

Anonymous said...

I was in the student section as well for that game. My fiancee and I and another couple already had bought plane tickets to go to the Rose Bowl. We just had that feeling that this was Purdue's year. I remember the 4 of us looking at each other after Ohio St. scored that last touchdown thinking we wasted our money. But we knew we had a chance with Brees. Well afterwards we were glad we had the plane tickets since many of our friends payed a lot more as the airlines jacked up the prices from Indy to LA after Purdue clinched.


Tim said...

Travis - I've greatly enjoyed this series as well. I got to attend this game, and here's "my story".

I was a 4 1/2 year student from 1995 through Fall 1999, so I was on campus for 5 FB seasons. So I got to see Alstott's Senior year (as a member of the AAMB)! I had the privilege of working in the old press box for the Athletic Public Relations office (to help keep manual stats in case computers crashed). So, from 1997-99, I got to see every home game these years except 1998 Minnesota. And 2000 was my first year out of school.

But we came back to campus for this one and obviously, this game topped all the games I ever experienced as a band member, student, or student-employee. IMO, this is rivalled only by 1997 ND and 1999 MSU.

I sat in the SE corner - where Morales performed Holy Toledo. My then-fiance (now beloved wife of 7+ years) - and fellow Purdue alum went nuts w/ me on that play. From our vantage point, as everyone saw what was unfolding, the silence was deafening for that split-second, followed of course by the jubilation you so accurately described.

Anyway, looking back at this game, those 3 TD drives were simply an amazing offensive team effort:

- The 1st Drive...The star: Brees. This drive was probably Brees' finest individual effort of the game. Nobody seems to remember that Sutherland missed this entire series due to cramping, so Brees had to use other options after a frustrating 3rd quarter. First, Drew's feet created the 31 yard catch and run to Standeford. Then Winston made probably his best play as a Boiler by enduring a big hit by Nickey to make an over-the-middle 3rd and long catch. And finally on the TD Brees used his feet again to find Standeford at just the last second. This TD play reminds me very much of the 1981 NFC Championship Montana to Clark "The Catch".

- The 2nd drive...The star: Welcome back Vinny! Clutch work by Brees and the "old pros" Sutherland and Stratton on this 91-yard drive. I think there were 4 consecutive 3rd and 5 conversions here. The last one featured a great effort by Vinny to break a tackle and jet the last 16 yards to the end zone (the SE corner)!

- The 3rd "drive"...The star: Offensive line. After the batted down pass I was thinking "please don't let this be the 1999 Penn State game." Then came Holy Toledo. The O-Line skill was greatly manifest on this play, as I believe all of them got at least a look from the NFL when their time at Purdue was up. On the telecast, seeing Brees fall to his knees shaking his head in disbelief and hearing Danielson's commentary after the play just adds to the significance of the moment.

I know it's been a pretty forgettable few years as a fan since That Game, with little to no upset wins aside from 2004 OSU and2005 MSU. But I'm certainly thankful for this 2000 OSU win, and no one can ever take it away. Here's hoping for more magic this year and in the years ahead!

J Money said...

Great work again, Travis. Excellent series.

As for us at BS, I know that boilerdowd and I talk about this play probably at least once a year... he has the press clipping framed in his basement and it's just a brilliant shot and one I wish I could find somewhere. It's Morales right after hauling in the pass (and remember, he kind of juggled and stumbled) and he's cooking at top-Morales speed (read: not particularly fast) and you can see Doss in the background kind of looking over to the other DB with a "huh?" look, like he was expecting help coverage... but as boilerdowd always mentions, Doss WAS the help on that play because he was the free safety and he cheated up. It's amazing Morales was as open as he was. He may have been a walk-on, but the guy was no slouch and ran up some decent numbers, probably because guys always overlooked him.

Definitely my favorite Drew/Purdue football moment ever, too.

harperjn said...

Thank you so much for this countdown. It was awesome to relive it all. I got goosebumps watching the catch again. I too remember seeing it in slow motion. The whole stadium quieted as everyone held their breath. I don't think I've ever screamed as long or as hard as I did in that game. It was absolutely crazy in Ross-Ade on OSU's last series.

Anonymous said...

I too was in the stands for that game, and the memory of Morales reputation for drops that year was in everyone's mind as that pass headed towards him. At least in the student section, we all knew that our hearts were about to be ripped out in agony...or something special was about to happen.

Morales too seemed to feel the pressure, you can see him make sure he catches it with BOTH hands, and then he stumbles and rights himself into the end-zone...almost in disbelief.

Once he caught it, I remember jumping into the air with the rest of the student section view never changed.

Best moment of my Purdue football watching life...thanks for the blog!