Second-ranked Ohio State knew that injured defensive end Nick Bosa would not be available for Saturday night's Big Ten game at Purdue, but the Buckeyes can now forget about the All-American returning at any point this season to help fix whatever ails the defense.
The university announced Tuesday, after a report by The Columbus Dispatch,
that Bosa and his family decided to end his college career so as not to risk further injury.
The Dispatch also reported that Bosa and his father, John, met with coach Urban Meyer on Sunday to inform him of the decision. Meyer told the media a day later that he was still hoping Bosa, a junior, would return.
A projected high first-round draft pick by NFLDraftScout.com, Bosa is forecast by some services to be the No. 1 overall pick next spring. His brother, Joey, went No. 3 overall in the 2017 draft to the San Diego Chargers.
The Buckeyes (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) have tried to make up for Bosa's absence and will continue to attempt to do so in a prime-time matchup in West Lafayette, Ind., (7:30 p.m. ET, ABC) against the improving Boilermakers (3-3, 2-1).
"Obviously big road game, a team that is very good on film, obviously, and scoring a lot of points," Meyer said. "We've got to get some guys healthy and get ready to go."
How much Bosa's absence has affected Ohio State's defense in the past four games since he was injured on Sept. 15 against TCU is open to debate. There's no arguing that he was playing at a high level at the time of the injury, registering 14 tackles, six tackles for loss and four sacks in 2 1/2 games.
Sophomore Chase Young stepped into Bosa's spot and turned in a big game three weeks ago at Penn State with six tackles, three tackles for loss and two sacks in the win. But Young was relatively quiet the past two weeks as Ohio State's defense managed to play well enough while the offense did most of the damage in wins over Indiana and Minnesota.
The Buckeyes gave up a combined 802 total yards and 40 points in the two games, but Meyer pointed out this week that the defense did figure out some of its issues in the second half of those two games. Last week, Ohio State shut out Minnesota after halftime.
"We're very aggressive on defense," Meyer said. "And, once again, do we have the right personnel to run our scheme? ... We've dealt with a safety suspended for a half because of the targeting. We've dealt with multiple injuries. And it's at times you're in survival mode."
Among the players nursing injuries are defensive linemen Robert Landers and Jonathan Cooper, linebacker Malik Harrison and cornerback Damon Arnette. Cooper and Harrison sat out last week, but they are expected to return against Purdue. Landers is probable and Arnette is questionable this week, Meyer said.
Meyer wants as many hands on deck as possible to defend against Purdue and quarterback David Blough.
The Boilermakers are ranked 10th in the country in total offense, averaging 510.2 yards per game. Blough has thrown for 1,695 yards and 10 touchdowns, and wideout Rondale Moore has 558 receiving yards and five touchdowns. Moore also is a dangerous kick returner.
"I've seen the stats and they look really good," Meyer said.
The same could be said about Ohio State's offense, and that's a scary thought for second-year Purdue coach Jeff Brohm.
"I think when you look at the college landscape, there's two teams that stand out as being elite, and that's Alabama and Ohio State, and rightfully so," Brohm said. "They have got great players, great talent, they are extremely well-coached, and they know what they are doing.
"The thing that really impressed me the most about them is they have had a couple games that have been a little bit close, and these guys just know how to win. They have a lot of history and tradition and it's going to be a very tough matchup.
"So our guys just got to have a good week of practice, prepare ourselves as best we can, have great attitude and come game day, cut it loose and let the pieces fall where they may. It's an exciting time for our team to play this opponent. I know our fans are excited and we're looking forward to this game on our home turf."
The Boilermakers have their work cut out for them against the Buckeyes and Heisman Trophy contender Dwayne Haskins, who leads the nation with 28 touchdown passes and is third in passing yards (2,331) and completion percentage (72.3). The redshirt sophomore quarterback has a strong group of receivers, led by Parris Campbell with 43 catches.
"He's a very efficient quarterback who throws the ball well and he likes to throw the ball," Brohm said. "While he's a good athlete and can run, he likes to throw the ball. Gets the ball out of his hands quickly.
"I think they do a great job on offense of spreading the field and give him numerous chances to get it out quick where he feels comfortable and he's not taking a lot of hits and he's not standing there too long, and then they will take their shots and mix those in. I think he feels comfortable in their system and he's got great weapons around him. But he is an accurate passer."
Though Haskins has played brilliantly, throwing for more than 400 yards the past two weeks, Ohio State's traditionally strong running game has sputtered despite the presence of capable backs J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber. The Buckeyes were held below 100 yards rushing last week by Minnesota.
At some point, maybe at Purdue, Ohio State knows it will need to effectively run the ball to win, especially in short-yardage situations. The Boilermakers, who have won three straight games, are giving up 414.3 total yards and 23.2 points per game.
"You can scheme it up, you can talk about pressures and movement, you can talk about numbers, but still running the ball is a little bit of an attitude, and I think again to be as good as we need to be we have to find what we're going to hang our hat on," Ohio State offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said. "We keep doing a lot of formations so we get a lot of plays and you pop in here and there versus getting some rhythm, getting consistency.
"It's a talented group of linemen. We've got some backs and we've got to tighten it up to be the team we want to be."