WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.: Cornerback Doran Grant has been a solid performer in his three years at Ohio State. But now the former St. Vincent-St. Mary star is becoming a big playmaker.
Grant gave the No. 4 Buckeyes the spark they needed 57 seconds into their 56-0 victory over Purdue Saturday at Ross-Ade Stadium, intercepting a pass from freshman quarterback Danny Etling and returning it 33 yards for a touchdown.
It was the first career touchdown for Grant. He now leads OSU with three interceptions this season; he has four in his career.
“It meant a lot to me, but it meant a whole lot more to the team,” Grant said. “It was a great momentum-breaker, got the team going, the offense got going, it was good.”
Grant drew praise from defensive coordinator Luke Fickell, both for his personal effort and the fact that the Buckeyes secondary has three interceptions in the past two games.
“It’s just a great job. Not something we’re always doing out there, but when you have an opportunity to make a play, a guy’s got to make it. That’s why I’m so proud of Doran, he not only made the play, he finished the play,” Fickell said. “Those are the things we haven’t seen a bunch of.
“Just like last week, talk about a spark. Whether it’s a spark for the whole team or spark for the defense, there’s nothing bigger than that or nothing greater for our confidence as a defense than that right there.”
Grant credited cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs for something he pointed out during film work Thursday.
“We watched film and we said, ‘This is going to be the back-door slider,’ ” Grant said. “I missed it in the Iowa game, I took advantage of it this game. As soon as I caught it I was just looking for the end zone, trying to get there.”
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer has been critical of the secondary of late, which Grant said was deserved.
“He was giving us a hard time because our standards are very high and we’ve got to play to that,” Grant said.
Meyer seemed pleased with the performance against the Boilermakers.
“Any time we play pass defense like that we have a chance to be a really, really good team,” Meyer said “I felt we kick-started the game with Doran Grant’s interception return. That’s a good sign; we’re playing much better the last two weeks.”
Tight end school?
Meyer seemed to flaunt OSU convention by featuring tight ends in the first half. That’s when junior Jeff Heuerman caught five passes for 116 yards and a touchdown, a 40-yarder. The last OSU tight end to go over 100 yards receiving was Rickey Dudley, who had 106 yards against Tennessee in the 1996 Citrus Bowl.
Heuerman’s total was the most yards by a Buckeye tight end since John Frank finished with 123 at Michigan in 1983.
Quarterback Braxton Miller said Heuerman has to stop hurdling defenders, which he did on a 24-yard reception on third-and-4 in the first quarter.
“Mick told me I looked athletic,” Heuerman said of Mickey Marotti, assistant athletic director for sports performance. “I knew we had to get that third down. I wasn’t quite aware of where I was, so I was trying to get a few extra yards. A lot of guys have been coming after my legs, so I was going to give him a little jump.”
Five of quarterback Braxton Miller’s first eight completions went to tight ends, four to Heuerman and an 8-yard touchdown toss to sophomore Nick Vannett. It was the first time two OSU tight ends scored in the same game since Rory Nicol and Jake Ballard in 2006 against Indiana.
“You’ve got to reward big guys like that. He does a helluva job blocking for the running backs and me as well,” Miller said.
“It’s not you’re saying get the ball to him. The defense dictates where the ball goes,” Meyer said. “Heuerman is an excellent player. You wish he had more touchdowns, more catches.” Heuerman has 20 catches for 255 yards and two touchdowns this season.
Meyer said right tackle Taylor Decker suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament late in the third quarter and he’ll “probably be out for a week or so.” Meyer didn’t think linebacker Curtis Grant’s ankle injury was serious because he returned to the game. Defensive tackle Michael Bennett suffered a stinger.
Nowhere to Hyde
Senior running back Carlos Hyde continued his rise up NFL draft boards with his fourth 100-yard game of the season and 10th of his career. Hyde gained 111 yards on eight carries (13.9 average). He said Meyer gave him one shot in the third quarter to reach 100 and he picked up 20 yards on the Buckeyes’ first play.
“We didn’t run the ball that much in the beginning,” Hyde said. “We got to it late in the second quarter. The offensive line was on the sideline saying, ‘We’re ready to run the ball. All this passing, let’s do what we do best.’ ”
Hyde also continued his streak of not being stopped for a loss rushing this season. Going into the weekend, he was one of only two players in FBS with that distinction, joined by Georgia Tech’s David Sims.
Hyde was at his best during OSU’s final touchdown drive of the first half. He rushed for 72 of Ohio State’s 93 yards, including a 42-yard gain that was his longest of the season. It was Hyde’s longest run since Nov. 5, 2011 against Indiana. His career-long is a 63-yard touchdown against Nebraska on Oct. 8, 2011.
About that interception
Miller played only in the first half and made only one big mistake, an underthrown pass for Devin Smith that was intercepted by Purdue cornerback Ricardo Allen at the Boilermaker 15. Offensive coordinator Tom Herman called it a “boneheaded” mistake.
“It hit it in practice a few times,” Miller said. “The corner actually got too much depth and made a good play on it. I don’t really get down on myself about that.”
Miller had three touchdown passes in one quarter for first time in his career. … Coach Darrell Hazell might have known Purdue was in for a tough day when punter Cody Webster shanked a 15-yarder on his first kick. The Boilermakers came into the weekend second in the nation in net punting. … According to ESPN, Saturday was Ohio State’s eighth 50-point game in 21 under Meyer. Under coach Jim Tressel, OSU hit 50 just six times in 128 games.