The Buckeye Watch -- Illinois
By Tony Gerdeman
So much for that four-game losing streak that everybody was worried about. How does a one-game winning streak sound instead?!
Even though the offense looks like it's being run by cavemen, we are actually seeing an evolution of sorts. The Buckeyes couldn't have won this game two weeks ago, but they sure won it on Saturday.
Boom Herron returned and rushed for 114 yards on 23 carries. Aside from the 3-3 record before the game, you would have never known that this was Herron's first game. He was running full steam from the very first snap, and he figures to continue to do so.
People may cringe at Ohio State only completing one pass, but I think it's remarkably impressive. They went on the road and beat a ranked team and completed one stinking pass. That's bordering on unheard of. Yes, I'm sure it's happened to Ron Zook about eight times, but it's still pretty rare everywhere else.
The defense was there throughout as well. They tired a bit, but they made so many plays over the first three quarters that Illinois was still feeling them well into the fourth. It was awesome to see such remarkable individual performances by John Simon and Johnathan Hankins. They were eating Nathan Scheelhaase's lunch all game long. He apparently brought a ton, because they never stopped chomping.
It was just an all around quality performance by everybody but the passing game, because it had to be. If you're going to complete just one pass, the running game has to carry half the team—and they did. The offensive line and Zach Boren paved the way, as did the blocking of the receivers, and Boom Herron and Jordan Hall followed right behind them.
It's a great way to head into a bye week in preparation for the Wisconsin Badgers. Now the Buckeyes will get to hear about how they have no shot for the next two weeks.
It's perfect, really.
10:32 I think Kirk Herbstreit and Desmond Howard just picked Ohio State. I'm pretty sure Herbstreit did, but I can never stay focused to Desmond long enough to get through anything he says.
2:37 It's pretty freaking windy in Columbus. I can't imagine any buildings have been left standing today in Champaign.
3:10 Denard Robinson just threw a pick six. He's like 6-49 passing today, which will raise his completion percentage on the season.
3:32 I just pounded a foot long steak and cheese sub from Subway. The bread...it is too much.
3:33 The Buckeyes are receiving the kick. Do NOT get me started. Fortunately, Illinois won the toss and elected to defer. Even Ron Zook knows you start the game by kicking off. Ugh. The ball is blown off of the tee. That means no passing for Ohio State today. The wind, she is scary. It can dry your eyeballs really quickly and make a quarterback all blinky. And a blinky quarterback is a worthless quarterback.
3:34 Jordan Hall returns the opening kickoff out to the 29-yard line. I would have preferred a touchdown there. Sigh.
3:35 Wow, Boom Herron is starting. This might be the third offensive decision that I agree with this year. (The first was playing Braxton Miller more. The second was benching Miller for Bauserman against Michigan State.) The Buckeyes open in the pistol and they run the option to the right side. Miller keeps it for five yards. He looks so much more comfortable running that than Pryor ever did.
3:35 Boom starts his season off right with a six-yard carry up the middle. There are holes to be found here today.
3:36 Boom to the left and he gets eight more behind Mike Adams. So far so good. Herron should get unsuspended more often.
3:38 Jordan Hall is in. Follows Zach Boren for six more right up the middle. Illinois has played against spread teams all season long. Now they are playing against actual football for the first time.
3:41 The Buckeye drive stalls at about the 26-yard line. Hmm...they're kicking a field goal. I don't like this. From 43 yards out in swirling winds. Wow, he nailed it! Tremendous hook by Drew Basil. He was a magician on that one, pulling out the rabbit at just the right time. Buckeyes lead 3-0.
3:42 Everything was on the ground on that drive, and it went about 40 yards. That's nice, but it's not gonna win the game. If you're going to run, run, run, you have to maintain consistency and you can't have negative plays.
3:45 Nathan Scheelhaase keeps it on the read option for about four yards. Big Hank and Storm Klein peel off of him like the world's worst Brazilian wax.
3:46 Third and six. Gotta watch A.J. Jenkins look for a matchup here. Empty set. Scheelhaase looks for Spencer Harris on the out route, but it's broken up by Tyler Moeller. Illinois goes three and out and will have to punt. Pretty good start to the day.
3:50 The Buckeyes brought four quarterbacks today? In THIS wind? I would've kept at least two back in Columbus just for safety's sake. Jordan Hall gets a yard on the carry, as he is wont to do. Just can't pass with this wind. It's too dangerous. Like a bar on the east side at 1:45 on a Saturday night.
3:52 Ohio State goes three and out. Nice 53-yard punt for Ben Buchanan rolls inside the Illinois 20-yard line. All Buchanan does is punt inside the 20. Good thing they didn't go back to Boom on that drive. Gluttony is a sin.
3:54 Jason Ford fights for eight yards, which is about his longest carry of the year.
3:55 Ford gets nine on his next carry. This is making for a terrible pattern.
3:56 Quarterback draw and John Simon was there to drop Scheelhaase for a five-yard loss. Not in John Simon's house. Seriously. Not in the Simon household. If you are going to live under John Simon's roof, you will live under his rules! YOU WILL NOT DO DRUGS and YOU WILL NOT run the ball!!
3:57 The Buckeyes force a 66-yard punt. They need to start forcing shorter punts. Their punt defense is atrocious!
3:58 Ugh. Miscommunication between Miller and Boom for a loss of five. If only there had been a false start call instead. I'm picturing J.B. Shugarts' alarm clock going off while Shugarts is out cold.
3:59 Boom is running amazingly crazy. Shifty nine-yard run inside the tackles. Dude looks quicker than everybody else, and for good reason. He needs 30 carries today.
4:00 The Buckeyes have to punt into the wind. Nice punt by Buchanan and great tackle by Zach Domicone at the Illinois 26-yard line. Not letting the field position get turned is huge.
4:02 Ford picks up five yards on second and four. Each time he gets the ball he's carrying a Buckeye with him for two or three yards. Where's the gang tackling?
4:04 Troy Pollard gets the ball on the read option and jukes Solomon Thomas very badly and picks up eleven yards. When I say he was juked very badly, I'm talking dog + master + tennis ball. That was ugly. Should've been no gain. But it did bring us to the end of the first quarter, which Ohio State leads 3-0.
4:05 Well, the Buckeyes won the quarter and didn't have the wind or a completed pass. That's one you chalk up and take every day of the week. Just don't COUNT on it every day of the week.
4:08 Third and six. Trips right. Late blitz by Andrew Sweat. Scheelhaase throws it up down the sideline for Jenkins and he comes down with it. On Roby. Did he push off. No replay on the catch either?
4:09 Wow, they got away with it. There's an incomplete pass to Jenkins. He's talking smack to Roby. Roby had tremendous coverage on him on the previous play, but I think he pushed off to get the ball.
4:10 Third and four from the Ohio State 32-yard line. More blitzing. Scheelhaase throws it incomplete over the middle to Spencer Harris. It's too far to kick the field goal, so they'll go for it here. Unless they do something very Zookish and punt, of course. Well, they're doing something. Zook is punting. LOL. Of course he is. The punt goes out of bounds at the eight-yard line. The Buckeyes will take that all day long. Zook has no respect for the Ohio State offense, and the proper amount of respect for the Ohio State defense..
4:13 “Pan Am” please get off of my TV. I don't come to your place of work and peddle my “Mad Men” knockoff wares to you, do I? No I do not. Now beat it, Toots.
4:14 False start on Corey Linsley. Continued negative plays on each drive that have nothing to do with Illinois. That's not how you maintain drives.
4:16 The Buckeyes go three and out. They have run the ball 18 times and thrown it zero. Now mind you, the play calls haven't been that lopsided. There have probably been two passes called, so there is some semblance of balance. ('Off balance' is still a type of balance, right.)
4:18 Ugh. The AFLAC trivia question is about the Illibuck. America's second-lamest trophy. The first is Paul Bunyan's Colostomy Bag, which goes to the winner of the Penn State spring game.
4:19 Ohio State's fear of the Illinois wind is like a dark basement to children. Surely there are monsters hiding in the wind that they can't see. DID YOU HEAR THAT?!? WHAT WAS THAT?! I'M SCARED!!
4:21 WR screen to Ryan Lankford for three yards. Big Hank eats screens like that for dinner. Literally. When he orders a pizza, he normally asks for double pepperoni and receiver screens.
4:22 Third and four. Three-man rush. Scheelhaase's pass is dropped by Spencer Harris again. He's had a rough day. He'll catch the winning touchdown though, don't worry. Illinois punts.
4:23 I understand being concerned with the wind, but unless you're planning on somehow winning 3-0, you're gonna have to throw. Or are you just going to wait until Illinois finally scores. That's proactive.
4:24 I wonder if this is the series where Carlos Hyde gets to watch Jordan Hall play again.
4:25 The give is to Hall, who picks up nine yards. I knew my barbs would pay off. You suck too Braxton!
4:25 Bob Davie: “Ohio State has no choice but to be conservative.” Yeah, because that's how they scored 27 against Nebraska.
4:26 Draw to Hall for five more up the middle. Now Boom comes in to get three carries before coming out for Hall so he can get three carries.
4:27 Third and five. Never gonna throw it. Play-action and Braxton Miller gets sacked. Another third down play-action for some reason. The entire left side of the defense was there to laugh at the call. Ohio State punts.
4:29 The Ohio State offensive philosophy is that you don't need to start winning until you start losing.
4:32 Second and thirteen. Jenkins gets almost four yards underneath as Andrew Sweat pulled him down. Flag down. Roughing the passer on Solomon Thomas. His second poor play of the game. He's never had a sack in his life, why does he think he is going to get one now?
4:33 Wow! Big Freaking Hank was there to blow the play up for a four-yard loss. He dropped Donovonn Young deep in the backfield. That was Big Daddy all over again.
4:33 Scheelhaase finds Ryan Lankford for 15 yards in front of Bradley Roby, and now Buckeye fans are cussing Roby for his remarks about A.J. Jenkins earlier in the week. And hey, what is Illinois doing throwing the football? Don't they know about the monsters?
4:36 The Buckeyes hold and force a punt. Jordan Hall fair catches it at the eight-yard line with 2:58 left in the half. Illinois has all three timeouts remaining.
4:37 Lead draw to Boom and he picks up eight yards. The stellar passing from the Buckeyes is making the draw play very effective.
4:38 Boom picks up 23 more yards on yet another draw, kicking it out wide before fumbling it out of bounds at the 47-yard line. Now you've got 1:09 to play and you have to think about points.
4:40 Lead draw again and Hall picks up ten yards. Throwing is for losers! 49 seconds to play. Ohio State calls timeout. The lead draw is killing Illinois today and they don't even know it. Like getting hit in the head with the same hammer over and over again and never saying, “Hey, if you don't mind, could you knock it off with the hammer already.”
4:43 Second and ten. Time for another run. Illinois blitzes and sacks Miller. He saw it, wanted to run past it, but then the blitz got picked up for a second, so he didn't. Zook lets the clock run. Thank you, Ron. You can exchange those timeouts for a free water ski rental, you know!
4:44 Third and 18. Play-action on a hail mary, how absolutely Bollmanian. Somehow Illinois isn't fooled by the play-action and they sack Braxton Miller to end the half. Yeah, that's about right. Couldn't sum it up any better than that. Buckeyes lead it 3-0 at halftime.
4:48 Mark May: “This offense makes the Jim Tressel offense look like the run and shoot.” On the contrary, this looks like just about every Jim Tressel game against a decent Illinois team that I can remember.
4:49 Braxton Miller is 0-3 passing. The Buckeyes ran the ball like 20 times before he threw the ball. I wonder if this was their plan before seeing him throw in pregame, or if they know they'd have to adjust things once they got to the stadium.
4:50 How important is Boom Herron right now? He's more important than just the three points. He's almost as responsible for the field position battle not getting flipped as Ben Buchanan is.
4:52 Ohio State is going to need another offensive play besides the lead draw in the second half I bet..
5:05 We're back on. The Buckeyes are getting set to kickoff. According to Luke Fickell, “We can only do what the weather will allow us to do.” I hate when stupid weather makes new rules for football.
5:06 Scheelhaase keeps it on the zone read for six yards. They have to want him to do a lot more of that, provided Ohio State will let it.
5:07 Scheelhaase drops back. It's intercepted by Bradley Roby on the overthrow! And he returns it to the Illinois twelve-yard line. Roby talked it, and he has now walked it. He needed to score on that return though. I'm guessing that pass got held up in the wind and went where it shouldn't have. You just know Jim Bollman is up in the press box saying, “I told you there were monsters in there.”
5:08 Buckeyes open in the I-formation. Power football. Boom kicks it out wide and scampers in for the touchdown. Now THAT's how you start a freaking half. Boom Herron, it's good to see that dude back. 10-0 Buckeyes. The left side of the Ohio State offensive line has taken ownership of their Illinois counterparts today.
5:10 Illinois is not handling having the wind very well today.
5:13 Big Hank throws Donovonn Young to the ground for a loss of one on the zone read. I realize his nickname for life has been 'Big Hank', but watching him play today, I feel like maybe we should be calling him 'Big Daddy Hank'.
5:15 Triple option pitched to Jason Ford for nine yards and he's hurt. He went high and got hit low. Loss of breath? He's holding his clavicular region. Is that such a thing? My spellcheck says no.
5:18 Big Hank with the sack on the scramble! This dude is having the game of his life. I'm getting the feeling his Ohio State career is officially half over though.
5:18 Now Scheelhaase is sacked by John Simon on the scramble. He didn't throw it away and I don't know why. Watching too many Terrelle Pryor Youtubes, perhaps?
5:20 The Buckeyes hold again and force the Illini to punt. It dies at the 13-yard line with 7:36 to play in the third quarter.
5:21 The nation is getting to see what the rest of Buckeye Nation already knew—Big Hank is legit. Or at least they would have gotten to see it if they hadn't fallen asleep early on in the first quarter.
5:23 Boom gets sixteen more with inside cuts and outrageous juking. That run shouldn't have come as a surprise because it was on the syllabus. Juke-ology 665—it's a graduate level course.
5:25 Third and seven. How can you possibly throw in these conditions?! QB draw and there's a huge hole and Braxton follows his blockers for about 35 yards! Throwing the ball is for people who can't run it! Throwing the football is for the weak. It's for the lazy. Throwing the football is the reason our society is in the mess that it is. If kids grew up running the ball, there would be no more crime. We wouldn't even have to lock banks. But everybody grows up wanting to throw the ball, and you can see the crime rate go up. It's not a coincidence.
5:28 Third and fifteen. Expect another run here. Don't want to throw an interception because then that takes away the 22-yard punt coming. There's a draw to Boom and he loses two yards. I wonder if there is really any need to have safeties play the pass. The Buckeyes punt it down to the Illinois twelve-yard line. That's a 19-yard punt. That's gonna hurt the average.
5:33 Bobbled snap and John Simon throws Scheelhaase down like a sack of cabbages. (They're lighter than potatoes and bounce much higher.)
5:35 Third and fifteen. Scheelhaase steps up in the pocket and finds A.J. Jenkins at the marker with Travis Howard in coverage. I don't know if Howard is afraid of receivers, but he sure plays them like he is at times. That brings us to the end of the quarter with the Buckeyes still leading 10-0.
5:37 Illinois has 91 yards passing. Ohio State has zero. How embarrassing for the Illini.
5:39 Scheelhaase finds Jenkins, who fumbles it! It was forced by Tyler Moeller and recovered by Storm Klein. Roby slowed Jenkins up and Moeller was there to punch it loose. And tack on a personal foul on the Illini as well.
5:42 Third and five from the Illinois 17-yard line. Could this be the first completion of the day? Timeout Ohio State. Jim Bollman wanted that pass play back. He made a mistake. It was supposed to be a draw play.
5:44 Technically I am tied with Braxton Miller for most passing yards for the Buckeyes today.
5:45 Third and five. Play-action, and Miller zips it down field to Jake Stoneburner for the touchdown!!! That's a killer. And it was all spirally! All Jake Stoneburner does is catch touchdowns. Buckeyes lead it 17-0. There's no way they can possibly blow a lead of this magnitude in one quarter.
5:52 Scheelhaase is going deep, and Bradley Roby simply shoves A.J. Jenkins out of bounds before the ball can get there because he knows he was beaten. Sure, it's a 15-yard penalty, but it's much better than the six-point alternative. Just further proof of Roby's understanding of the position. Hilarious. He is now getting an “---hole” chant thrown his way.
5:55 Scheelhaase throws a screen pass to Donovonn Young and he only gets a yard because Christian Bryant was there to negate it like all Glenville safeties are supposed to do.
5:57 There's a pass intended for Jenkins that is knocked down by Bradley Roby. Jenkins is still talking for some reason. Maybe he's asking for advice on how to get away from Roby. “Bradley, if you were me, what would you do to get away from you?”
6:00 The Buckeyes are keeping everything in front of them and they've locked the receivers down. Scheelhaase is running the ball on almost every play and burning the clock while he does it. Ohio State is fine with this. Move the chains. Whatevs. Watch the clock burn.
6:02 First and goal and Illinois comes out in a power formation. This is perfect. No gain on the play. Keep pounding it. This is idiocy.
6:03 Finally, Illinois scores a touchdown on a play-action bootleg that Bob Davie called. If Bob Davie is calling it, you have no excuse for getting burnt by it. Though they were ready for most of it, they just didn't cover it in the endzone. Ohio State leads 17-7 with 6:22 to play.
6:04 The game is now in the hands of the offensive line. There's no need to give the ball back. It's on them to do what they weren't given the chance to do last week.
6:05 What?! Here comes Bauserman!! Ha ha. Wouldn't that be hilarious.
6:06 False start. Of course. Andrew Norwell. Well, the Buckeyes don't need points, they just need to burn the clock. However that play pretty much guarantees a three and out.
6:07 Hey, Carlos Hyde is in the game to burn the clock. He gets nothing. You're a week late, Bollman.
6:08 Corner blitz by Tavon Wilson and he brings down Boom before he can get anything started. They aren't even worried about the pass.
6:09 Play-action scramble for Miller, who picks up thirteen on third and 15. There's 4:40 to play and the clock is still ticking. No timeout by Zook. Amazing. This is gonna go down to the 4:05 mark before the punt is gone. Thank you Ron, you beautiful dope.
6:10 Delay of game by the special teams because they lollygagged out there. How does that happen?
6:11 Illinois comes out in the pistol formation and they send the tailback in motion. Going down the sideline to Lankford and it's intercepted by Travis Howard who returns it to the 35-yard line! He sized that one up the entire way. This wind ain't no joke. One offense has been smarter than the other, clearly. Beautiful grab by Howard.
6:12 Carlos Hyde for six yards. More fresh legs. MORE FRESH LEGS! I feel like Orson Welles at KFC. I WANT ALL THE FRESH LEGS!
6:13 Hyde gets two more. Timeout Illinois. Flag thrown. Personal foul on Mike Adams after the play. Idiotic play. It keeps Illinois' hopes alive. Inexcusable. I guess Adams is trying to make up for five games worth of no contact by extending his contact beyond the whistle.
6:14 Third and 17. QB draw, and Whitney Mercilus tackles Miller for a six-yard loss. Then Mercilus talks smack. That's always the way Illinois, isn't it. Buckeyes punt with 2:24 to play.
6:21 Typical Ron Zook. Illinois is down by ten points. It's fourth and three from the Ohio State 17-yard line with 1:14 to play and they're going for it instead of kicking the field goal. This is so hilarious. Blitz, Scheelhaase reads it, but Jenkins does not. He throws it Jenkins' way and it falls incomplete. Buckeyes will win. Jenkins was probably too busy talking to pay attention. Here's the scene after the game: "Coach Zook, why didn't you kick the FG?" Zook: "A field goal is only three points. We were down by ten. We needed a ten-pointer."
6:25 Victory formation for the final snap. Buckeyes win 17-7. Illinois is pointing and not shaking hands. That's about right. Boom gets a hug from Luke Fickell. Good scene.
6:27 I'm not sure I've ever watched a game with only one completion. If this was backyard football, the Buckeyes would have finished with zero first downs.
6:28 Now we all get to breathe a little bit. The bye week comes at a good time for all of us. It'll give us a week to go back and rewatch all of Ohio State's games this year because...actually, I can think of no reason to actually go and do that. Just enjoy the break. We all need it.
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