Improving Buckeyes Trample Illini 52 -22
By John Porentas
COLUMBUS, OHIO - The Illini football team (2-7, 0-5) has a lot of issues this season. One of them is timing.
Illinois came to Ohio Stadium and ran into a Buckeye football team (10-0, 6-0) that is a far cry from the one that was taking the field just a few weeks ago. Offensively they have become more rounded with an improving air game and the emergence Carlos Hyde as an effective complement to Braxton Miller in the run game. A defense that once was more likely to give up big plays than it was to force a three-and-out is suddenly becoming solid.
Had the Illini met that early Buckeye team they may have had a chance, but against the improving version of OSU that took the field on Saturday there was virtually no hope. After a relatively tight first quarter that ended with a 7-6 Buckeye lead the flood gates opened. OSU put up 24 unanswered points in the second quarter to all but end the game.
"We didn't play very well in the second quarter as you are all well aware of," said Illinois Head Coach Tim Beckman.
While the Illini were struggling the Buckeyes were romping. OSU got second-quarter scores on a 31-yard field goal by Drew Basil, a five-yard run by Carlos Hyde, a 51-yard pass from Miller to Rod Smith and another score by Hyde, this one from three yards out. Hyde also scored from three yards out in the first quarter to tally three TDs in the first half. They Buckeyes put 310 yards of offense up in the first half to just 138 for Illinois.
The teams traded touchdowns in the third quarter, but when Corey Brown scored on a 37-yard TD pass from Miller in the fourth quarter Urban Meyer emptied the bench. OSU's second and third teams played the rest of the way. The OSU offensive reserves managed a touchdown against the Illinois first team defense, but made a costly error when a pitchout from Kenny Guiton ended up on the ground and was scooped up and returned for an Illinois touchdown by Ashante Williams. OSU's final score came on a three-yard run by Bri'onte Dunn to cap a 7-play 44 yard drive by the OSU reserves.
Eight different receivers had catches led by Brown with 4 for 79 yards and one touchdown. Hyde, Miller, Guiton, Dunn and Smith all contributed significantly in the running game that amassed 330 net yards rushing.
The diversity in the offense has led to improvement, but there is little doubt that it is quarterback Braxton Miller who still makes the offense go. Miller was 12 of 20 passing for 226 yards and a touchdown and added 73 net yards rushing on 18 carries.
"Braxton Miller is a fantastic football player," said Beckman.
"He can break you. When you think you've got him caught up on a pass rush he can run the football. He does a fabulous job. Braxton Miller is a fine, fine football player."
OSU's defensive improvement has continued since the debacle at the end of the Indiana game. Since then, the Buckeyes have become much steadier and reliable on that side of the ball.
"Since the Indiana game, we focused on the fundamentals," said junior safety C. J. Barnett. "Tackling better, leveraging the ball and keeping them in front of us. Coach Meyer really challenged us and put pressure on us to do better. We've done a good job of answering the call."
They've also benefited from the move of Zach from fullback to linebacker. The move has seemed to steady a once-shaky OSU defense. Against Illinois the OSU defense gave up just 159 yards of total offense and just 82 net yards rushing.
* With the 52 points Ohio State scored 50 points or more four times in a season for the first time in OSU football history.
* Carlos Hyde's three touchdowns gives him 13 this season. He is now tied with Braxton Miller and Wisconsin's Montee Ball for the league lead for touchdowns.
* Ohio State leads the league with 34 rushing touchdowns this year.
* Ohio State rushed for more than 200 yards for the seventh time this season. The Buckeyes came into the game ranked 10th in the country in rushing offense at 247.89 yards per game.