Three and Out: Thoughts From Ohio State's 60-35 Win at Illinois
By Tony Gerdeman
It was rarely pretty, but such is life in Champaign, Illinois. Ohio State added some cosmetic surgery late, but the game was never in doubt even before the nip and tuck. The wind eliminated Ohio State's deep passing game, which has been virtually eliminated of late because of the effectiveness of the short passing game. Fortunately for the Buckeyes, they had Carlos Hyde and Illinois didn't.
While the ESPN commentators spent most of the second half talking about how much this game was going to hurt the Buckeyes in the BCS standings, Hyde spent his time hurting the Illinois defense.
Defensively for Ohio State, this was a performance very much like those earlier in the season. While the Illini have a capable offense against most teams, they were completely shut down against Michigan State. That was not the case against the Buckeyes, however.
As bad as it may have appeared, I don't think Illinois would have scored 35 points if their tackles would have ever been flagged for holding. The negative plays would have changed things very dramatically. As it stands, Ohio State still won by 25 points and scored eight touchdowns, which should always be impressive.
A defense can only lose so many players before it starts having an impact. The Buckeyes came into this game without starters Christian Bryant, Curtis Grant and Joshua Perry. Then they lose Joey Bosa, who had 2.5 sacks in the first half of the game. That's four starters out of the lineup. Not many teams are going to be unaffected by this, especially against an offense that puts pressure on a defense like the Illinois offense does. Nathan Scheelhaase routinely dumped the ball over the middle, and Josh Ferguson was very good at ducking under tacklers and picking up additional yardage. Does this happen if Curtis Grant is in the game? Ohio State can't even field an actual 70-man travel roster right now, which makes things even worse when you lose starters due to injury. That being said, don't be surprised when the same thing happens next week against Indiana.
Carlos Hyde is the poster boy for sticking it out and putting in the work. Before Hyde could get to Ohio State, he had to go to Fork Union Military Academy for a year. Then when he finally got to Columbus, he carried the ball just 24 times as a true freshman. A year later, he started the season strong, carrying the ball 51 times in the Buckeyes' first three games. He rushed for 100 yards against Nebraska and Indiana later in the season, but once Boom Herron came back from suspension, Hyde's touches suffered. He didn't even carry the ball against Michigan. Last season he had just 35 carries over the first five games, but finished the season by carrying the Buckeyes on his back. This year, he might just be Ohio State's MVP. I'm sure Hyde was frustrated with his lack of carries at times during his career, but he stuck it out and now he's got an NFL career ahead of him. It's a great lesson for guys like Bri'onte Dunn, Rod Smith and Warren Ball, who will have to wait their turns as well. If you never stop putting in the work, eventually that work will start putting you in the game.
This was a very sloppy offensive outing, which tells you how good this offense has been of late. The Buckeye offense scored 51 points, and they still punted the ball six times and turned it over once. That's seven opportunities to put points on the board that went unfilled. Had the wind not been so dastardly, the score would have been much different. Still, there was a disjointed feel to much of the game. The running attack was furious and unstoppable all afternoon, but it seems like boredom sometimes wills Tom Herman to throw the ball. I'm chalking this one up to the wind. But even with the wind, Ohio State still managed to put 591 yards of total offense on the board, which is ridiculous considering how up and down they were on offense. Of course, some of the credit – if not most of the credit – has to go to Illinois' terrible defense.
Joey Bosa is never going to see a fourth year at Ohio State. Just get used to it, Buckeye fans. He is less than a year removed from high school and he was putting a devastating bull rush on a sixth-year senior, driving him backward into Nathan Scheelhaase's open arms. It was fortunate for Illinois that he left the game when he did, because they didn't appear to have anybody who could block the youngster. Bosa now has 4.5 sacks on the season and is likely on his way to Big Ten Defensive Freshman of the Year, as well as some recognition somewhere on the All-Big Ten teams. He's a likely Honorable Mention guy, given the talent at defensive end in the conference this season. He won't be Honorable Mention for long, however.
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