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Bucks Crush Illinois, Move To 10-0

After 10 wins on 10 consecutive Saturdays, Ohio State has earned a well deserved break.

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The sixth-ranked Buckeyes moved into their open week on the schedule with a 52-22 win over visiting Illinois before 105,311 Saturday at Ohio Stadium.

Ohio State reached 10-0 to start a season for the 10th time in school history and third time since 2006. The Buckeyes (6-0 Big Ten) have games remaining at Wisconsin Nov. 17 and at home with rival Michigan on Nov. 24. OSU is one win or a Penn State loss away from clinching at least a tie for the Big Ten Leaders Division title – even if the Buckeyes are ineligible for the conference championship game or postseason play.

This one was tight early as the Fighting Illini (2-7, 0-5) scored first with a field goal and still trailed at 7-6 early in the second quarter. But the Buckeyes exploded for 24 second-quarter points and never looked back.

“I thought after a slow start the offense and defensive lines took over the game,” said OSU coach Urban Meyer. “If you do that without turning the ball over, usually you'll win. We still have some weaknesses.”

The win should be more than good enough to propel the Buckeyes into the top five in the Associated Press poll on Sunday.

“Today's performance was a top-five,” Meyer said. “You'd like to end it a little better instead of a fumble return for a touchdown. But in certain areas, though, when you can control the line of scrimmage, that's usually a top-five team.”

(POSTGAME VIDEOS: Click here for Coach Meyer’s press conference and here for an interview with John Simon.)

OSU quarterback Braxton Miller was strong again. He carried the ball 18 times for 73 yards and also completed 12 of 20 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns. There were some drops in the passing game and Meyer still is not completely satisfied.

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“We have worked so hard at trying to develop a passing game, and I can't say that we did it successfully,” Meyer said. “We are still a work in progress. We'll still working and grinding and pushing because at some point we have to be a balanced team. We're not there yet.”

Tailback Carlos Hyde had another huge day with 18 carries for 137 yards and three touchdowns for OSU, which rolled up 330 yards rushing.

“For me, it all has to do with my offensive line,” Hyde said. “When those guys go, I go because when they do better, I can do my job better. And they did great today.

“Our coaches challenged them to step up and control the line of scrimmage today and that’s exactly what they did.”

Philly Brown and Rod Smith each had touchdown catches for the Buckeyes. Brown had four catches for 79 yards for OSU.

For Illinois, quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase was 19 of 34 passing for 96 yards with an interception (by OSU’s Travis Howard). Illinois was held to 74 yards rushing on 32 attempts (2.3 average).

The Buckeyes outgained Illinois 567-170 in total yardage.

“The defense is getting better because of all of the criticism we have been receiving,” said linebacker Ryan Shazier, who led the Buckeyes with 14 tackles. “We are trying and succeeding, slowly but surely, at becoming a better football team.

Braxton Miller scrambles vs. Illinois

“We interrupted their schedule and made them keep flipping pages in the book. We were doing things they weren’t suspecting us to do. We’d get them in second-and-long and third-and-long. That helped our defense out a lot.”

As It Happened

The teams traded punts early before Illinois got on the scoreboard first. Illinois drove 39 yards down to the OSU 25, aided by a pass interference penalty on OSU’s Christian Bryant. But the defense stiffened with Scheelhaase throwing a pair of incompletions, the second one under pressure from Johnathan Hankins. Illinois settled for Nick Immekus’ 43-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead with 7:48 left in the first quarter.

Ohio State answered with a 10-play, 79-yard scoring march. Hyde and Smith opened it with a series of rushing plays to get the Buckeyes past midfield. Miller then stepped up and drilled it to Jake Stoneburner down the left sideline for a 24-yard gain down to the Illinois 23. Miller kept it behind Hyde for an 11-yard gain and a first down at the Illini 8. Miller then kept it for 5 yards, setting up Hyde’s 3-yard touchdown burst behind blocks from tight end Jeff Heuerman and linemen Andrew Norwell and Marcus Hall. OSU led 7-3 with 4:14 left in the first quarter.

Once again, Illinois threatened as the Illini drove down to the OSU 9. This drive was aided by a late hit by OSU’s Bryant on a defenseless Illinois receiver. But OSU linemen Nathan Williams and John Simon forced a pair of incompletions inside the 10. Illinois settled for Immekus’ 28-yard field goal, trimming the gap to 7-6 with 38 seconds left in the first quarter.

OSU drove from its own 25 down to the Illinois 14 on the ensuing possession, keyed by a 31-yard pass down the seam from Miller to Nick Vannett. But on third-and-8 at the 14, Miller overthrew Michael Thomas on a fade incomplete in the end zone. OSU settled for Drew Basil’s 31-yard field goal and a 10-6 lead with 12:10 left in the first half.

The Buckeye defense forced a punt, which was shanked out of bounds after 22 yards at the OSU 36. It took the Buckeyes five plays to find the end zone. Hyde started it with a 5-yard gain. Miller then kept it for 8 yards on a draw. Miller then kept it on a sweep right out of bounds for a 14-yard gain. On first down at the Illinois 37, Miller faked and threw strongly down the right sideline to Philly Brown for a 32-yard gain. OSU rushed to the line of scrimmage and Miller gave it to Hyde, who plowed ahead and scored standing up on the 5-yard touchdown to make it 17-6 with 9:01 left in the first half.

Penalties and a bad shotgun snap backed Illinois up inside its own 10. OSU took over after another punt on its own 39. The Buckeyes needed just three plays to cover 61 yards and score again. After an incompletion, Hyde rumbled inside for a hard 10-yard run. On first down at the OSU 49, Miller took the snap and had plenty of time. Smith circled out of the backfield and ran a go pattern down the sideline. He got behind Illinois safety Supo Sanni, hauled in the pass at the 10 and rolled for the 51-yard touchdown that made it 24-6 with 5:14 left in the first half.

The play was similar to what Purdue used with a back coming out of the backfield to score a long touchdown against OSU two weeks earlier.

“We practiced that throughout the whole week,” Miller said. “It popped out like it was supposed to.”

Illinois punter Justin DuVernois shanked another punt – this one going just 18 yards – and the Buckeyes were in business at the 50. Miller and Hyde each had 11-yard runs before Miller hit tight end Nick Vannett for a 14-yard gain on a play action pass down to the 14. Miller then dropped to throw but was flushed and scrambled forward for an 11-yard gain. Hyde then easily scampered around right end for the 3-yard touchdown that made it 31-6 with 1:56 left in the half.

The Buckeyes had one more opportunity late in the half as corner Travis Howard intercepted a Scheelhaase and returned it 50 yards inside the Illini 10. But the return was negated due to a tripping penalty on Nathan Williams.

"Today, I made a good jump and got out in front of it to make the play,” Howard said. “I almost had another one too. I told Orhian Johnson if he hadn't been there, I would have been locked in on another."

Backed up to midfield, the Buckeyes were unable to tack on another score.

The teams traded punts to start the second half before OSU moved 73 yards in 11 plays to another touchdown. Hyde got it rolling with gainers of 24 and 20 yards to go over the 100-yard mark. On third-and-5 at the 14, Miller hit Smith with a perfect option pitch for a 12-yard gain down to the 2. On first goal there, Miller looked to throw. But he was flushed to his right and eventually beat the contain around the end and scored to make it 38-6 with 6:45 left in the third quarter.

OSU’s Smith was hit and fumbled after a catch, giving the Illini possession at the OSU 42 late in the third. Illinois needed eight plays to get it into the end zone and was aided by a personal foul on OSU’s Williams. Jon Davis capped the drive with his 1-yard TD run. Tim Russell then hit Matt LaCosse for a two-point conversion pass, cutting the OSU lead to 38-14 with 53 seconds left in the third.

But Ohio State came back with an eight-play, 75-yard scoring march. The possession included a 13-yard scamper by Hyde. On first down at the 37, Miller hit Brown in the right flat. He turned upfield and broke several tackles on his way to a 37-yard touchdown that made it 45-14 with 12:39 left in the game.

Meyer has been after Brown to get yards after the catch and to break tackles. He definitely did both on that touchdown.

“It felt good,” Brown said. “He did say something about breaking tackles. I went to the sideline, looked at him and smiled. It was good to get something like that. It was an easy pass. Braxton made the perfect pass and Jake made a good downfield block for me.”

Backup quarterback Kenny Guiton led OSU on a drive inside the Illinois 20. But he misfired on an option pitch, which Illinois’ Ashanti Williams scooped up and returned 70 yards for a touchdown. Russell, the extra-point holder, then dropped the snap on the PAT before picking it up and running it in for the two-point conversion that made it 45-22 with 4:56 left in the game.

OSU took over after an onside kick at the Illini 44. Freshman tailback Brionte Dunn carried on all seven plays of the drive, including the 3-yard touchdown that made it 52-22 with 1:26 left in the game.

Also Notable

* Meyer indicated that players will get treatments on Sunday, lift on Monday and practice Tuesday through Thursday before having next weekend off.

“I explained to them, the bye weeks, there's no rights around here; that's earned time (off),” Meyer said. “If we didn't play well we would have been in tomorrow working, and going all week like a normal work week. But those guys earned it. I'm proud of them.

“And we have two big ones left.”

Shazier added, “I think it will give a lot of guys who have been hurt or injured a chance to rest and hopefully we will get a lot of guys back for Wisconsin.”

* OSU reached the 50-point plateau for the fourth time this season. This is the first time OSU has ever done that four times in one season.

* Hyde reached the 100-yard mark for the third time this year and fourth time in his career. He now has 737 yards and 13 touchdowns for the season.

* Miller’s 73 yards rushing and a touchdown give him 1,165 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns as well.
His season total of 1,165 yards is the 22nd-most in a single season by an OSU player.

* Ohio State lost a pair of players to injury in safety Orhian Johnson and right tackle Reid Fragel. Johnson was shaken up after making a big hit in the first half, while Fragel left the game early in the fourth quarter with a leg injury.

Corey “Pittsburgh” Brown filled in for Johnson, while true freshman Taylor Decker subbed in for Fragel.

Also, freshman Jacoby Boren saw his first game action as a backup to Corey Linsley at center.

* Illinois lost standout linebacker Jonathan Brown to an injury in the first quarter. He was averaging seven tackles a game.

* Linebacker Ryan Shazier led OSU with 14 tackles, while Zach Boren had eight. John Simon and freshman Adolphus Washington had sacks for the Buckeyes. Simon now leads the team with five sacks this season.

* Howard’s interception was his fourth of the year and eighth of his career.

* The Buckeyes have had 30 70-yard drives this season – 21 more than the nine they had all last season. In this game, the Buckeyes had touchdown drives of 79, 61, 64, 61, 50, 73, 75 and 44 yards.

* OSU was 6 of 7 in the red zone and is now 39 of 44 this season on scoring chances in the red zone. That includes 35 touchdowns and four field goals. The lone miss in this game was due to the Guiton fumble.

* Ohio State now leads the all-time series 65-30-4, including 28-18-4 in Columbus. OSU has won eight of the last nine in the series, including the last five (30-20 at Champaign in 2008, 30-0 at Columbus in 2009, 24-13 at Champaign in 2010 and 17-7 at Champaign last year). But the Illini had won seven of their last 11 visits to Ohio Stadium, dating to 1988.

The schools play for the Illibuck trophy, a wooden replica of a turtle. Ohio State now leads the Illibuck series with a 61-23-2 mark. Until the series was interrupted in 2003, the schools had played every year from 1914 to 2002.

* The Buckeyes came into the weekend as one of six unbeaten teams nationally. Ohio State is the nation’s only 10-0 team, however. Also unbeaten coming into the weekend were Alabama, Oregon, Kansas State, Notre Dame and Louisville (all 8-0 starting the weekend).

* The Buckeyes has reached 10-0 to start a season for the 10th time in school history and third time in seven years, dating to 2006. OSU’s previous 10-0 starts: 1954 (finished 10-0), 1968 (finished 10-0), 1975 (started 11-0), 1979 (started 11-0), 1995 (started 11-0), 1996 (started 10-0), 2002 (finished 14-0), 2006 (started 12-0) and 2007 (started 10-0).

This is the third team Meyer has led to a 10-0 start in his 11th year as a head coach. His 2004 Utah team finished 12-0, while his 2009 Florida team started 12-0.

Only two first-year OSU coaches have started 10-0. Carroll Widdoes was 9-0 in 1944 and eventually won his first 12 games before a loss. Earle Bruce posted an 11-0 record to open the 1979 before a Rose Bowl loss to USC.

* Meyer’s teams are now 71-14 when ranked.

* Illinois coach Tim Beckman, a native of Berea, Ohio, and a University of Findlay grad, served as an assistant under Meyer at Bowling Green and also worked at OSU for Jim Tressel in 2005-06. Beckman is one of 10 former Meyer assistants who have become a head coach.

As the head coach at Toledo, Beckman led the Rockets against OSU twice. In 2009, OSU defeated Toledo 38-0 in Cleveland. Last year, OSU held off Toledo 27-22 at Ohio Stadium. He is now 0-3 against OSU as a head coach.

“I’m proud of the way our kids continued to compete after a bad second quarter, but I give a lot of credit to the Ohio State Buckeyes for how they played today,” Beckman said. “For us, the most important thing for our team moving forward is to improve as a team; we just have to continue to work hard together and get better.”

* Ohio State honored the branches of the military Saturday as part of its Military Appreciation Game.

* After playing for 10 consecutive Saturdays, the Buckeyes will have next Saturday off. OSU returns to action Nov. 17 at Wisconsin before wrapping the season at home against Michigan on Nov. 24.

Also Check Out

Here are more stories and columns to check out (some are premium):

OSU-Illinois box score

Our OSU-Illinois thread on The Front Row board

Dave Biddle’s What We Learned column

Our game story with Meyer and Simon videos

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