Ohio State got out to an early 28-0 lead before pumping the brakes and allowing Illinois to score 21 of the next 28 points, bringing the game to its closest point in the third quarter with the Illini trailing 35-21.
Illinois would score twice in the fourth quarter, but ultimately Carlos Hyde’s two fifty-plus yard touchdowns in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter would seal the deal for the Buckeyes and send them home tied for the Ohio State school-record 22 straight wins.
Carlos Hyde continued on his vicious tear, accounting for 246 yards on just 24 carries and a whopping five total touchdowns on the day.
Since his breakout performance against the Northwestern Wildcats in Evanston, Hyde has rushed for over 100 yards in the last five games and hasn’t posted less than 6 yards-per-carry in any of those match-ups.
It would be fitting that Hyde, now sitting at 947 yards on the season, will get a chance to become Urban Meyer’s first 1,000 yard back on his Senior Day next week against Indiana.
While Hyde certainly stole the show with his last two carries of the game, Braxton Miller’s first carry of the game propelled him to his best rushing totals of this season.
With less than a minute played on Saturday, Braxton Miller took the second snap of the game, faked a handoff and took it all the way to the end-zone for a 70-yard score.
Miller finished the rest of the game with 15 carries for 114 yards, often making broken plays into big ones and forcing the Illinois defense to respect his feet.
Miller’s efficiency on the ground might have overshadowed what was an otherwise shoddy performance from the quarterback.
Coming into Saturday’s battle with Illinois, Miller was being praised for his improvement throwing the football. He was notably more cautious and more accurate when throwing than ever before. Saturday’s game, however, was a step in the wrong direction.
Miller finished completing just 13 of his 29 pass attempts for 150 yards and two touchdowns, but while the yardage and scores seemed to be ok, his completion percentage was not.
Miller, through the entirety of Saturday’s battle, was errant with the football, overthrowing receivers left and right with no-touch whatsoever. The whipping winds in Memorial Stadium might have been partially to blame, but ultimately, Miller needs to get back on track and quickly
On the other side of the ball, for a while at least, things were atrocious for the Buckeyes.
Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase torched the Ohio State secondary, completing 33 of his 50 passes for 288 yards and two touchdowns. His gritty performance caught the eye of Urban Meyer, who told Scheelhaase post-game how terrific the quarterback was.
While Scheelhaase was a key contributor for the Illini, the Ohio State secondary couldn’t do a thing as the second quarter commenced.
After two interceptions in the first quarter, one of which was taken all the way back to the house by Bradley Roby, Scheelhaase found the holes and exploited them, all the while orchestrating the Illini offense to 28 points.
Ohio State’s linebacking corps was mangled, as starters Curtis Grant and Joshua Perry did not make the trip to Champaign, which may have also affected the pass defense, but ultimately, as was the case with Miller, they need to step up next week against Indiana.
The Buckeye rush defense was solid yet again, as no Illini rusher rushed for over 70 yards or more than five yards-per-carry, but they did suffer a big loss as freshman Joey Bosa left the game with an apparent neck injury.
The offense was great, the defense was suspect, but Ohio State proved against Illinois that it’s most lethal weapon may come in the form of an Australian punter.
Cameron Johnston, the freshman and former Aussie rules football player, punted a season-high six times against the Illini but made sure that his presence was felt when he put his foot to the pigskin.
Johnston finished with six punts for 342 yards, an average of 57 yards per punt, including three that were downed inside the 20 and one booming 70-yard bomb. For the first time this season, however, one of Johnston’s punts was taken back for a touchdown, but it was the result of poor tackling from the Buckeyes and not a bad punt from the Aussie.
While we certainly don’t want to see too much of Johnston over the next couple games, the Buckeyes certainly have a special teams weapon that not many other schools can boast.
Next week, Ohio State will return home to face the Hoosiers in what is certain to be a high-scoring affair.
While IU has lost six games this season, just once have they scored less than 21 points and that was on Saturday afternoon against the Wisconsin Badgers.
Defensively, however, Indiana struggles mightily. The Hoosiers have allowed over 40 points in all six of their losses, including 63 points in a close loss to Michigan and 51 points in the loss to Wisconsin on Saturday. Their 38.8 points allowed per game has them as the 117th ranked defense in college football.
Saturday’s game against Indiana should be an emotional one, as many Ohio State’s seniors, including Carlos Hyde and Jack Mewhort, have been integral parts of this Ohio State team since Urban Meyer has taken over in Columbus.
Kickoff is set for 3:30 pm.