It was another cold, windy day in the state of Illinois, but for the second straight week, the Bucks rode their star power to overcome the conditions and pull off a road victory.
Tresselball was in full effect during the second half, as Ohio State passed the ball twice after halftime, en route to a 30-20 win in Champaign.
It wasn't the prettiest defensive performance, but they made the stops when needed and watched most of the second half, as the Buckeye rushing attack turned the tables.
Beanie Wells and Terrelle Pryor each ran for 100+ yards and Ohio State controlled the ball for almost 20 minutes after halftime. It was the first time the Bucks have had two players go over the century mark since Troy Smith and Antonio Pittman did it against Iowa in 2005.
After trading punts to start the game, Ohio State created their first turnover when Tyler Moeller knocked the ball loose from Juice and Nadar Abdallah recovered the ball at the Illinois 19. Five plays later, LiC ran in from one yard out on a great bootleg play call. All five plays were runs and ate up 2:33 on the clock.
On Illinois's next drive, the Buckeye defenders reverted back to their old ways and let the Illini rush 7 straight times for 75 yards, missing numerous tackles and allowing runs of 12, 23, 24 and 11 yards. The drive was capped off by a 7 yard diving catch by Jeff Cumberland from Juice Williams, setting off visions of 2007 in the Buckeye faithful.
The Illini were only able to kick it 34 yards into a strong wind on the ensuing kickoff and the Buckeyes got the ball at their own 48. After failing to move the ball, Trapasso pinned Zook's team at the eight, setting up a momentum changing sequence. On 3 and 4, Nader Abdallah knocked down a Juice pass and Malcolm Jenkins blocked his second punt of the year, out of the endzone, giving OSU the 9-7 lead.
Another crummy 34 yard kick by Illinois gave the ball to Tressel's boys at the Illini 43. Breaking a season long trend, Pryor connected with Hartline for 16 yards on first down and then handed off to #9 on second down for an end around and a gain of 18. Two plays later, Beanie punched it in from 3 yards and the 16-7 lead.
The Buckeyes allowed Juice to march his troops down the field, as the Illini mixed in some no huddle offense and completely confused the Silver Bullets. After a much needed timeout by Tressel, Juice was pressured again by Moeller and threw a pick to Kurt Coleman at the Ohio State 6. Six plays later Pryor found Dane Sanzenbacher for a 20 yard touchdown. The drive covered 79 yards, including a 25 yard run by Pryor and 4 carries for 21 yards by Beanie.
The Illini gained another 107 yards in the final 6:30 of the second quarter, resulting in two field goals and a 23-13 halftime deficit. Illinois gained 292 yards in the first half, including 167 on the ground and had 13 plays of 10+ yards. They ran 11 more plays, but held the ball for only a 1:56 more than the Bucks.
There was an uneasy feeling across Buckeye Nation during halftime, not because we had to watch Mark May act stupid, but because the spread offense was given OSU fits once again. Credit must given to Heacock and the defense though, as they shut down the Illini in the second half, giving up only 42 yards in the third quarter and 88 in their first 4 possessions.
With the defense seemly in control after half, Tressel decided to run the ball on 31 of 33 plays in the second. Beanie electrified the crowd on the fourth play, with a three foot hurdle on an Illini defender and a gain of 25. He unfortunately fumbled the ball 5 plays later at the Illinois 18, but not before the Bucks had rushed 8 times for 58 yards, including TP's 16 yard scamper on 3rd and 13.
Luckily the Ilinni couldn't convert and after a battle for field position ensued, the Dynamic Duo lead OSU on an 8 play 84 yard drive, that ended with a 12 yard Boom Herron touchdown run. On that drive, Beanie had 5 carries for 37 yards, including a 30 yarder and Pryor had a 26 yard scamper on 1st and 15 that got the ball to the Illinois 13 yard line.
The Illini added a late touchdown to make the score more respectable, but it was the dominating second half performance by both sides that propelled OSU to their 15th straight conference road victory.
The Buckeye's ended up rushing the ball 52 times for 305 yards, including Beanie's 24 for 143 and TP's 13 for 110. Boom Herron chipped in with 11 carries 29 yards and Hartline had 2 for 24. Terrelle only needed to throw the ball 10 times, completing 6 of them for 49 yards and the aforementioned TD. Thankfully Robo (34) and Hartline (27) kept their streaks of at least one catch alive.
Ohio State ran the ball on 19 of 24 first downs by my unofficial count. I get as frustrated as anyone with Tressel's predictability on offense, but I don't blame him today. The conditions were horrible for throwing, it is mid-November on the road and you have a freshman QB.
The defense looked like a sieve during the first half, but the insertion of Tyler Moeller gave them a new blitzing dimension and I thought Nader Abdallah continued to inspire the defensive front. They missed tons of tackles, but made the stops when they had to and can now turn their attention to Michigan.
It's been an up and down season to say the least, but this team is 9-2 and in contention for a fourth straight Big Ten title and BCS bowl game berth. It is now Michigan week and those bastards have snuck up on us before. They are having their worst season in the history of the school, but the bitter taste could all go away with a victory over Ohio State.
Notes: Beanie moved past Pepe Pearson for fifth all time and now has 3,142 career yards. Next up is Keith Byers with 3,200... Jim Tressel moved past Earle Bruce for third with 82 career wins, he is now 82-18 at OSU... Illinois 455 yards of total offense was the most given up by Ohio State this year... Kurt Coleman had a career high 11 tackles... Ohio State has recovered 12 fumbles this year.