Five Things: Illinois

By Chris Lauderback on September 28, 2009 at 7:00a
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Wilson, King of PrussiaWilson and Co. squeezed Juice all day (AP: Gilliam)

I'm surprised I have so little to say about a 30-0 dismantling of another underachieving Zook bunch. The whitewashing saw the Buckeyes dominate in every phase of the game and I'm still chubbing over another stellar performance from the defensive line even though I expected as much. The balance and depth up front is flat out sick. What I didn't expect was how well the rushing game performed especially when you factor in the Illini defense knew the run was coming as the driving rain thankfully eliminated any need for OSU to throw the ball.

Though Illy is clearly on the downswing to such a degree that the fan base should start barking for Zook to put up or pack up, the decisive win on a day when a supposedly back Michigan team needed some zebra help to sneak past Indiana and the Fighting Joe Pa's once again couldn't solve Iowa, at home no less, is worth being very excited about.

Scratch that APB on the Ground Game

It was a collective effort that saw the Buckeyes pick up 236 yards on the ground, when everyone in the stadium knew it was coming. Boom averaged 5.4 yards per carry (14/75), Zoom picked up 6.2 per tote (13/81) and Pryor recorded 5.4 per carry (11/72) thanks just as much to a change in scheme as the offensive line.

The change to running out of the shotgun, in a read/option look, coupled with the tight end pulling on numerous runs paid huge dividends. First, running out of the gun forced the LB's to freeze just a moment as Pryor did a superb job of disguising and faking handoffs. This gave Boom and Zoom a little more time to get to the line of scrimmage before the LB's could fill the gap. The LB's had to respect Pryor as a runner out of this look and it made an incredible difference as to when Boom and Zoom had to make their initial cuts or jukes on the first defender at the point of attack. I wonder if Hazell had anything to do with these two key changes in scheme / playcalling?

In scanning the Buckeye interwebs, it looks like more and more folks are leaning toward Saine as the starter. I am happy to admit he has far exceeded my expectations but I applaud Tressel for taking the cautious approach with a guy who hasn't proven he can stay healthy. If some fans had their way, Saine would be up to 30 carries a game by now but at what cost? Not to mention Boom has held his own and picked up another 75 yards Saturday. This team needs both of these guys to stay healthy and evenly splitting their carries and/or sticking with the hot hand when a guy's got a rhythm is the best course of action and that's exactly what JT has done so far. Bottom line, both need the line to perform in order to be impactful as neither can make something out of nothing in the mold of Beanie. That said, I feel very good about what Adams and Shugarts showed on Saturday to complement Boren in the trenches. The optimist in me is ecstatic over the success of running out of the gun coupled with the o-line's push while the pessimist in me still can't help but wonder what percentage of Saturday's success is the byproduct of Illini-suck?

Pryor Progression

I read some comments after the game questioning if TP is destined to be a scarlet clad Juice and I'm wondering how many of you share that sentiment. Thus far, Pyror has followed the Juice blueprint of mixing the specatcular with the craptactular in a way that causes wrinkles, balding and involuntary loss of control over the digestive system.

Still, I'm personally not ready to paint TP with the Juice brush yet nor do I think this game is worth haggling over for hours but I do continue to struggle with the lack of growth in Pryor's game. Some have the weather as a ready made excuse but the weather doesn't make you miss a guy by 15 yards nor does it make you throw across your body into traffic on at least three occasions - in 13 total attempts no less. I still think he has the potential to be great but I'd feel more certain of that if I could pinpoint actual steps in his growth from Michigan to Texas to Navy to Illinois. Is he that much better from then to now? If so, in what ways do you think he's shown consistent improvement?

The D Brings the Heat

Sure, Illinois has proven to be a fistful of stank thus far but hats off to the defense for another virtuoso performance led by the guys up front. They are so deep it's like they take turns dominating a series. Case in point would be Thaddeus Maximus single-handedly blowing up Illinois' first possession of the 2nd half. How fun is he to watch when he catches some momentum? Thad was in beast mode with 7 stops, 2 TFL and a forced fumble while Worthington refused to be outdone with 7 stops, 1 TFL and a sack. Throw in another combined 7 tackles from Denlinger, Larimore and Wilson and you've got yourself a good old fashioned ass kicking in the trenches. It was a collective defensive effort to be sure but I think we all agree the defensive line is the most responsible for the Buckeyes posting back to back shutouts for the first time since 1996. Step back and let that fact marinate for a second. If I'm not mistaken, OSU has had some pretty stout defenses since '96.

Again, the D's success isn't solely at the hands of the line as B Rolle continued to impress roaming sideline to sideline (albeit unmolested) posting another 8 tackles and a nifty pick on Illy's first series to turn back a drive that started at the OSU 49.

The secondary again looked solid, which they should when the line is getting that kind of pressure. Still, I'm gaining more and more confidence in Chekwa and Torrence on the edges and there's no doubt Coleman brings intensity, and the wood, to this group. He recorded a team high 9 tackles, forced a fumble and broke up a pass before closing his afternoon with a late hit that will be reviewed by the principal. Not that OSU needs him to beat Indiana but there's no way you can convince me Coleman should be suspended for that hit. It deserved a penalty and it got one. Case closed. I swear on a stack of bibles I'd say the same thing if an old nemesis like Shawn Crable delivered the exact same pop.

In 11 possessions before the clock ran out on Illy's last drive, the Buckeyes forced 8 punts and 3 picks. Tasty vittles right there, boys.

Looking Ahead

The Buckeyes look to vault up the BlogPoll after losses suffered by Ole Overrated, Penn State, Cal and the 'Canes. Getting back to how nicely the schedule is setup, five straight gimme's separate the Buckeyes from a closing three game stretch of at PSU, Iowa and at Michigan. That gives Pryor five more games to iron out his inconsistencies and for the new look offensive line to develop. The growth of Adams and Shugarts could be almost as important as TP's.

With all the upsets already this season I should be careful taking W's for granted but it just seems as if this team is on a mission and has the defense and kicking game to navigate the upset waters. Speaking of kicking, how much more painful does the USC game get every time Pettrey comes out and nails a FG? The guy is straight money as evidence by his rain soaked 46 and 50 yard bombs complimented by a 27 yard chip shot on a 3/3 day. Crazy how Tress was the last one to notice this guy - he deserved all the kicks last year as opposed to splitting time with old man Pretorious.

Shuffle

  • The D held Illinois to 2.4 yards per carry and recorded 5 sacks.
  • Boom and Zoom teamed up for a combined 168 total yards. Boom had 75 on the ground with Zoom tallying 81 rushing and 12 receiving.
  • The game was already out of reach but just for good measure the Buckeyes held the ball for all 11:57 of the 4th quarter.
  • Though Pryor had just 8 completions, he found 5 difference receivers.
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