Not Quite Ill, A Little Annoyed

By poguemahone on October 2, 2010 at 4:21p

... but mostly, just disappointed.

Champaign has been historically unkind to Buckeye teams, seemingly regardless of their quality. In 2002, Ohio State needed overtime to top a 5-7 Illini outfit. In 2006, the powerful Ohio State offense experienced its first significant struggle on the road in a sloppy 17-10 game against a miserable 2-10 squad. 2008 was more lopsided than either of the other two, but the Illini still had success moving the ball throughout and closed the gap to 10 points with a late score to make it 30-20.

So today was not particularly surprising, I suppose. But that didn't make it fun to watch. After toying with overwhelmed patsies the last two weeks, the Buckeyes were on the road to open conference play for the first time since 2004 (which, as you'll likely recall, ended poorly in a 33-27 OT loss to Northwestern). The Buckeyes took the ball to start the game, and in a drive that really would go on to sum up the offense's problems adequately, went three and out and surrendered a sack on 3rd down. The offensive line, which had looked much better, relative to the early days of '09, already looked to be in trouble. The Illini defense looked to be amped up from the start.

The Fighting Illini offense also came out with a chip on their shoulder. Mikel LaShoure got stuffed on two consecutive downs, one of which featured an illegal motion penalty declined by Ohio State. Facing a 3rd down, Nathan Scheelhaase connected with Florida transfer Jerred Fayson over the middle for a first down. On the next play, the Illini QB hit Fayson again a designed rollout for 14-yard gain and another first down. Then, the Illini decided to get really crafty: Scheelhaase tossed a backwards pass to Fayson, who then launched one all the way across the field back to his quarterback. The Ohio State defense - not only caught off guard but failing to make good tackles in space - couldn't stop the redshirt freshman from getting the ball all the way to 1st and goal. Three plays later, Scheelhaase kept the ball on a read-option and plowed ahead to give the Illini a 7-0 lead.

After a disastrous start, the Ohio State offense badly needed to respond, and it did so quickly: Terrelle Pryor reminded everyone that he is, in fact, a ridiculous specimen, outrunning nearly the entire Illini defense on a 67-yard zone-read to set up the Buckeyes with a first and goal. With the rest of the running game still not working on 1st and goal, and the pass protection nearly ceding a 2nd-and-goal sack only to have Pryor hit Posey for no gain. The Buckeyes needed a touchdown to keep momentum on their side. Fortunately, they got it: Brandon Saine, operating out of the slot, was on the receiving end of a short touchdown pass to make the score 7-6. A mysterious penalty allowed the Illini to block the PAT, but Barclay was true on the re-kick and knotted it up a 7-7.

It was here that both defenses finally seemed to settle into the game. The teams exchanged possessions eight times before anyone registered more than one first down on a drive. Sensing the overall down nature of his offense's emotions, Pryor attempted to rally his troops on the sideline, but shot himself in the foot with a late 2nd-quarter pick that gave the Illini the ball on Ohio State's side of the field. 

Illinois moved the ball well on the ensuing possession, even running a Navy-style quarterback follow for a first down, but facing a 3rd and goal, opted to keep things conservative with a read-option by Scheelhaase that was crushed by the Buckeye D. A short field goal gave the Illini a 10-7 lead with 1:55 left in the first half.

Terrelle Pryor, however, wasn't done. A good kick return by Jaamal Berry, supplemented by an Illini penalty, gave the Ohio State offense great field position for their two-minute offense. Pryor, a man possessed after his last pick, freight trained his way to the Illini 22, then hit Sanzenbacher for a 1st-and-goal a couple plays later. Moments later, he threw arguably his prettiest pass of the day, hitting Sanzo again for a touchdown on a deep out.  14-10, Buckeyes. In an encouraging sign for the second half, the Buckeyes had faced a world of adversity and responded with a strong drive to close out the half. Another encouraging sign: after the 55-yard opening scoring drive, the Illini offense had netted just 87 combined yards on their next five possessions.

But there was still a half to play, and it managed to be even more nerve-wracking than the first half. The defense, clearly feeling it by now, forced a an Illini three and out on their first possession of the second half. On Ohio State's first offensive possession, Pryor called his own number and ran for a first down, his foot catching awkwardly in the turf and the ball bouncing out of his hands, out of bounds. Pryor was down for far too long before standing up and getting helped off the field by trainers. In many ways, it felt like Ohio State's entire season was being helped off the field. That feeling was only reinforced when the Buckeyes responded by showing the utmost confidence in their back-up quarterback Joe Bauserman: two stuffed runs up the middle, followed by a fullback screen on 3rd and long. Good times.

After scrambling for a first down, Scheelhaase launched an ugly duck that was picked off by Jermale Hines. The moment Hines was tackled, I thought "Damn, I wished he'd scored". Bauserman hit the field and did what Bauserman does, tossing a pick of his own with ample pass protection and his feet doing the Todd Boeckman shuffle. At this point, the sense of doom that had been tugging at the back of everyone's mind had ceased all pretense, and planted its foot firmly up the butt of many a Buckeye fan. It did not look good. The forlorn cry of the Kenny G(uiton)'s sax had never sounded so bittersweet.

Fortunately, the Ohio State defense was still dominant, and after forcing another three-and-out, the title hopes of Buckeye fans were re-kindled when Pryor returned to the field. It may have been my happiest moment so far this season. So, how does the offense celebrate his return? By handing the ball of three times, including a draw on 3rd and 11. In the game thread, I called this the single worst playcall since the Todd Boeckman  option play on 3rd and 22 against USC in 2008. I stand by that assessment: when Tressel sorely needed to show confidence in the health of his Heisman-candidate quarterback, he didn't do it. Even Pryor didn't like the call, and was visibly angry upon receiving it.

But Scheelhaase and the Illini offense were still getting smothered, so perhaps the call did have its own wisdom. It remained a one-possession game when the Ohio State offense embarked on its clock-killing journey, which bridged the late third and early fourth quarters. About three quarters to late, Boom Herron finally got going. Over the course of 18 plays, Ohio State ran the ball 15 times, electing only to let its star quarterback pass on a critical third down conversion to DeVier Posey. Tressel, sensing a chance to put the Illini away, elected to go for it on 4th down rather than kick the short field goal. Now, I never like this call, but it worked: a 5-yard deep hand-off to Herron barely - and I mean barely - made it past the marker. A challenge upheld the call, though if there hadn't been a pile of bodies in the way, I think the call would have been overturned. At the very least, it was a generous spot. A boneheaded delay of game penalty gave Ohio State a 3rd and long, and the inevitable field goal made the game 17-10 after the Buckeyes melted more time off the clock.

That 17-10 lead seemed awfully tenuous on the next possession though, when the Illini offense finally awoke from its slumber on the strength of a solid 25-yard run by Mikel LeShoure, followed up by another first down pass to Fayson, giving Ron Zook's team 1st and 10 at the 16. The Buckeye defense stiffened in the red zone, and Zook opted to kick a field goal on 4th and 7 to make it 17-13.

Fortunately, Illinois is a stupid football team, and committed another penalty on the ensuing kickoff, giving the Buckeyes great field position yet again. Yet another penalty, this time on former Buckeye recruit Justin Green for offsides, extended the Ohio State drive and allowed the Buckeyes to melt even more time off the clock. With less than a minute left, Tressel opted to forgo the annoying "kneel in the red zone out of respect for the opponent" garbage, and let Herron finish off the Illini with a short touchdown run to make it 24-13. Ball game. Sigh of relief. It's over, and we don't have to talk about it much longer.

The overall closeness and competitiveness of the game makes it easy to focus on the negative aspects, but there were positives. Here's a short list:

  • Special teams were solid. In fact, this might be their best game of the year. Illinois has solid, quick kick returners who never got loose against the Buckeye coverage units, and Jaamal Berry showed flashes as a kick returner. Hall was good at making guys miss, but was on the receiving end of a few excellent punts by Anthony Santella, and didn't get a lot of opportunities.
  • Jerred Fayson was annoying, to be sure, but that can't be put entirely on the secondary. Intermediate routes over the middle are usually - not always, but usually - the domain of the linebackers on Ohio State's defense, and Rolle and Homan struggled against Fayson in space.
  • The defensive line was more or less excellent despite the Illini's attempts to prevent them from becoming a factor with lots of quick passes. Jon Hankins got some PT, and was solid when he saw the field, while Heyward and Williams routinely terrorized the Illini tacklers.
  • The pick was ugly, and because of the archconservative nature of the second half, he didn't get a lot passing opportunities, but Pryor was the victim of a couple bad drops that marred an otherwise good, not great, passing effort.
  • Maybe Saine's struggles in the backfield/success in the slot will motivate Tressel to move him around more, giving Hall and Berry some opportunities that otherwise would have gone to Saine? Am I grasping at straws? 
  • Let's face it: this team needed a test. After smacking around kittens for the last two weeks, they needed a team that wasn't so easily intimidated, and Illinois provided that. It wasn't pretty and they didn't pass with flying colors, but close calls like this will help them down the road.

That's not all of the good things I took away from this game, but it's a start. Hopefully some of you can provide a few more in the comments. In the end, we're 5-0, and the defense is still a killer. 


Comments Show All Comments

JakeBuckeye's picture

Well as far as taking away good things from this game and individual performance so far this season, TP surpassed 1,000 yards passing today.

Also has 373 rushing yards so far to go along with that through five games.

Not too shabby for a Jim Tressel quarterback.

blazers34's picture

not sure how much you guys use twitter, but some of the bucks have been retweeting Flash Thomas today.  Pretty obvious he misses it here.  Seems like a good guy

gravey's picture

Has there been a transfer RB go elsewhere and do well?  Nick Goings was OK at Pitt and better in the pros, but I can only think of guys like Sammy Maldonato, JaJa Riley and Erik Haw...never heard from any of them afterward ... at least for their on the field exploits.

Poe McKnoe's picture

Haha From Flash's Twitter:

RT @LilAshNicole: RT @CESOGLAM: If Tressel had a twitter his name would be @SamePlay<hahahaha

andyr78's picture

Does the Big Ten Network have the worst commentators?  I listened to about 10 minutes of the post game show on the radio and heard something I didn't hear the entire game.  Did anyone who watched the game know that the wind was really bad during the game?

gravey's picture

They are amateurs and annoying at the same time.  Martin was comically bad the last game he called an OSU game...mangling names and the English language regularly, while making the most absurd observations.  I thought Northwestern grads were supposed to be smart.  It would be so cool if they could just stream Keels and Lachey (let the opposition stream their guys)...or hire Spielman!

Roger's picture

I mentioned this during the game thread. They didn't seem to catch on the fact that every time the field flipped suddenly the opposite team had amazing kickers.

It's not a coincidence retard! (I'm talking to you Chris Martin)

Chas's picture

Knowing these tress teams over the years, I think a number of us got ahead of ourselves in terms of the confidence if not outright cockiness with those group of players (block O), along with glimpses of a coach T that had seemingly opened things up, and even gone outright evil Tress. The response we're seeing from the fanbase is a knee-jerk to the terror that is a painfully ass-clenched tressel ball. It wins this type of game against inferior talent. But again the themes of playing not to lose and not putting the best talent on the field has shocked us out of the new-found confidence present everywhere in the buckeye nation. Lets just pray that coach is honest in his assessment of the talent level after this wknd,gives the young rbi's some more carries, and calls games downhill, meaning utilizing his mis-matches and attacks a D on their heels.

Johnny Ginter's picture

i might get some hell for this, but i was actually pretty okay with this game. the defense shut down a pretty prolific rushing attack, and looked pretty good throughout most of the game. the complete lack of a running game is terrible but i think at this point Tressel's patience with saine has run out.

i dunno. the offense was bad but a lot of that can be attributed to not being able to pick up anything whatsoever on the ground with saine (or even herron, save for a few drives. boom ran hard but only had like 4.5 a carry). the defense looked pretty decent, and i was never really worried about this game at all, to be honest.

first road game, first big ten game, the team got popped in the mouth and had to play without its best player and still won. i'll take it

Chas's picture

Totally hear you johnny, and the further away I get from from my first response, Im more at peace with a game plan that said 'we deserve to lose if our superior athletes can't lean on you, bleed the clock, and choke out the opposing o' who was flaccid at best. And perhaps in the end these road tests make the man. Either way showed some scary vacuums with the team, ESP in light of moeller disaster

Johnny Ginter's picture

well the other thing i don't get is people grousing about Tresselball. i mean, that's the way the dude has done it for years and years. it works. chillax.

Brady's picture

I completely am on board with tresselball.  There is no arguing with results.  I just wonder what this team could do with a big time offensive coordinator.  Somebody that really knew how to utilize all the talent this team has. 


buckeyedude's picture

Is Charlie Tuna available? Or did he get a job at Wal-Mart?



Is it Saturday Yet's picture

As long as we kick the snot out of everyone else here on out then yes.

Buckeye in Athens's picture

I agree with you as well, Johnny. I am satisfied with this game and think it was needed at this part of the season in order to prepare us for more talented opponents down the road. That's not to say Illinois isn't good either - they are much better than last year. I am predicting RB changes for next week. 

Sucks to hear about Moeller - I wish him the best. As well as Pryor.. we need him. And we need Kenny in the two deep. 

btalbert25's picture

I totally agree.  If it was in fact very windy, that has an impact on the passing game.  There were balls that Pryor threw well, but Posey dropped.  His pick looked bad.  However, after he went out of the game hurt, it's no shock to me that TP didn't throw much, or do much of anything else.  It was pretty obvious to me that he was hurting.

Even though the score was close, I must say I didn't feel like this game was ever in jeopardy.  Maybe I'm foolish for thinking that, but it really felt like they had things under control to me.  Also, I for one am happy that they had a close game to bring these kids back to earth a bit with a big game against Wisconsin on the horizon.

buckeyedude's picture

If there was ever any doubt, yesterday should put it to rest: Saine needs to be moved to WR, or at least be strictly used that way. He doesn't like getting hit, and cannot avoid tackles at all. He would be better in the open field.

Of course I don't have the knowledge that Tressel does, but GEEZ, give Hall and Jaamal a real shot behind TP, move Saine to wideout, and I think our offense improves 50%, and takes a lot of pressure off of TP!



flipbuckeye's picture

Fortunately, Illinois is a stupid football team

This pretty much sums up the game for me.

Johnny Ginter's picture

also in light of the amazing show of coaching incompetence that just wrapped up between the vols and LSU i have to say that everyone in tthe world needs to stop complaining about Jim Tressel because holy crap if being an OSU fan means i end up watching my team slowly and agonizingly suffocate teams to death rather than bumblefuck our way around a football field for 12 games, then sign me up for life.

dannychampion's picture

That was the most derp-tasting ending to a game I have ever witnessed. How LSU keeps winning truly is a mystery of the universe.

Johnny Ginter's picture

les miles is satan, clearly. seriously, OSU fans. would you rather have THA RIVERBOAT GAMBLA or someone not missing their frontal lobe as your coach?

Buckeye in Athens's picture

That was the most ridiculous ending to a game I've seen in a long long time. Close games today - what with Michigan barely edging Indiana and Northwestern doing the same to Minnesota. 


So is Indiana pretty decent, Michigan's D really really bad, or both? 

Johnny Ginter's picture

indiana actually has some really good WRs and an overall pretty good offense, but the michigan D is flat out terrible and easily the worst in the conference. indiana passed for like 480 yards or something stupid like that. shoelace is basically superman but he is also their entire team at this point.

if denard doesn't end up looking like a german soldier at the end of WWI after the next three games, theeennn we should drop all pretense of a "heisman race" and just give it to him right there

Brady's picture

agreed.  I am running out of excuses as to why this Denard thing is a fluke.  The guy is freakin' electric.  He has got that extra gear that you don't see too often.  He is the unquestioned leader for the heisman right now.


andyr78's picture

Anyone hear any updates on Pryor?  I heard Tressel say it wasn't that bad.  But hearing Pryor in the post game interview he said he heard something pop, and it hurt even when he was dropping back.

741's picture

Why the hell is ESPN2 carrying USC vs. Washington instead of Stanford vs. Oregon here in the midwest? Bullshit.

TLB's picture

I have Stanford and Oregon on standard def.  Absolutely awful.


TLB's picture

Don't you love the 4letter?

Michigan outlasts Indiana

Ohio State survives scare.


Run_Fido_Run's picture

Another reason to keep the anti-Tresselball whining in check: Florida's 2010 offense. Apparently, even offensive masterminds can take 4 and 5-star talents and make them look like they've been coached by Gerry Faust.   

JakeBuckeye's picture

I've got Stanford vs. Oregon on the TV to my left, Iowa vs. Penn State on the left side of my computer screen, and USC vs. Washington on the right.

All is good over here.

Squirrel Master's picture

Here we go. More reason to discuss the proper use of the running backs. True I am disappointed in the overall play but the use of Saine and the running backs has to change. Is it me or the fact Saine's touchdowns are all receiving mean he is better on the outside than in I formation. If Stoneburner is the third best receiver and is not playing, then make Saine a slot receiver. Pryor certainly has enough faith in him.

This constant runs up the middle is not the answer to getting the running game going with the RBs. There has to be more play action. WAY TOO PREDICTABLE!

Can someone please tell me why does OSU have the best option for a 4th and 1 dive and NEVER runs the play? I was surprised to see them go for it. I wasn't surprised to see the handoff to Herron. I am sure the same can be said of the Illini!


Goodnight and sleep tight. Shit happens and we wait to see it again 7 days later.

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

osukdawg76's picture

Here's my overall thoughts about the game:


- This team is screwed without Pryor at quarterback.  Bauserman has shown to everyone that he scratches his balls (barely) better than throwing a football on the field.  The thing that really scares me is this:  If Bauserman is that pathetic and our backup, is Kenny Guiton really THAT terrible?


- Our running game needs to find an identity, and in a hurry.  This team can throw the ball most of the time, but today showed that maybe we need a few more wrinkles in the offense other than 28 variations of the standard "Dave" running play.  I like Power O running, but every time we line up in I-Formation, I am 90 percent sure that we will run the ball, and it will be a Dave play.


- I love this defense.  Seriously.  Losing Moeller hurts, but the people that fill in seem to pick up the slack in a hurry.  They're going to get a major test in two weeks at Wisconsin, but right now, I think they're up to the task.


- Attention, Ohio State Running Backs:  It's okay to hit the hole.  You don't have to run into the backs of your frozen offensive linemen.  At this rate, while I don't think it all falls on the backs, I'd love to see us change it up and actually use more in our stable instead of feeling a sense of loyalty to the seniors because, right now, Boom and Zoom is more of a train wreck right now.

I, for one, welcome our new coaching overlords.



slippy's picture

This was game was terrible.  Sorry, but if you're ok with this game then you'll be ok when this conservative bull loses us a game.


I understand we're not run by Chip Kelly but watch how fast Oregon's RBs get downfield out of the shotgun.  Our damn predictable slow developing run plays are ridiculous.  3rd and 1 and we're in the I.  Guess what play it is?  Dave left.  Gets stuffed.  4th and 1 and we're in the I?  I wonder what's coming.  I'm pretty sure Boom was short on that play too but too close to overturn.  Injured or not put the ball in the hands of your best player.


And seriously, if our line isn't going to block, why don't we play a RB that can make someone miss in the backfield?  I was as big of a Saine supporter as anyone but that's another terrible game.  And Boom can 'run hard' all he damn wants.  4 ypc is NOT acceptable at OSU and/or the 2nd ranked team in the country.

Johnny Ginter's picture

yeah there's no way Ohio State would stack up against the oregon ducks, if we ever played them we'd look terrible

JakeBuckeye's picture

Word to your mother.

People forget how similar Ohio State and Oregon are to last year. We all remember how ugly Ohio State made Oregon's pretty look.

slippy's picture

Not what I meant.  Was just referring to the running game.  When it takes our RBs 3 seconds to get to the LOS that changed the defenses 8 in the box into 11 in the box and we get stuffed.  Why do you pull a guard when you just have to smash forward 2 feet?  Just run.

O-H Kee Pa's picture

Saw the post-game video with JT on the Dispatch's website. He said TP will be ready to "rock and roll next week." Considering the smoke screen that JT usually throws up regarding injuries (see 2007, Beanie Wells), should we consider it a good sign that he's being this unambiguous?

JakeBuckeye's picture

"Rock and roll"?

My God, 73 points in one game and now this?

741's picture

...and so forth.

JakeBuckeye's picture

Why do I feel like I won't be surprised if I wake up to see Ohio State at the three or four spot in the polls?

tomcollins's picture

I have them at 3, and feel like a Homer.

builderofcoalitions's picture

OSU always struggles against Illinois. Plus, the athletes Zook recruits are among the few that match up athletically with the Buckeyes in the Big Ten. Add in the always-windy conditions in Champaign and the extra week of prep, it's not surprising the Illini came ready to play. Also, don't forget that Zook is coaching for his life right now. Winning ugly in conference is still a win. I suspect you'll see a better Buckeye team next week.

Because we couldn't go for three.

Buckeye_Mafia's picture

I have been saying since the Miami game that we weren't the second best team in the country. I say 5th or 6th. And God forbid Pryor is more damaged than Tressel indicates. He is the heart and soul of this team, not just the offense. And there goes atleast 250 yards of offense / game if he's out.

"At critical moments throughout the season, we learned about the character of this football team.  This was a team of true character, of true resilience." -- President Barack Obama

poguemahone's picture

Haha, and the four teams better than us are?

Alabama? Boise State? Oregon (a stretch)? Oklahoma (also a stretch)?

Denny's picture

Stop trying to stand for reason, Sam. It's October now, which means silly fan-second guessing and wailing and grinding of teeth.

Let's all line our pipes with the petulant child juice and start freebasing that shit. We are sucky, because we played Tresselball and won by 11. I mean why didn't we just draw up a touchdown play every single play? Duh, that would have gotten us to win by eleventy billion.


flipbuckeye's picture

You forgot to say Boise State is a stretch.

poguemahone's picture

Yeah, I know. Alabama is the only team anyone in their right mind is putting over Ohio State right now.

Kasino Royale's picture

A few thoughts: 1. Saine will only be effective as a wr IF he is lined up in the backfield originally. He's a match nightmare for lb's. Db's not so much.
Saine will always get touches in the backfield to keep him from becoming a 'tell' (run/pass) that defenses will read.
2. Illi had a buy week. They were fresh, had extra game planning and valuable self scouting. Which explains there early succees but late failures after adjustments by tOSU.
3. If you watched a ton of games this year across the college landscape you'll believe we can play with anyone. I've seen every team in the top tier look very mortal at times. There fan bases are complaining and worried too. Every team has obvious chinks in there armour.
4. Philly Brown or Fields need to step up now. We need some speed in our mid and short game. Those 3 yard passes that turn into first downs is the difference in sputtering offense and a dynamic offense. Plus it frees up the deep ball.

E-roc's picture
Week 5 - Silver Bulletpoints:
  • RBs: The only "zooming" Saine does is right to the turf after getting the ball... and Boom still shuffles his feet like a cartoon character instead of running. I watched Ingram, Richardson, LaMichael James and Demarco Murray and they're in a completely different league than our terrible two-some. These guys look great against BCS competition and Saine & Herron only look good against MAC competition.
  • O-Line: I was going to take a shot at the O-line but on the game-sealing drive, they finally got their heads in the game and showed some toughness.
  • Posey needs Stick'em...
  • Stoneburner: Who would've thought that not having him around would handicap the offense so much?
  • Moeller: Shat. At least the injury occurred in the field of play this time.... right? We really could've used him v. scUM.
  • We found out what the Buckeyes look like without Pryor and it's ugly.
  • If tOSU had to play 'Bama, Boise St., Oregon or Oklahoma today (on a neutral field), tOSU would lose.
Buckeye Al's picture

The main thing that comforts me is that we have a stout defense. I know everyone likes to compare out offense or lack of compared to other "elite" teams. Please, please compare our defense to the likes of Oregon, Stanford, Indiana, scUM, USC, FLA and others. I will gladly play any one of those teams on any neutral field. Not afraid to play any team except for Alabama...that team is good.

BucksfanXC's picture

So I was at the game, and when Pryor came back into the game and they started running EVERY SINGLE down, I jokingly said, "TP is asking coach to let him pass" then on 3 and long, and we all thought, "well, they have to pass now" and Tressel relayed the call in, TP visibly made a motion with his arm to throw and pounded his chest like, "I got this, let me throw it!"

I don't know how much, if any, of that exchange was shown on TV, but it was obvious to me sitting on the East Balcony. Took the wind out of the offense's own sails. I trust Jim with all my faith, but I don't know if I would have done that if I were in his shoes. That being said, he did let them go for it on fourth down. But maybe that was less of a "let them" than letting TP pass it would have been.

“Any time you give a man something he doesn't earn, you cheapen him. Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect.”  - Woody