Dan "Effective plod" Herron
After a 1st half in which he ran for six yards on four carries, I don't think many fans expected Dan Herron to help key 4th quarter drives that helped the Buckeyes remain unbeaten in a windy slugfest on the road in Champaign.
Nursing a 14-10 lead without Terrelle Pryor for about five minutes of the 3rd quarter and a greatly diminished Pryor for the final 22 minutes of the game, Herron got his grind on chewing up 89 2nd half yards on 19 carries including 51 in the 4th quarter alone. The yeoman's effort saw Herron log seven carries (18 yards) on a 13 play drive that took a precious 7:52 off the clock overlapping the 3rd and 4th quarters resulting in a 32 yard Barclay FG giving OSU a 17-10 lead with 8:27 left in the game. The yards weren't many, but they were necessary with Pryor limited in his return to the field and in need of an offensive sidekick.
For an encore, Herron put on a much more impressive display as OSU took possession at their own 47 yard line holding a slim 17-13 lead after Illinois kicked a FG with 4:36 left on the clock. With Pryor serving more as a figurehead than a main contributor, Tressel dialed up seven straight running plays and Herron responded with 41 yards and a TD. The drive got off to a decent start with Boom running for six yards on 1st down and three more on 2nd down setting up a 3rd and 1 at the Illini 44. The line failed to create a lane and Boom was stopped for no gain but, praise be to Woody, the Illini came through with one of their nine penalties, this time jumping offsides, giving the Buckeyes 1st and 10 at the Illini 39. Looking to capitalize on the new life, Herron would gain just two yards on 1st down setting up his most impressive run of the game. OSU lined up with eight linemen (extra TE to the right) and Boren at FB in a Power I formation as Herron took a straight ahead handoff to the left against nine Illini in the box with two more defenders standing up on each edge outside the box. The play looked doomed as a mass of bodies converged at the point of attack behind LG Boren but just as Herron hit the pile, he picked both feet up high (gasp!) and made a nifty and nimble bounce to the left in which he shed an arm tackle and hurdled FB Boren all in the same motion. The impressive move sprung Herron free and he raced up the left sideline for a 13 yard gain and a drama-ending 1st down as the clock read 2:26 to play with OSU now at the Illini 24 yard line. Whether or not you feel Herron should be the starter, or frankly, is good enough to be the starter on a title winning team, this was indeed a run that deserved your appreciation. Not satisfied with the 1st down, Boom took a handoff around right tackle on the next snap and rushed for 11 more yards, firmly stiff arming Nate Bussey on the final four yards, prompting Bussey to grab Herron's facemask for the eleventy billionth Illini penalty of the day. With half the distance enforced on the penalty, the ball was pushed to the six, where Boom would put the finishing touches on his invaluable effort using effective lead blocks from FB Boren and extra LT Andy Miller, who bookended Mike Adams as an extra blocker, to dart around left end untouched into the endzone. The TD put OSU in front 24-13 with 1:49 to play, securing the win while likely vaulting himself into the starting role at tailback next week.