Buckeyes clear their last pre-Michigan obstacle, 30-20

Posted by Vico in Buckeye Football |

Keep the turtle if it means that much to you, Illini fans
It took the Buckeyes awhile to finally put the game away, but a 4th quarter touchdown drive to pad the 2nd half lead to 17 was eventually the game sealer in Ohio State’s 30-20 victory today in Champaign.  With it, the Buckeyes exact some much needed revenge on the Zookers for last season’s upset in Columbus and add to the woes this season for the Illini.  The Illini, last year’s Rose Bowl representative from the Big Ten, is now 5-6 and a road loss to Northwestern away from becoming the first Big Ten team to play in the Rose Bowl one year and finish under .500 the next (Michigan 1965).

Turnovers were the story of the day for the Illini.  Juice’s first play from the Illini’s first drive from scrimmage resulted in a fumble and Terrelle Pryor rushing touchdown.  Later, Malcolm Jenkins blocked his second punt of the season, which was good for a safety and 9-7 lead.  The ensuing short kickoff set up the Buckeyes at the Illini’s 3 yard line and the Buckeyes made good for yet another score — this one on the ground by Beanie.  Later, a certain scoring drive for the Illini was ended by a Kurt Coleman interception.  The ensuing Ohio State drive ended with a Dane Sanzenbacher touchdown.  After taking a 23-7 lead (later a 23-13 halftime lead), the Illini were unable to play catchup.

But controlling for those mistakes, our defense was absolutely torched by big plays in this game.  Juice Williams had 193 yards throwing and two TDs (1 INT), though more than one of those TDs and 50 of those yards came on Ohio State’s obligatory garbage time touchdown drive on defense.  The Illini’s production on the ground was even more embarrassing.  The Illini used a balanced rushing attack from Juice and the two tailbacks (Dufrene and Ford) to rack up 214 yards rushing.  In total, the Illini outgained the Buckeyes 455 to 354.  Still, the Buckeyes won were it counted most, I guess.

Offense

I doubt Terrelle has been second-guessing his decision to attend Ohio State.
Terrelle Pryor had an outstanding game, though most of his production came on the ground.  His 13 carries for 110 yards was good for second best on the team, behind you know who.  Further, like the Northwestern game the week before, his big plays were absolute backbreakers for Illinois’ defense.  His touchdown run came on 3rd and goal at the one.  His 20yd touchdown throw to Dane Sanzenbacher on the Buckeyes’ 4th offensive series came on 3rd and 5.  Lastly, on the Buckeyes’ first series of the second half, Terrelle Pryor gained 18 yards and a first down on 3rd and 13.

Of course, there’s not a lot to read into the Buckeye passing game because the Buckeyes ran 52 times, allowing Pryor only 10 passing plays.  The casual Buckeye fan would see that disparity and assume only the most banal, stubborn playcalling — an observation without a lot of validity.  What made the rushing game work was some creative misdirection and playcalling by the coaching staff.  The second down call near the goal line on the Buckeyes’ first scoring drive was a shotgun QB off-tackle run with Beanie as lead blocker.  The eventual touchdown was a misdirection fake dive to Boom Herron (I believe) that set up Pryor’s bootleg and walk into the end zone.  Further, the QB draws were an uncommon wrinkle in the Buckeyes’ rushing attack and we saw them a lot this game.  The end result: a lot of rushing plays that worked precisely because the Illini hadn’t seen them before.  It doesn’t hurt to have a guy who runs like a gazelle for a tailback and a guy who runs like an armoured personnel carrier for a tailback.

Also helping the Buckeye rushing attack: the offensive line.  The offensive line didn’t dominate this game, but it did much more than it did against Northwestern the week earlier.  Instead of piling up yards in spite of the offensive line, Beanie was the beneficiary of some blocking up front with Alex Boone looking to be most productive member of that unit.  The running lanes were definitely there, but I still saw some things that worried me.  For the first game this season (perhaps with Penn State as an exception), it seems Michael Brewster was pushed around a lot this game by the Illini’s tackles.  Brewster had been a reliable and consistent performer on the line this season after having been thrown into the mix following the USC game.  He is a freshman and I’m sure that it’ll be learning experience in the long run.  But for this game, it seems like players like fellow freshman Corey Liuget got the better of him.  Steve Rehring has also been slow to pull on plays.

Boom Herron extends for the 4th quarter touchdown
Beanie was exceptional this game, though his fumble to end the Buckeyes’ first drive of the game cost Ohio State at least 3 points and came at a time when most of us were sick to our stomach over the performance of the defense.  Earlier that drive, though, his hurdling of Donsay Hardeman was nothing short of divine.  As it was, he played a leading role in adding to Ohio State’s outstanding 305 yards rushing on the game with 24 carries, 143 yards and a touchdown.  Boom Herron, while not quite Beanie, came in when it looked like Beanie may have tweaked his hammie (oh please no).  He doesn’t have that “Jim Brown incarnate” quality to him, but Boom added 29 yards rushing and showed why Ohio State’s rushing attack should be in good hands should Beanie choose to go pro after this season.

Pryor completed 6 of what was only 10 passing attempts on the game, good for 49 yards.  Ergo, there’s not a lot of superlative to hand out to the receivers.  Hartline was the busiest when his end-arounds are also considered.  He did have a drop, though.  Dane Sanzenbacher led all receivers with 2 catches for 22 yards and a touchdown.  20 of those 22 came on the touchdown reception.  He also took more shots this game, and I’m sure he can’t wait until the Michigan game is over in order to use the month-long layoff to unscramble his brains.

Defense

There had to have been over 20 missed tackles by the Buckeyes this game, and a lot of that was responsible for extended Illinois drives and even touchdowns.  It was far and away the most frustrating element to the defensive performance this game because there was still pressure exerted on Juice Williams (or the backup McGee) by the defensive line.  Yet, the defensive line itself appears to be a mixed bag.  I think they did a great job in getting penetration to take away the interior on rushing plays.  Where rushing yards were piled up on the read option  from the snap — and there were lots of them — the responsibility mostly appeared to be missed tackles or over pursuit by the linebackers and defensive backs.  Further, some of the bigger plays by Dufrene, the Illini’s leading rusher on the game, came in the first drive where the Buckeyes looked totally confused (sigh…) by the no-huddle hurry-up stuff by the Illini.  In terms of Xs and Os, the interior of that line did its job in defending the read option and forcing Juice to keep it.  Heyward led all players in that unit with 7 tackles (2 solo).  Nader Abdallah didn’t have a huge game, but I thought he played well (2 asst tackles and a fumble recovery).

That said, pass rushing still leaves a lot to be desired and that’s where I think the defensive line struggled the most this game.  Juice Williams was sacked only twice, with one of those being a split sack by Worthington and Laurinaitis.  In passing situations, the defensive line was unable to get to Juice with a 4 man rush.  Where they were able to get to him or force him out of the pocket, they were unable to tackle him.  I hate to say it, but in these situations, the defensive line looked… yes… slow.

Marcus Freeman forces a fumble
I don’t know what to make of the linebackers’ performance, collectively at least.  Laurinaitis was second on the team with 8 tackles (5 solo, including the shared sack with Worthington).  He also stripped one of the Illini tailbacks (Jason Ford, I think), though that ball was recovered by another Illinois player on their first drive of the second half.  In short, Laurinaitis had yet another of his workman-type effort games.  The guy gets dogged on by other Big Ten fans, and sometimes by our own fanbase for falling short of AJ Hawk-level expectations, but Laurinaitis is always working, always thinking and always doing.  I’m not sure what to make of the performance of Freeman and Homan.  Freeman was third on the team with 8 tackles (4 solo), but it seems that missed tackles haunted him.  I wonder how much he’s really hindered by his bum ankle.  He did force the Juice fumble in the first quarter, though.  Homan (2 tackles, 1 solo) only had his name called once, but it was off a delicious Juice sack for an 8 yard loss.  It wasn’t necessarily Homan’s spectacular play there, but just a great playcall by Heacock.  Heacock sent both Laurinaitis and Homan on a blitz, with only Illinois’ center there to pick his poison.  He went with the award winning linebacker, giving Homan a clear shot on Juice.

The secondary certainly got a workout with all the missed tackles.  Kurt Coleman, strong safety, led all defenders with 11 tackles (6 solo) and came up with the fortuitous interception to end what was otherwise a very promising drive for the Illini.  Tyler Moeller certainly caught the eye filling in for the injured Jermale Hines at nickelback.  His 7 tackles (5 solo) were good for 4th best on the day for the defense.  Further, he came on more than a few blitzes, finishing with two TFLs.  Moreover, while Freeman actually jarred the ball loose, Moeller gets the stat for the forced fumble in the first quarter (see above picture).  Elsewhere, Malcolm Jenkins showed that, in spite of just 2 tackles on the day, his 3 pass breakups and blocked punt will underscore why he probably won’t regret coming back for his senior year.

Miscellaneous Thoughts

  • I hate Michigan.  I hate Michigan with every aching muscle in this tired body of mine.  That is the real enemy; this is the primary objective.  With Illinois out of the way, I now have 6.5 days left in this all too short week to explore the depths of my soul and fully grasp, as a guy who now owns a blog, the menacing specter that the very existence of this haunting, holistic apparition that we label “Michigan” poses to my very essence… to my very being.
  • It’s odd that we haven’t called on Nathan Williams or Thaddeus Gibson much the past two games.  Instead, Abdallah, Heyward and even Worthington have been getting the recognition in that unit.
  • For the second straight week, the Pasch-Ware coverage of an Ohio State game has been somewhat frustrating.  Most importantly, I don’t care to watch some low income nobody among the Illini fanbase cooking some kind of “food” contraption while a costly holding penalty gets called on an Ohio State lineman and I don’t get to hear who it was.
  • On the topic of Ware, his “Ware It Out” segment on the BCS was also cause for consternation… at least when you consider how he comes off in his comments to be overly critical of Ohio State getting any kind of perceived preferential treatment over Utah or Boise State in at-large selections.  True, it would not be fair for Ohio State to get any kind preferential treatment by virtue of marquee value or travel considerations because that would corroborate my observation that the BCS is a glorified country club.  But in the same breath, while Andre Ware doesn’t want Ohio State getting that preferential treatment, he also wants the Big 12 and the SEC to get 3 teams in each?  He did say that.  There’s two ways to interpret that, and Andre Ware is free to own up to any one of them: A) Andre Ware is against Ohio State getting an at-large bid [fair enough] and is couching this viewpoint in an inconsistent logic or B) Andre Ware is an idiot.
  • We’ll all have to watch to see what comes from the Beanie and Abdallah injuries.  We’ll watch with baited breath if Beanie pulled a hammie while I think Abdallah went down with a cramp.  His injury didn’t look too serious.
  • The Illini certainly were chippy this game.  More importantly, they still lost.  Suck it, Vontae Davis.
  • On Beanie, part of me really wishes he would go pro after this season.  It’s not for fear that his injury problems might hurt us next year and throw off our offense, just that with how fragile the big backs are in the NFL, I’d hate to think him feeling he had to come back would result in another injury that could compromise his draft stock or, worse yet, his career.  If he decides to go pro after this season and secure his money, I don’t think any Buckeye fan would blame him.  I certainly wouldn’t.  Instead, I’d fondly remember one of the best tailbacks of my generation and one of the all-time greats in Ohio State history.
  • I’m hoping the Illini were taking notes on how the game ended.  More importantly, an important conference road win doesn’t have to be celebrated with by a flag-planting ceremony at midfield.  Did you see that, Ron Zook?  I’m hoping you did.
  • With Penn State winning today against Indiana, the Buckeyes can hope for no greater than a shared conference crown.  Either Penn State or Michigan State will finish the season with only one conference loss.
  • Illinois finishes up next week at Evanston… a game that Mike Kafka may not make on account of a concussion suffered against Michigan today.  A loss would make them bowl ineligible.
  • More news and notes to be found here.  Such as: Dane Sanzenbacher’s TD catch was the first of the season and only the second of his career.  The first of his career came against Youngstown State last year, his first career game.

 

Written by: Vico | full bio

Vico is the nom de guerre of the founder and current website chair of Our Honor Defend. He is currently living in exile in Alabama.

 

3 Responses to “Buckeyes clear their last pre-Michigan obstacle, 30-20”

  1. 1 Poe McKnoe

    B

  2. 2 Poe McKnoe

    Also, I would like to note that Florida finally took Tebow out.

  3. 3 MSP

    Instead of saying “pre-Michigan obstacle” couldn’t you just have said “obstacle”?

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