Yet, Eddie George wasn’t the story entering this game. It was November 11, 1995 and there were several developments brewing at the start of this game. In the bigger picture, Ohio State was undefeated and even the no. 2 ranked team in the country on the heels of their domination of Notre Dame in a highly anticipated match, their victory over the previous year’s undefeated (and should’ve-been national champion) conference champion Penn State in Happy Valley, and their thorough routing of most opponents that season. They even boasted the nation’s best tailback (eventual Heisman winner Eddie George), the nation’s best lineman (Orlando Pace), the nation’s best wide receiver (Terry Glenn, eventual Biletnikoff winner) and one of the better quarterbacks in the country (Bobby Hoying). Yet they weren’t even the story of their own conference that year. Curiously enough, Northwestern — who was cycled off Ohio State’s schedule for 1995 and 1996 — was undefeated in conference. Yes: that Northwestern. Its only loss was an inexplicable post-Notre Dame letdown against Miami of Ohio. Ohio State’s perfect record was the only tiebreaker the Buckeyes had keeping them on top of the Big Ten. Further, Ohio State had two conference games left to Northwestern’s one. Northwestern had beaten eventual 8-4 team Iowa earlier in the day. All it had to do was beat sub-.500 Purdue while Ohio State had to take care of Illinois later that same day, Indiana and Michigan1.2 the otherwise wide margin between the two schools in the series (now 56-23-2 Ohio State). Further, Ohio State was going to play its first game of the season without Terry Glenn, the future Biletnikoff winner and — far and away — the best receiver in college football for the 1995 season. As you’ll see in the YouTube clip, he injured himself making an impeccable dive and catch of a Hoying pass against Minnesota the week earlier. Glenn would return later in the season, but he was never really better than 70 percent.
Naturally, the view of analysts entering this game was of a true dilemma for the no. 2 ranked Buckeyes. It had the nerds breathing down its neck in the Big Ten and had no head-to-head matchup in the season to serve as tiebreaker. It needed to be perfect in order to go to the Rose Bowl because Northwestern was probably not going to lose to Purdue the next week. Moreover, it needed to start with a victory over Illinois — against whom Cooper had only one win in 7 tries — and it needed to be accomplished without the home run threat of Terry Glenn.
To make matters worse: Illinois, in spite of its record and its crappy offense, had one of the best defensive units in the country (especially in containing opposing team’s ground attacks), led by future Pro-Bowlers Kevin Hardy and Simeon Rice. Antwoine Patton, a safety for Illinois, was no slouch either. After two disasters to begin the season against Michigan and Oregon, Illinois had been holding their opponents to just over 11 points a game. Surely these two studs in Illinois’ front seven, with the assistance of a run-stopping secondary, would complicate things for Eddie George as it did last year against the Buckeyes in Ohio Stadium. After all, Tepper was probably the road warrior of the Big Ten. Illinois was 10-3-1 in road games under his tutelage coming into this game.
He, and the Buckeyes offense, wouldn’t let up either. The Buckeyes never punted in this game, with the only 3 drives not ending scores coming from Bobby Hoying’s opening interception and Josh Jackson’s two missed field goals. Further, save for Hoying’s interception, every single one of Ohio State’s drives ended deep in Illinois’ red zone or with a touchdown. The two times the Buckeyes had to rely on field goals from Jackson came with the Buckeye offense stalling within the Illinois’ 5 yard line. 5 touchdowns and 2 field goals later, the Buckeyes offense had thoroughly flattened one of the better defenses in the country en route to a 41-3 victory.Eddie George took the first play from scrimmage after kickoff for his Heisman reel touchdown run. In spite of a dominating first half, Eddie George had been kept out of the end zone in the first half. In the second half, he poured in 3 touchdowns, with one coming as a receiver after Illinois’ lone turnover in the game.
With all said and done, Ohio State had won 41-3 and Eddie George had the best single performance of any Buckeye tailback in the program’s history. It was a game that cemented Eddie George’s Heisman credentials, thus making Tommie Frazier the most horrifying college football player in history without a Heisman Trophy.
That said, I can wish all I want for a similar performance from Beanie, but there’s just no Orlando Pace or Rickey Dudley on the roster currently to create havoc. There’s not even an Eric Gohlstin on the team..
Without further ado, you can watch my compilation of the 1995 Illinois game below. In the interest of brevity, I don’t show much of the defensive highlights since it was kind of your garden variety total annihilation of an opposing offense.