This is your bye week, Buckeye Nation. It’s good to have a week off to get healthy and send the coaching staff to rack up their frequent flier miles in search of future Buckeyes. It’s also great to be 10-0 with a shot at 11-0 next week in Madison. Before we look ahead to next week’s final road game of the season (gosh, it sounds horrible to contemplate how close we are to the end of this Ohio State football season), let’s take another look at Saturday’s glorious 52-22 win over the Fighting ILOLini. Yes, it was another slow start for the Buckeyes, but midway through the second quarter your concerns were completely gone and you were just hoping for a glimpse of Kenny G replacing a healthy Braxton Miller. That eventually took place, which was good, but it also provided one of the most DERP-worthy moments of the season so far (more on that below).
The Buckeyes finally beat an inferior conference opponent soundly, which speaks to the continued development of this team. It still has yet to produce a complete, 60-minute game, but we’re getting closer and closer, and wouldn’t it be perfect to do that in the final two contests of Urban Meyer’s first year at the helm? (Hint: Yes, yes it would.) Saturday’s first quarter was a little bit ‘meh’ but Illinois presented no credible threat after that, squashing thoughts of the Indiana, Cal and Purdue games. I thought the Illinois offense might be a little better, owing to Tim Beckman’s success last year with Toledo at attacking the edges. Nope. In the end, it was Ohio State’s offense that stole the show, scoring 50+ for the fourth time this season—a first for Ohio State. This is how I saw it:
Rototillinois: The Buckeye ground game was at its most brutal and punishing on Saturday. Carlos Hyde was a got damn steamroller powered by nitrous. El Guapo rushed only 18 times in racking up 137 yards and three touchdowns. If not for some predetermined Braxton Miller runs in the early stages of the game, Hyde could have easily tacked on another 40-50 yards on just a few more carries. When no hole existed, he still blasted into the line for four yards. When a hole existed he shot forward for first downs, before destroying linebackers and defensive backs with extreme prejudice. I imagine he thought “I’m not going to juke my way past you, so I’ll just create a new hole in your sternum,” as he approached some poor bastard in a white jersey and orange helmet. On his second touchdown run, Hyde was met at the two-yard line and didn’t give a damn about the defender, carrying him into the end zone.
In addition to Hyde’s exploits, Miller ran for 73 yards on 18 carries before shutting down his run game in the second half, and Bri’onte Dunn lugged it 13 times for 73 more yards. Rod Smith added 32 yards on just five totes, but unfortunately his fumble problems continue to be an issue and likely cost him some carries at garbage time. In all, the OSU offensive front paved over the Illini defense on run plays and that created a huge advantage in the game. There are probably still a few Illini defenders somewhere underneath the field turf of Ohio Stadium. I don’t think synthetic grass can be fertilized per se, but those chunks of Illini are full of nutrients, so…
Better Braxton: I think we caught our first glimpse of how deadly Miller can be as a college quarterback on Saturday. Braxton looked very sharp in the passing game. His spirals were tight and on a rope. He hit receivers in stride. He kept his mechanics under control. He also threw the ball away when receivers were covered and didn’t make many risky throws. His stat line says he was 12 of 20 for 226 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions and a quarterback rating of 187.9. The reality is that he was even better than that. Jake Stoneburner had two very uncharacteristic drops and Nick Vannett added another. Miller could easily have been 15/20 for close to 300 yards. He also scored on a scramble when Illinois had the audacity to pressure him and cover Ohio State’s receivers.
Learning from the past: Did the throw-back pass to Rod Smith look a little familiar? Well, it was basically the same play that Purdue used to score its first touchdown at Ohio State. Smith lined up in the backfield with Miller and Hyde, then ran a wheel route, with Hyde floating into the flat underneath him. Miller faked a handoff to Hyde, rolled right, and threw a perfect strike to Smith for the score. The play created confusion on the defense, with the result that one man was caught between covering Smith and Hyde. He hesitated to make that decision and it was essentially over. The differentiator with Purdue’s version is that the Boilermakers lined up in I-formation with Caleb TerBush under center, whereas Ohio State had Miller in the shotgun with Smith to the left and Hyde to the right. Both quarterbacks faked to the tailback and rolled right, though Miller rolled further than TerBush. It was a nice wrinkle to add to the arsenal.
Development: One of the things that made Florida so explosive under Urban Meyer was that any short pass play could turn into a long touchdown. Corey Brown finally provided that kind of pyrotechnics with his touchdown catch on Saturday. Brown caught a five yard stop route at the 32, ran straight up field for the first down, and broke Ashanti Williams’ ankles with an outside cut at the 26. He cut back again at the 23 to fell another defender, and then broke two tackles as he angled to the pylon for the score. It was easily the most explosive play we’ve seen from Brown at receiver. This is the “Percy Harvin role” we’ve been talking about, and with the ability of some of the incoming recruits, the future of this offense could be incredible.
Other random thoughts/observations:
- The real shame of Stoneburner’s tough day catching the ball is that it began with a nice sideline grab for 24 yards.
- One of my favorite plays was a fourth quarter scramble for a first down by Miller on third-and-6. On the play, Miller somehow sensed backside pressure, took a quick step backward to leave the rusher grasping nothing but air, then rolled left for a first down. Hyde, downfield for a pass, boxed out a defender like Jared Sullinger to spring the first down run.
- Kenny G’s moment of DERP probably kept the final score from being 59-14. Guiton made the right read and the right play, but he simply waited too long to pitch the ball. A defender hit him as he released, completely messing up the timing of the play. Had he pitched to Dunn a half second earlier, Dunn appeared that he would have gotten the corner for a decent gain, and may have scored.
- Ryan Shazier is a damn missile. Something has clicked for the OSU sophomore and he’s really playing well. Shazier amassed 11 solo tackles and 14 overall stops on Saturday with two TFLs. However, there were no interceptions or sacks, so go back to No. 48, Ryan.
- Bradley Roby knocked down another pass, giving him 18 on the year. He leads the nation in that category despite missing time due to injury.
- John Simon finished with only one tackle, but it was a sack. He also sacked Nathan Scheelhaase on two other occasions, with the lone problem being that the ball had been handed off just a millisecond before Simon lowered the boom. On yet another play, Scheelhaase was able to throw a short pass while Simon was dragging him down. So, despite the low tackle total, Simon was still a force, especially eating up blockers on running plays. I still think big John is playing hurt this season. I hope the bye week gets him healthy.
- I haven’t looked up the field goal numbers, but this season the Buckeyes have to be on pace for a near record low in three-pointers. That said, Drew Basil did nail his lone opportunity.
- It’s pretty awesome to not get kicks blocked, but the Freak Show was quiet on Saturday. There were two near misses on the punt block unit, including a “running into” penalty on Roby that could have been a personal foul. The piranhas had kind of a tough week on kickoff coverage, but at least there were no bombs against the Buckeyes on special teams.
- It’s a shame that a penalty wiped out Travis Howard’s nice interception return. It saved Tim Beckman’s team an even worse halftime deficit. Not that it mattered in the end.