5 Answers: Illinois at Ohio State

Rod Smith

Illinois could not stop Ohio State's running game or much of anything else Saturday as the Buckeyes rolled to a 52-22 victory at Ohio Stadium. We examine that, the play of the quarterbacks, special teams and more in this week's Five Answers.

1. Will there be any letdown for Ohio State?

The Buckeyes endured yet another slow start, but it did not last much longer than the first quarter.

The defense gave up a pair of scoring drives after an opening three-and-out then clamped down from there.

The offense looked sluggish with an opening three-and-out that netted a loss of five yards, but the Buckeyes came back with a pair of scoring drives before the first 15 minutes were up.

All in all, they seemed to take on the Fighting Illini with a business-like approach.

"We have a lot of respect for the personnel of the team we just played, especially on defense. There's a couple of guys that have received some recognition, well deserved," head coach Urban Meyer said. "However, I thought after a slow start the offense and defensive lines took over the game. If you do that without turning the ball over, usually you'll win. We still have some weaknesses."


?2. Can Illinois force the Buckeyes to go to the air?

This was a resounding, "No," although it might not have mattered much.

Ohio State ripped apart the Illinois run defense and had plenty of success through the air as well.

Twenty-four of the Buckeyes' 32 first downs came on the ground, and they averaged 5.8 yards per carry. Don't most of the damage was running back Carlos Hyde, who ran for 137 yards on 18 carries and scored three touchdowns. Quarterback Braxton Miller and running back Bri'onte Dunn added 73 yards more apiece and each found the end zone once.

"Our offensive line did great today, so I was able to do my job," Hyde said. "I just feel like they're more aggressive. Our coaches challenged them this week to step up and control the line of scrimmage, and that's exactly what they did this week."

In all, the Buckeyes ran for 330 yards on 57 tries.


?3. Will either quarterback get into a rhythm?

Miller also had one of his best passing days, going 12 for 20 for 226 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. He spread the ball around to seven different receivers, including Philly Brown, who led the way with four grabs for 79 yards.

"I feel pretty good about myself throwing the ball today," Miller said. "I threw the ball to the guys, they made plays."

The story was different for Illinois' Nathan Scheelhaase, who was 19 for 34 passing for 96 yards with an interception. He was nearly sacked on the first play of the game by Ohio State end John Simon, and Scheelhaase rarely looked comfortable when he dropped to throw.

"I think this is the maturation of this entire defense, guys understanding it takes 11 guys to chase the football," OSU co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers said. "You've got an athletic guy quarterback out there. If he gets on the edge, keep putting pressure on him. Even though we let him out on the edge a couple times we put him in bad situations where he couldn't get his shoulders square to throw the football correctly."


?4. Can Ohio State make it through a game without a special teams error?

Not quite.

Ben Buchanan's first punt was nearly blocked, and he ended up averaging 33.7 yards on three boots. On the bright side, only one of his punts was returned, and that went for no yards.

The punt block team provided the mistake this time around as Bradley Roby knocked down Illinois punter Justin DuVernois, but the damage was minimal as he was only called for the five-yard variety of the penalty. Brown picked up 25 yards on three punt returns, including a zig-zagging 13-yarder.

The kickoff coverage team has had better days as Illinois' Terry Hawthorne averaged 26.3 yards per return, including a 45-yarder.


5. Will Ohio State take care of the ball?

Miller snapped a three-game interception streak by throwing 20 passes without one against the Fighting Illini.

The Buckeyes lost two fumbles, but their effect on the game was largely cosmetic.

Tim Kynard dislodged the ball from Smith's grasp with his helmet on a textbook hit in the third quarter and the ball was recovered by the Illini at the Ohio State 42. That led to a short touchdown drive that drew the visitors within 24 points.

They also scored off the Buckeyes' other fumble as Star Ashante Williams picked up reserve quarterback Kenny Guiton's errant option pitch and returned it 77 yards late in the fourth quarter.

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