The Buckeyes exercised some demons this weekend, overwhelming an Illinois squad that had won seven of their past ten trips to Ohio Stadium, most recently ruining a perfect season in 2007. On a rainy day in Columbus, Tressel's smash mouth attack was succesful, greatly thanks to the defense which seems to improve each week. A little research reveals that this is the first time since 1996 that the Silver Bullets have pitched back to back shutouts! Outside of the final USC drive they have been nearly perfect the last three games.
As for a recap, there isn't a whole lot that needs to be said. Early on the Illini had some success on the ground, but a Brian Rolle interception thwarted their first drive, and from then on the d-line just took over and dominated. Interestingly, Ohio State only attempted two passes in the first half, completing neither of them, but led 13-0, and Illinois was never really in the game after intermission. The rain lightened, the Senator opened things up a little, and the Bucks cruised to a surprisngly easy victory.
Briefly allow me to highlight what I especially liked, and something I didn't care for (being picky, I know):
Pretty much everything about the defense - It was a dominating performance. Brian Rolle stands out for his take no prisoners approach and his speed. He just makes plays and is the fastest MLB I have ever seen in Scarlet and Gray. Gibson was a total beast in this game, but all the guys on the line played fabulous football (I actually didn't hear Heyward's name much, however). Juice Williams may not have been 100%, but he is always dangerous, yet the constant pressure from the line never allowed him to get into a rhythm. I like Jermale Hines more each week, and the defensive backs did their job again. It was an A+ performance from the defense.
The Running Game - Where has this been? The line did a good job of opening holes, and managed to make it through most of the game without any penalties. Herron ran with a little more burst than we've seen in '09, but may have injured his ankle slightly in the third quarter. Brandon Saine just keeps on impressing, and was terrific on his first series, running with power and purpose on a rain-soaked field. All in all I saw a true Big Ten running game for the first time this year, and credit the young line for their solid work.
Disappointments: I guess I could say disappointment because I really only have one with this particular game:
Finishing Drives - I still think we are too conservative at times, and often fail to get into the end zone when we have the chance. A big part of that is on the offensive gameplan and the play calling, but I also notice that Pryor's decision making still needs work. I did like the option near the end of the first half, which resulted in a Herron touchdown, but the conservative approach almost cost the Bucks when Ray Small fumbled a punt a couple of minutes before halftime. Had Illinois captilized it might have been a different game. Thankfully the defense rose to the ocassion as they did all day.
It was unusual and rather surprising to see Pryor still in the game on the final drive. Even more shocking was the third down pass to Sanzenbacher for a touchdown. I have mixed emotions about allowing the Franchise to play with a secure lead, because an injury would be devasting to this team. However, he needed the work, especially since there was so little passing in the first half due to the persistent rain. It is incredible that the Sweater Vest allowed a short throw for a score with just over a minute left in the game. Could be he wanted to build Terrelle's confidence, or it might be that he was still ticked by the postgame celebration of '07 when some of the Illini danced on the O at midfield. Regardless it went against the grain.
Drew pointed out in the first half how much more effective Pryor is running to his left than his right. Indeed almost all of his good runs the past two years have been to the left. Sure, that side of the line has been more productive, but it is uncanny how much better he looks taking off to his left!
One final note: I am more than worn out with the media and John Saunders first comment after the game was that he didn't remember a more unimpressive performance form a team that won 30-0. That was bush league, and I add Saunders to my list of media Buckeye haters. Yawn!