- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- A quick update at halftime from Memorial Stadium, where both defenses have dominated play. Ohio State leads No. 16 Illinois 3-0.
Stat of the half: Ohio State QB Braxton Miller didn't attempt a pass until midway through the second quarter and finished the half 0-for-3 passing. He was sacked four times.
Best player in the half: Several defenders stood out for both teams, but Jonathan Brown was an absolute beast in his return from suspension. The Illinois linebacker recorded 11 tackles, including 2.5 for loss and 1.5 sacks. Illinois DE Whitney Mercilus (2 TFLs, 1.5 sacks) and Ohio State DT Johnathan Hankins (3 tackles, 1 TFL) also were terrific.
What Ohio State needs to do in the second half: Unlike last week at Nebraska, the Buckeyes' tackling has been extremely sound, and Illinois has had a tough time stretching the field. Ohio State must continue to keep Illini star WR A.J. Jenkins in check (3 receptions, 27 yards) and force QB Nathan Scheelhaase to look elsewhere. It's clearly a defensive struggle, so Ohio State must make Illinois work for its points. On offense, running backs Dan Herron (70 rush yards) and Jordan Hall (43 rush yards) have been terrific, but Miller must provide some passing threat or Illinois will load up.
What Illinois needs to do in the second half: Make Miller beat them through the air. He has really struggled so far, and Illinois' constant pressure on the pocket is a big reason why. The Illini needs to prevent big runs by Herron and Hall and force Ohio State to mount a sustained drive. On offense, accelerating the tempo might be a good idea against a fundamentally sound Ohio State defense. Coordinator Paul Petrino tried to do so late in the half, but Illinois never got in a rhythm on offense.