Saturday, October 15, 2011
Final: Ohio State 17, Illinois 7
By Adam Rittenberg
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Ohio State isn't dead yet.
After months of disappointment on and off the field, the Buckeyes earned the right to lift their arms in victory. Behind a suffocating defense and the triumphant return of top running back Dan Herron, Ohio State beat No. 16 Illinois 17-7 for its first Big Ten win. The Illini lost for the first time this season after living on the edge for several weeks.
Ohio State coach Luke Fickell deserves a lot of credit for keeping the team focused and united after the collapse at Nebraska. Fickell undoubtedly will be thrilled with his defense, which bounced back with an impressive performance against Nathan Scheelhaase, A.J. Jenkins and one of the Big Ten's most dangerous offenses. The win wasn't pretty to many, but Fickell, as a longtime defense coach, had to be loving it.
Behind several defensive standouts -- DT Johnathan Hankins, DL John Simon, S Tyler Moeller, CB Bradley Roby, CB Travis Howard -- Ohio State kept Illinois off the scoreboard for more than 53 minutes. The Buckeyes forced three second-half takeaways, converting the first two into touchdowns.
Quarterback Braxton Miller didn't complete a pass until the fourth quarter -- he connected for a 17-yard touchdown on his first attempt -- but Ohio State limited mistakes on offense and received a terrific performance from Herron.
Now the Buckeyes head into a much-needed bye before their showdown against Wisconsin.
I'll have much more from Memorial Stadium, so don't go anywhere ...