Buckeyes roll to fourth straight win in rout of Illini

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Ohio State coach Jim Tressel no longer has
to rely so heavily on his defense and special teams.

"We're not opposed to scoring, contrary to popular opinion,"
Tressel said after the 12th-ranked Buckeyes rolled over Illinois
40-2 on Saturday.

It was the third game in a row in which Ohio State has scored at
least 40 points, the first time that's happened since a four-game
stretch in 1995.

Troy Smith threw three touchdown passes and Antonio Pittman ran
for two scores to lead the Buckeyes (7-2, 5-1) to their fourth win
in a row. They kept pace with first-place Penn State in the Big Ten
with two league games left -- against Northwestern and at Michigan.

"Anytime we get out there as an offense, we have a goal to
score 42 points," Smith said.

Illinois (2-7, 0-6) lost its seventh in a row.

Tressel, who frequently says he believes the punt is the most
important play in football, takes an ultraconservative approach
with Ohio State's offense. The Buckeyes' goal is to not make
mistakes with the ball while attacking on defense and making breaks
in the kicking game. Most of the time, that's enough to win.

But earlier in the season, the offense was all but
sleep-inducing in losses to Texas (25-22) and Penn State (17-10).

Since a punchless performance in the loss in Happy Valley,
however, the Buckeyes have been hitting on all cylinders. The
Buckeyes piled up 526 yards while holding the Illini to 160.

"It feels good to put up points," Pittman said. "The offense
is rolling."

Smith completed 13 of 21 passes for a career-high 298 yards, and
ran for 55 yards on seven carries. His scoring passes covered 41
and 3 yards to Santonio Holmes, and 73 yards to Ted Ginn Jr., who
totaled 138 yards on four catches.

Over the past month, Smith has completed 65 percent of his
passes for over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns.

"It's me being more comfortable within the offense ... (and)
the guys starting to be a little more comfortable with me," Smith

Pittman totaled 96 yards on 22 carries, scoring on runs of 16
and 8 yards. He hadn't scored a touchdown until getting into the
end zone twice a week ago in a 45-31 win at Minnesota.

"I've got my total up to four now," he said with a wide grin.
"So it feels good."

Ginn, who fumbled a punt earlier, returned the second-half
kickoff 65 yards to help set up Smith's second scoring pass of the
day to Holmes, a 3-yarder for a 19-0 lead.

On the extra point, the snap went through the hands of holder
A.J. Trapasso and Illinois strong safety Kevin Mitchell picked up
the loose ball and ran 75 yards for a defensive conversion and the
Illini's only points.

"I just saw it on the ground and went for it," Mitchell said.
"Usually they blow the whistle but when I looked back I didn't see
any flags."

The Illini returned that gift on their next possession. On
fourth-and-6 at the 24, punter Steve Weatherford faked the kick and
rolled right. He was stopped short of the first down at the 29.

"I'd been waiting to call it the whole game but the situation
wasn't right," Illinois coach Ron Zook said. "We had some
momentum going. I thought if we get this now it's going to be a
momentum thing."

It was, but not in the way he envisioned.

Four plays later, Smith faked a quick pitch to the right and
then wheeled to flip the ball to Pittman, who swooped around left
end, took a hit, and then fought his way across the goal line to
complete the 16-yard run. This time the Buckeyes did convert the
point-after kick for a 26-2 lead.

To that point, Illinois quarterback Tim Brasic had completed 10
of 11 passes -- but for 16 yards.

Brasic finished 18-of-24 for 92 yards without an interception.
He was sacked five times for losses totaling 31 yards, with
linebacker A.J. Hawk picking up two of the sacks.

"I don't think their front four is as good as Penn State's, but
they did so many twists and stunts with their linebackers," Brasic
said. "They just got a lot of pressure on us."

On Ohio State's next possession, Smith tossed a 50-yard pass to
Ginn, who was all alone 5 yards clear of defender Sharriff
Abdullah. Ginn waited on the pass, caught it and then easily
coasted in to complete the 73-yard scoring play.

Ohio State led 13-0 at the half, scoring on field goals of 29
and 22 yards by Josh Huston before Smith tossed a pass into the
left flat that Holmes turned into a 41-yard touchdown.

In the end, it was just another loss for the Illini in a long

"It's tough," Zook said. "I'm not lying to you."


ESPN Fan Shop Powered By

  • Nike Men's Illinois Fighting Illini Blue/Orange Team Issue Performance PoloShop

  • Nike Men's Ohio State Buckeyes Black/Gray Team Issue Performance PoloShop