Box Score (HTML) | Box Score (PDF) | Postgame Notes | Photo Gallery
Ohio State picks up its 15th straight Big Ten road win and can win a share of its fourth straight Big Ten title with a win next week against rival Michigan
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — No way, Jim Tressel figured, would 11th-ranked Ohio State win by throwing the ball.
So on a gray, windy Big Ten kind of day, the Ohio State coach put the game in the hands of Chris Wells — always a good place to put it for the Buckeyes this season.
The junior running back’s 143-yard performance sunk Illinois, 30-20, and kept the Buckeyes (9-2, 6-1) in the chase for the Big Ten title. Freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor added another 110 yards rushing.
“We knew we would have a lot better chance of winning running the ball,” Tressel said. “You could pass it but you couldn’t try to make a living doing it.”
The game also served as a little revenge for the 28-21 upset the Illini hung on the Buckeyes last November in Columbus, ruining a perfect season.
For Illinois (5-6, 3-4), Saturday was its own dose of cold, cloudy, wind-blown humility. The Illini are running out of chances to claim a spot in a bowl game, just a year after getting to the Rose Bowl.
More immediately frustrating, Illinois had 455 yards of offense Saturday, 101 more than the Buckeyes, but turned the ball over twice and committed a series of wind-aided special teams mistakes that cost them points.
“We’ve got to take advantage of the opportunities we have,” said Illinois quarterback Juice Williams, responsible for both turnovers. “When we get in the red zone, we’ve got to put up points.”
With the stiff, northwest wind and temperatures most of the day in the 30s, Saturday was made for Wells.
“It was a running back’s dream,” he said. “Cold and wet — what more could you ask for?”
He carried the ball 24 times, patiently picking his way through Illini defenders for steady early gains and, later, bursting through holes for runs that exhausted Illinois’ defense.
His shorts runs were punishing, but his longer ones were ego deflaters for Illinois.
On one 25-yard burst early in the third quarter, Wells hurdled safety Donsay Hardeman, drawing gasps from Illini fans.
Another, a 29-yarder later in the third quarter with the score still 23-13, stole the momentum from Illinois on one of its last chances to get back into the game.
Pryor, too, found room to run Saturday. His 110 yards came on just 13 carries, most of them through a tired Illinois defense in the second half.
The freshman quarterback threw the ball just 10 times, completing six for 49 yards and a TD.
Statistically, Illinois was more than a match for Ohio State.
The Illini had 292 yards of offense by halftime, 22 more than the Buckeyes were giving up a game before Saturday.
But by the midway point in the second quarter, the list of Illinois mistakes was long:
A fumble by quarterback Juice Williams deep in Illinois territory, and an interception with the goal line in range.
A punt blocked by Malcolm Jenkins for a safety.
A punt and kickoff into the wind that went nowhere, giving the Buckeyes great field position.
“You can’t turn the ball over and have a chance to win” Illinois coach Ron Zook said.
The Buckeyes made Illinois pay for every one of those mistakes.
The fumble, midway through the first quarter at the Illini 17-yard line, set up the game’s first points when Pryor eased into the end zone from a yard out.
The safety led to a short kick, knocked down by that 20 mph wind, and set up Ohio State’s second touchdown. Wells capped a 42-yard drive by falling into the corner of the end zone for a 16-7 lead.
Kurt Coleman’s interception at the Ohio State 12 probably cost Illinois points, too. And then the Buckeyes took the ball 76 yards the other way for Pryor’s touchdown pass to Dane Sanzenbacher and a 23-7 lead.
“Sometimes you say to yourself that you dodged a bullet because you gave up yards but got the turnovers,” Tressel said.
The Buckeyes kept Williams under heavy pressure, early by the blitz and later via a flood of white jerseys pouring through the Illini offensive line.
“You can’t be passive and wait back because they have too many weapons and too much talent,” Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis said. “You have to attack it and blitz and get after them and not let them take it to you.”
Williams was sacked just twice, but was forced to run out of pressure and either throw on the run or scramble for what he could get on another half-dozen plays.
He finished the day 17-of-26 for 192 yards with two touchdowns and the interception. Williams also ran for 60 yards, second for the Illini Saturday to running back Daniel Dufrene’s 79 on eight carries.
The Buckeyes head into the last game of the regular season against Michigan with a chance for at least a share of the Big Ten title and an outside shot at the Rose Bowl.
Illinois will play Northwestern to try for a sixth win that could get the Illini to a bowl game — perhaps the Motor City.
Jim Tressel has passed Earle Bruce and is now third among Ohio State with 82 career wins. Woody Hayes (205 wins) and John Cooper (111) are one-two.
Ohio State has won a school record 15-consecutive Big Ten road games — the longest active streak in the country and two shy of tying the conference record set by Michigan from 1988-92. Ohio State’s last lost was Oct. 8, 2005 at Penn State.
Ohio State can clinch a share of the Big Ten title with a win against Michigan next week but will need Penn State to lose to Michigan State in order to represent the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl.
Ohio State is 807-306-53 in its 119th season of play. The win total ranks fifth all-time in Division I college football. The only other schools to have 800 or more wins are Michigan, Notre Dame, Texas and Nebraska. Penn State won its 799th game today against Indiana. Alabama seeks its 798th win today.
Ohio State is 449-189-28 all-time in Big Ten games.
Ohio will seek a 450th Big Ten win and a fourth consecutive Big Ten championship next week at Ohio Stadium against Michigan.
Jim Tressel has coached 100 Ohio State games. His record with the Buckeyes is 82-18 (.820) and his career record is 217-75-2 (.740). Tressel’s 217 wins are the third-most among active FBS coaches, just ahead of Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer who has 215.
The Buckeyes are 421-128-14 all-time as a Top 25 team.
Ohio State is 283-132-19 all-time in November games and 180-78-11 in November road games.
The game today represented the 96th meeting between Ohio State and Illinois. Only the Ohio State vs. Michigan rivalry has been played more than Ohio State vs. Illinois. The 105th Ohio State/Michigan game will be played next week.
Ohio State has a 33-12 advantage in games played in Champaign with seven consecutive wins. The last time Ohio State lost at Memorial Stadium was in 1991, 10-7.
The game was the 82nd played for the “Illibuck” Trophy. Ohio State leads the “Illibuck” series, 57-23-2.
Ohio State leads the all-time series with Illinois, 61-30-4.
Ohio State has won four of the last five games against Illinois; the exception coming with the Illini’s 28-21 win last year in Columbus.
Terrelle Pryor made his seventh consecutive start at quarterback for the Buckeyes. He is now 6-1 as a starter.
Pryor and Chris “Beanie” Wells each rushed for over 110 yards, the first time since 2005 that Ohio State has had two backs crack the century mark (Antonio Pittman had 171 and QB Troy Smith 127 vs. Sept. 24, 2005 vs. Iowa).
Pryor increased his single game rushing record by a freshman quarterback (previous was 97 vs. Minnesota) with 110 yards and one touchdown. The effort was the first 100-yard rushing game by an Ohio State quarterback since Smith’s 127 vs. Iowa in 2005.
Beanie Wells became the sixth Buckeye to top 3,000 career rushing yards. He rushed for 143 yards against the Illini and now has 3,142 career yards.
Wells passed Pepe Pearson (3,121 yards between 1994-97) for fifth on Ohio State’s all-time rushing charts. Next on the list: Keith Byars is fourth with 3,200 yards.
Wells’ touchdown was the 29th of his career. His 100-yard game was his sixth this season and 15th of his career.
Two catches for Brian Robiskie increased his career total to 120 and leaves him needing just one to tie John Frank for eighth place on the all-time receptions list.
Robiskie has caught a pass in 34-consecutive regular-season games and Brian Hartline has caught at least one pass in 27-consecutive games.
Dane Sazenbacher’s touchdown reception was his first this season and second of his career. His first was in his first collegiate game, vs. Youngstown State in 2007… 23 games ago.
Daniel “Boom” Herron scored on a 12-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. It marked the second consecutive game with a fourth-quarter TD run for the freshman. He has three rushing TDs this year.
Illinois gained 455 offensive yards vs. Ohio State, a season high for an Ohio State opponent. Southern Cal (348) had the previous high vs. Ohio State.
Ohio State scored 23 first-half points off turnovers and/or special teams plays (a fumble recovery, blocked punt for a safety and interception).
Sophomore linebacker Tyler Moeller made his first career start and he made an immediate impact with two huge defensive plays in the first half. On the second defensive series of the game, Moeller forced a fumble that was recovered by Nader Abdallah. And in the second quarter with Illlinois inside the Ohio State red zone, he pressured QB Juice Williams into throwing an interception. Both plays set up Ohio State touchdown drives.
Abdallah’s first fumble recovery of the year and the team’s 12th set Ohio State up with a first down on the Illinois 19. Five plays later Terrelle Pryor scored for a 7-0 Ohio State lead.
Malcolm Jenkins blocked his second punt of the season late in the first quarter. The ball went out of the end zone for a safety, giving Ohio State a 9-7 lead. After the ensuing Illinois free kick, Ohio State took over on the Illinois 43 yard line. Five plays later Beanie Wells scored for a 16-7 Ohio State lead.
Kurt Coleman’s second quarter interception of a Juice Williams pass was his team-leading fourth of the year. Six plays later, Terrelle Pryor hit Dane Sanzenbacher for a 20-yard touchdown pass and a 23-7 Ohio State lead.
Coleman recorded a career-high 11 tackles. James Laurinaitis and Marcus Freeman had eight apiece.
Malcolm Jenkins had three pass break-ups to increase his team lead to eight this season.
The honorary captain for the game today was Rob Harley, a three-year football letterman for Ohio State (2003-04-05) who grew up near Chicago.