Coming into Saturday’s action against the Illinois Fighting Illini, Buckeyes fans knew that it was going to take an ugly game for the Buckeyes to win. Nobody would of ever guessed it would of been that big of a possession and turnover battle with just one completed pass for the Buckeyes all afternoon long.
Wait, that’s right. Jim Bollman is the Buckeyes Offensive Coordinator. Nothing at this point should be surprising on the offensive side of the football.
The Buckeyes got the ball first and quickly got the running game going. Daniel “Boom” Herron got the start, and early used his patientce alongside fellow running back Jordan Hall to put together a methodical drive out of the I formation. After 9 straight running plays for 45 yards, Drew Basil was called upon to put the first points on board, by making his 8th straight field goal from 43 yards out as he played the wind with the hook to make it 3-0.
The rest of the first quarter would be back and forth with little or no forward progress from either team. After forcing a three and out on the opening drive for the Illini, The Buckeyes were shut out on their second attempt to get on the scoreboard. After two short runs and a Whitney Mercilus sack of Braxton Miller, The Buckeye defense took the field and got the football back. Illinois ended the first with the ball, gaining their first true offensive momentum into the second. After a solid catch by A.J. Jenkins down the sideline for 21 yards to the Ohio State 38, the Illini worked into a 4th down and 4 situation, where Ron Zook had his special teams pooch the football inside the 10 yard line.
That’s when the Illini defense took their game to another level, penetrating inside the offensive line and causing back to back running plays for a loss of yardage — forcing a short field punt from the end zone.
The defensive struggle continued on both sides as Illinois punted for the forth straight drive. The Buckeyes would then follow suite after their first passing attempt of the game with just more than 7 minutes remaining. Then after a play-action attempt on 3rd down which led to a Braxton Miller sack, The Illini would take over and after moving the football via the passing game, would punt it back to the Buckeyes.
With short time left in the half, Ohio State went to work, running the draw to perfection. Starting from the nine yard line, the Buckeyes plugged away with the run. First it was Boom Herron with a 21 yard run to the left side, followed up by an 11 + delayed hand off to Jordan Hall on the right side. Braxton Miller struggled finding a receiver though early, leading the intended target twice, then was sacked twice to end the half.
Thanks to Ron Zook playing fickellball and not calling timeout as the half winded down, it was the Buckeyes winning the first half for the second straight week, heading into the locker room up 3-0.
Coming out of the half, something had to give.
Finally, after a stellar first half, the Buckeye Defense came up with a game changer. On 2nd down and 5, Nathan Scheelhaase threw a quick pick to Bradley Robey at the 48 yard line. After a return of 36 yards, the Buckeyes set up on the Illini 12. That’s when Boom Herron got to the outside after good blocking up front and jogged into the end zone on the left side to make it 10-0.
The Buckeyes would then get the ball back and ride on the running ability of Herron and Miller. Herron ran a total of 25 yards, while setting up Braxton Miller on a 35 yard draw scramble up the middle of the field. Ohio State would get in solid field position, but after bad play-calling and a continuing fear to throw the football, the Buckeyes were forced to punt into the wind after a 57 yard drive.
Illinois would get out of deep trouble near the goal line on offense heading into the fourth quarter. On 3rd down and 15, Nathan Scheelhaase found his number one target, A.J. Jenkins for the first down. On third down and 15 after a monstrous John Simon sack, Scheelhaase completed a nice pass to A.J. Jenkins for a good 10 yards. That’s when Tyler Moeller crushed Jenkins and caused him to fumble the football. Linebacker Storm Klein recovered the second turnover of the ballgame.
Finally, the Buckeye offense separated themselves from the Ohio High School elite, when they completed they completed their first pass of the game ; a 17 yard pass to tight end Jake Stoneburner with 13:06 remaining in the ballgame.
At that point, it looked like the game was in the books for the Buckeyes, but as we learned last week, it isn’t over until the final whistle blows.
Nathan Scheelhaase led the attack on the following drive, lasting 16 plays and 80 yards. Despite eating up 7 minutes of the game clock, Nathan Scheelhaase moved the football, running it six times for 39 yards and completing a 3 yard pass to Evan Wilson to make it a 10 point deficit for Illinois.
Ohio State’s coaching staff then put themselves in even more dangerous position. After a penalty and a long 4th down in front of them, the play clock winded down before Luke Fickell or his coaching staff could call time out. After a bad punt on good field position, the Illini offense took over looking to close the gap to one score.
That’s when Travis Howard ended the game with a beautiful interception at the Illini 20 on the under-thrown football from Scheelhaase. The second of the ballgame is just the fifth all season long for the Illini signal caller.
After a third and out by the Ohio State offense, The Illini would respond with a valiant passing effort. Dinking and dunking out of bounds, the Blue and Orange got down to the Buckeye 17 yard line. After an incomplete pass on third down and 2, Ron Zook decided to go for it, despite being in field goal range down ten.
Scheelhaase threw the ball up to A.J. Jenkins, who was turned away from the football, causing a turnover on downs. A fitting end to a possesion ballgame that had some rather interesting play calls on both sides. Ohio State was able to pull out the victory despite just one complete pass throughout.
The Buckeyes will face the Bye next week after the 17-7 win. The Illini will take on the Purdue Boiler Makers on the road next week.