“Either Ohio State isn’t as good as their rating or Illinois has improved more than we thought.” This was the common refrain heard as people filed out of Memorial Stadium for the mid-afternoon tailgating. In many ways, it’s beside the point. OSU won 24-13. They won on the road and still control their path to the mythical national title game. The Illini couldn’t muster enough offense and avoid the dumb mistakes needed to pull the upset. Still, this was a positive performance in many ways for Zook’s team as they stood up physically to the Buckeyes and didn’t lose any key players to injury.
A look at the stats confirms impressions of the game: it was a very conservative affair. OSU got 213 yards rushing, but half of those came on two big plays from Pryor. Illinois actually outrushed the Buckeyes and were certainly more effective with the running backs. Again, the passing attack wasn’t very productive, but it didn’t hurt the offense much either. If we can get to the point where passing is actually a concern for opposing defenses, we’ll be somewhere.
Five points in the Pentagram…
- The Illini D-line played very well. Liuget and Spence clogged it up against the run and allowed the linebackers to finish plays. Yeah, they didn’t really put pressure on Pryor unless they sent a linebacker or safety, but it’s progress. It’s been some time since we’ve been able to win the line battle against a team like OSU, and the boys did so until the very end of the game when…
- Stupid penalties, a hallmark of the Zook era, came to the fore. Some of them were just the shady kind of crap you always get against the likes of OSU or Michigan – holding on defense on a PAT? A receiver lining up offsides? Illegal kick formation? But the facemasks – particularly in the 4th quarter in which we saw four or five – were killers. They extended OSU’s last two drives. Maybe they were a result of our defense tiring, who knows? Somehow we have to cut this out if we want to beat good teams.
- Scheelhaase needs a little more time, but he’s progressing. He needs to take more time in the pocket before he starts dancing. Trust your receivers a little more, Nate. He also needs more time in the pocket from his O-line. The play-action will work, was working, because of our running game… Now you just have to make some of those throws down the field.
- Don’t know if this conservative gameplan will work against other Big 10 teams. It was like a battle between the two coaching staffs – who could be more vanilla. Other teams in the conference were putting up big numbers this weekend. Other teams were throwing the ball. Illinois might be able to stop the run, but they really will need to score in the 20’s to beat anyone else.
- In my opinion, OSU is overrated. Having seen other teams play with a lot more style and creativity, knowing how Jim Tressel will set his team up, and not seeing the playmakers other than Pryor, I don’t see the Buckeyes getting through the conference without a loss. Their defense isn’t that good. Maybe they had an off game against the Illini – as my cousin said, OSU never plays well against Illinois – but I’m predicting/hoping for a bowlgame match up between the Bucks and one of the upstart schools like TCU or Boise State at the turn of the year.