Grading The Game: Buckeyes 24 - Illinois 13

CHAMPAIGN IL - OCTOBER 02: (L-R) Nathan Williams #43 Brian Rolle #36 and Jermale Hines #7 of the Ohio State Buckeyes stop Mikel Leshoure #5 of the Illinois Fighting Illini at Memorial Stadium on October 2 2010 in Champaign Illinois. Ohio State defeated Illinois 24-13. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Offense, Defense, and Special Teams grades, with a player of the game award, as well.


Offensive Grade: C

Narrowly escaping Champaign, Illinois with a victory last Saturday, the Buckeye offense was not nearly as impressive as they have been for most of the season. Averaging 4.7 yards per play over 62 plays for a total of 290 yards, the offense was uneven for much of the first half, and then took a nose dive with Terrelle Pryor's quad injury in the second half. Pryor's day was a microcosm of the offense's, going 9/16 passing (56%) for 76 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception. Because of the aftereffects of the quad strain, Pryor could not generate enough of a push from his lower body to pass the ball, so the Buckeyes buckled the offense down and used him as a decoy for almost the entire second half, only passing the ball four times post-injury.

The offensive line flat out struggled until the fourth quarter, where they put together  a game clinching drive in conjunction with the tough running of Dan "Boom" Herron. The line struggled so much, in fact, that the coaches named fullback Zach Boren the offensive lineman of the week. Clearly, a message is being sent.

Defensive Grade: A

As uneven as the Buckeye offensive performance was, the defense had a strong day after Illinois' opening drive of the game. On that drive, Illinois moved the ball from their own 45 to the Ohio State endzone to strike first, but in the end, that one drive accounted for 22% of the Illini's total yards for the day. After that, the Buckeyes held Illinois to three field goal attempts, one of which hit a wall of wind, and fell short of the crossbars.

The Illini only ran 59 plays, averaging 4.25 yards per play.

Special Teams: B

It was a solid performance for special teams, but it lacked any spectacular moments to warrant an A grade. Jordan Hall and Jaamal Berry have both grown into the kick and punt returner roles this season, but a great performance by Illini punter Anthony Santella limited their opportunities.

Senior placekicker Devin Barclay was one-for-one on field goal tries, while true freshman Drew Basil has showcased an impressive leg on kickoffs, even knocking his last one out of the endzone. The coverage units have improved noticeably over the past two weeks, and the combination of new personnel and further emphasis on coverage by the coaches has seemingly solved the recurring issue.

The lone sore spot is now first year punter Ben Buchanon, whose rocky start to the day was compounded by battling with the wind. He ended up improving on his punts throughout the game, though, so there's evidence that his youth and inexperience is the only issue at this point.

Player of the Game: Dan "Boom" Herron

There were no obvious candidates for this award, but Boom Herron stepped up at a time when Ohio State was looking for someone to bear the offensive burden after Terrelle Pryor's injury. Herron's day was statistically above average but not electric (4.1 yards per carry), yet his vision and patience allowed Ohio State to control the 4th quarter through the running game.

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