Terrelle Pryor threw a pair of touchdown passes and rushed for 104 yards, leading second-ranked Ohio State to a 24-13 victory over Illinois in the Big Ten opener for both schools at Memorial Stadium.
Pryor had runs of 66 and 35 yards among his 11 carries and completed 9-of-16 passes for only 76 yards. The junior Heisman Trophy candidate left one series and sat out another in the third quarter after suffering a quadriceps injury.
Dan Herron added 95 yards on the ground and scored late in the fourth quarter to seal it for Ohio State (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten), which played its first road game of the season and beat Illinois for the eighth straight time in Champaign. The Buckeyes haven’t lost at Memorial Stadium since 1991.
Nathan Scheelhaase threw for 109 yards and rushed for a touchdown for Illinois (2-2, 0-1), which had a bye last week after wins over both Southern Illinois and Northern Illinois. Mikel Leshoure ran for 80 yards on 19 carries in defeat.
The Buckeyes held a 14-10 lead early in the fourth quarter and were faced with 4th-and-1 from the Illinois 19. After a timeout, Herron picked up the first down by the nose of the football and the play was upheld by a video review after a challenge by Illinois head coach Ron Zook.
Ohio State was able to run a few more minutes off the clock before Devin Barclay kicked a 32-yard field goal for a seven-point margin with 8:27 to play.
The Illini then marched from their own 20 to the Ohio State 13, but had to settle for a 30-yard field goal from Derek Dimke to pull within 17-13 with 4:36 remaining.
Illinois appeared to have Ohio State stopped with just over three minutes left when a third-down run came up short, but an offside penalty prolonged the drive and Herron scored on a six-yard run with 1:49 on the clock to cement the victory.
The Buckeyes ran the ball 20 times and threw just four passes after Pryor’s return from the locker room in the third quarter.
Ohio State went three-and-out to start the game and Illinois drove 55 yards on nine plays with its first offensive series for a 7-0 lead. Scheelhaase hit Jarred Fayson for 10 yards on 3rd-and-9 to keep the chains moving early and caught a 23-yard pass from the receiver on 2nd-and-11 moments later to set up a first down at the OSU eight-yard line. The Buckeyes stopped Leshoure short of the goal line twice and Scheelhaase scored on a keeper up the middle from three yards away on third down.
It didn’t take long for Ohio State to answer, as Pryor kept the ball on first down and raced 66 yards to the Illinois eight and capped the quick series three plays later with an eight-yard scoring toss to Brandon Saine. The extra point attempt was blocked, but a penalty against Illinois gave the Buckeyes a second chance and Barclay knocked it through for a 7-7 game.
After a trade of punts left Illinois with possession at the Ohio State 36, the Illini picked up 12 yards before Dimke’s 41-yard field goal try came up just short in the first minute of the second quarter.
Neither team seriously threatened again until Trulon Henry picked off Pryor and gave the Illini the ball at the Ohio State 24. Illinois managed one first down before Dimke drilled a 27-yard field goal with 1:50 to play in the half.
Pryor again answered an Illinois score with a long run, this time 35 yards, to set up a first down at the Illinois 22. He soon after finished the five-play series with an 11-yard scoring pass to Dane Sanzenbacher to put Ohio State ahead 14-10 just 45 seconds before the break.
A scoreless third quarter features a trade of interceptions. Scheelhaase was picked off by Jermale Hines to give Ohio State a first down at the Illinois 44, but Pryor was in the locker room for treatment and Joe Bauserman gave it right back with an overthrown ball that was intercepted by Henry.
The Buckeyes have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 28 straight games. Leshoure had run for at least 100 yards in each game this season and in four straight games dating to last year…Pryor has 1,783 career rushing yards and became the second all-time leading rushing quarterback in school history, surpassing Rex Kern. Cornelius Greene tops the list with 2,066 yards from 1972-75…Ohio State improved to 62-32-5 in Big Ten road openers, including 7-3 under Jim Tressel. The Buckeyes have won their last six conference openers and are 71-23-4 in conference openers all-time, including 9-1 under Tressel…Ohio State leads all-time series, 63-30-4, including 34-12 in Champaign. The teams have played for the Illibuck Trophy, a wooden replica of a turtle, since 1925. The Illibuck Trophy is the second-oldest in the Big Ten, behind only the Little Brown Jug between Minnesota and Michigan.