COLUMBUS OH - SEPTEMBER 25: Terrelle Pryor #2 of the Ohio State Buckeyes backs into the endzone for a touchdown after catching a pass against the Eastern Michigan Eagles at Ohio Stadium on September 25 2010 in Columbus Ohio. Pryor threw four touchdown passes ran for one touchdown and caught a touchdown pass in the Buckeyes' 73-20 win over Eastern Michigan. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Ohio State Bests Fighting-Illini In 24-13 Slugfest

Ohio State moves to 5-0 with hard-fought victory over Illinois

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Pryor Shaken But Not Beaten In Buckeyes Win

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.


Five Things: Ohio State at Illinois

1. The first road game. The Buckeyes are 2-1 in their first road games over the past three years, with the lone loss coming against USC in 2008. Obviously, the opponent is less difficult this weekend, but how a group of 18, 19, 20, and 21 year olds react to their first road experience of the year is still never predictable. From the flight into Champagne, Illinois, to the one hour time zone difference, to the night spent in a foreign hotel, the protocol is very much different than a typical home game. As an experienced group, the Buckeyes should not have as much trouble adapting to the new schedule, but the new experience is a good barometer for just how mature the team really is.

2. Where in the world is Brandon Saine? With Boom Herron’s continued consistency and the young duo of Jordan Hall and Jaamal Berry breathing on his back, Saine’s role in this offense might be changing. He only received 3 carries last weekend against Eastern Michigan, and is looking to get back on track against the Illini. In last year’s game between Ohio State and Illinois, Saine led the team with 81 yards on 13 carries, so there’s certainly a history of success against the Illini to fall back on. His ability to catch passes and his tremendous straight line speed will always keep him as as a viable part of the offense, but the days of carrying the ball 15-20 times a game may be over.

3. The Zooker. Ron Zook’s successful alter ego, The Zooker is a powerful force to be reckoned with when you are a highly ranked team. Ohio State fans need only look back to 2007 to recognize the baffling way in which Ron Zook works, earning victories where his teams seem highly outmatched, and generally frustrating anyone who has any vested interested in anything remotely impacted by The Zooker. Of course, Zook combines this incredible ability to defy the natural laws of college football with a tendency to lose to a MAC school the following week.

4. Illinois’ Pistol Formation. While new offensive coordinator Paul Petrino does not use the Pistol formation as his entire offense, he has sprinkled it in here and there as an addendum to the Illini offensive structure. Look for a heavy dose of it this weekend as the Illini attempt to compensate for the athletic difference between the two teams. Young quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase resembles Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick- the maestro of Chris Ault’s Nevada Pistol offense- and the option game is a way for an offense to bridge the athletic gap between themselves and a defense. For a look at what Illinois likes to do with the Pistol, see here.

5. Terrelle Pryor. Of course, no preview would be complete with a mention of the progress of Terrelle Pryor. Going into the Illinois game last season, he was struggling to complete even 50% of his passes. This year, he is completing 66.4% of his passes and he is only 61 yards away from reaching 1,000 passing yards on the season. How long did it take him to reach 1,000 last year? Week 7, against Purdue.


Buckeyes at Fighting Illini Game Preview

The second-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes kick off their 98th season of Big Ten Conference play on Saturday afternoon when they pay a visit to the Illinois Fighting Illini.

This game is being played for the Illibuck Trophy, which is the second oldest trophy exchange in the Big Ten, behind the Little Brown Jug which goes to the winner of the Minnesota/Michigan matchup.

Ohio State comes into conference action a perfect 4-0, following home victories over Marshall (45-7), Miami-Florida (36-24), Ohio University (43-7) and Eastern Michigan (73-20). Last week’s offensive explosion against the Eagles marked the most points scored by the Buckeyes in 60 years. OSU has won 10 straight games, dating back to last season.

The Buckeyes, who are coached by Jim Tressel, have won their last six league lidlifters and are 8-1 under Tressel in such outings overall. OSU has won five straight Big Ten titles.

As for the Illini, they were idle last weekend, giving them ample time to prepare for this clash. Illinois is 2-1 on the season, having bounced back from a 23-13 loss to Missouri in week one to knock off Southern Illinois (35-3) and Northern Illinois (28-22), both at home.

Illinois is led by sixth-year head coach Ron Zook, who is only 1-4 in five previous games against Ohio State. Tressel is 5-2 against the Illini.

This bout marks the 97th meeting between these two teams, with OSU leading the series by a 62-30-4 margin. The Buckeyes have won five of the last six meetings and are 33-12 all-time in games played in Champaign.

Led by Heisman-hopeful QB Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State had no trouble disposing of Eastern Michigan last weekend, scoring at will. Pryor (224 yards passing, 104 rushing) was responsible for six TDs (four passing, one rushing, one receiving) in the easy win. OSU piled up 645 total yards compared to just 248 for EMU, of which only 40 came on the ground. WR Dane Sanzenbacher led the Buckeyes with nine catches for 108 yards and four TDs.

Pryor upped his season stats to include 939 yards passing with 10 TDs against only two INTs, and a team-high 269 rushing yards with three scores. Dan Herron has a club-best four TDs on the ground, while Sanzenbacher heads the receiving corps with 20 catches for 316 yards and five scores.

Overall, the Buckeyes are averaging 49.2 points, 240.2 rushing yards and 266.5 passing yards per game. They’ve committed just three turnovers and own a near 10-minute advantage in time of possession on average.

Tressel was obviously happy his team performed well last week, but realizes the road gets considerably tougher from here on out. “It’s a whole different world when you go into conference play. It’s more heavyweight bout than it is a style show.”

Pryor is excited about the start of league action, “The fun starts (this week) with the Big Ten.”

On the other side of the ball, the Buckeyes are giving up just 14.5 ppg as foes are generating a mere 71 ypg on the ground and only 169.2 ypg through the air. Ohio State has come up with 13 takeaways in four games and ranks second in the nation in turnover margin (+2.50).

Ross Homan continues to pace the Buckeyes with his 26 tackles, of which 18 have been solo efforts, while Tyler Moeller checks in with 20, including a team-high 4.5 TFLs. The one area that Tressel would like to see improve is in getting to the QB as OSU has just five sacks to this point.

The strength of the Illinois offense is its ability to run the ball, doing so for 229 ypg. Six of the team’s nine offensive TDs have come on the ground, as RB Mikel Leshoure has scored three times and is averaging 132.7 ypg. Leshoure, who tallied 180 yards and a TD in the win over Northern Illinois last time out, has topped the 100-yards mark in all three games this season and in four straight dating back to last year. Producing a fifth straight won’t be easy, however, as Ohio State hasn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher in 27 games.

Leshoure knows he is only one part of the puzzle for the Illini, and is quick to give credit for his success to those around him, “Things feel good. I love the play calling and how coach counts on me to get the job done and be the workhorse. I feel like as long as we can keep executing I can keep getting these hundred yard games.”

Nathan Scheelhaase is UI’s quarterback, and the redshirt freshman has completed 54.4 percent of his throws for 380 yards (126.7 ypg) with three TDs and three INTs. He is also a threat to run the ball as evidenced by the 115 yards he generated against NIU. A.J. Jenkins is the club’s leading pass catcher with 12 grabs for 190 yards and two TDs.

Defensively, the Illini are yielding just 16.0 ppg behind 333 total ypg, of which only 102.3 ypg come via the run. Three different players have at least 24 tackles on the year, with Martez Wilson leading the way with 26. Illinois has yet to pick off a pass, but averages just over seven TFLs per contest.

The Illini believe they let one slip away in the season opener (Missouri), and coach Zook is confident his team will continue to progress if its sticks to the game plan, “We’re 2-1. We could be 3-0; that would be a little better. But we’ll go from there. The guys are improving. Next time we can’t get so many penalties and the defense can’t give up big plays.”

If Illinois had some semblance of a passing game it might be able to hang with the Buckeyes, but as it is the one-dimensional attack, even with Leshoure doing his thing, won’t be enough. Expect Ohio State to win by a relatively comfortable margin and keep its perfect record in tact.


Illini Faithful Have Little Faith In Upset Chances

Sure, Illinois is a huge underdog this weekend. That never stops the eternal optimists, the STUDENTS, from hoping against hope and going against the grain. Right?

Maybe not.

The Daily Illini made a List of Events that are more likely to occur than an upset of the Buckeyes on Saturday.

Mars Colonization, Reggie Bush requesting his Heisman back and the return of The Chief as the symbol of the University all made the list.


Tressel Ready For Big Ten Opener

With the appetizer out of the way, Buckeyes head coach Jim Tressel is ready for Big Ten play. He talked about it during his weekly press conference on Monday:

It’s exciting to go on the road. We lose many of the advantages we’ve had for the last four games of the home crowd and our band being with us and the comforts of home, but our guys like challenges and I think they’re anxious to get on the road.

You can read the rest of Tressel’s comments on SBNation’s OSU blog Along The Olentangy

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