CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – It might not have been exactly how they drew it up, but the Ohio State Buckeyes left Memorial Stadium with a victory.
The nation’s longest winning streak was extended to 22 games Saturday, as OSU (10-0, 6-0) staved off multiple Illinois (3-7, 0-6) rallies to win, 60-35.
The Buckeyes started fast, as junior quarterback Braxton Miller faked a handoff to senior running back Carlos Hyde on the third play from scrimmage and scampered 70 yards for a touchdown. Hyde did not start the game, after what an OSU spokesman called a “class issue.”
It wasn’t long before OSU got the ball back, as Illinois senior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase forced a pass into coverage that was intercepted by senior safety C.J. Barnett. The Buckeyes would not be able to do anything on offense, though, punting after failing to get a first down.
OSU traveled 94 yards on its next possession, as Miller found Hyde from 18 yards out through the air to make the score 14-0.
Scheelhaase was intercepted again on the Illini’s next drive, this time by redshirt-junior cornerback Bradley Roby, who returned it 63 yards for a touchdown.
Senior wide receiver Corey “Philly” Brown got into the action on OSU’s next drive, as Miller found him in the end zone from 11 yards out to make the score 28-0.
High winds were present throughout the game, which Miller said made passing the football “tricky.”
“I heard it was 25 miles per hour, I throw a pretty decent deep ball, and the last one I threw was like 10 yards in front, five yards in front,” Miller said after the win.
The Illini finally got on the board midway through the second quarter when sophomore defensive back V’Angelo Bentley returned a punt 67 yards for a touchdown.
The Buckeyes would answer, as Hyde found the end zone again, this time on the ground from eight yards out.
“I give all credit to my offensive line and my receivers,” Hyde said after the win. “They did a great job. They made it easy for me today.”
Hyde said he tried to keep his mindset simple once he got into the game.
“I just kind of had my mindset (as) ‘once you get in there you have to go, you didn’t start the game off so once you get our there you have to go,'” Hyde said.
OSU took a 35-14 lead into the half after Scheelhaase found senior wide receiver Steve Hull on a 19-yard touchdown pass.
Illinois cut into the lead further on the first drive of the second half, when Scheelhaase threw a one-yard touchdown strike to senior tight end Evan Wilson.
OSU coach Urban Meyer said he is “a big fan” of Scheelhaase.
“He’s a great player,” Meyer said. “He’s a great player that’s been fighting, getting hit, makes plays, making something out of nothing. I thought he was hard to defend today.”
Junior linebacker Ryan Shazier agreed.
“It’s kind of frustrating playing against him (Scheelhaase) because he’s a good quarterback,” Shazier said. “He keeps plays alive, scrambling and trying to get the ball down field, so it’s kind of frustrating trying to tackle him in space.”
Following a safety, Hyde scored again on a one-yard plunge to extend the lead to 44-21.
The Illini came right back, though, as Scheelhaase found the end zone on the ground and then completed a two-point conversion pass to senior wide receiver Miles Osei.
After a field goal by senior kicker Drew Basil, an Illinois rushing touchdown and failed two-point conversion cut the lead to 47-35.
Hyde ran 51 yards for another touchdown with just over four minutes to play, extending OSU’s lead to 53-35 after Basil missed the extra point.
After Illinois was forced to punt, Hyde took the ball to the end zone one more time on the ensuing drive’s first play. The Illini were unable to score again before the clock ran out, leaving the final score at 60-35.
Miller finished the day with 184 yards rushing and 150 passing to go along with three touchdowns. Hyde totaled 246 yards on the ground with four touchdowns to go along with his receiving touchdown. His 10.5 yards per carry average was a school record.
“That last (touchdown run), in my head I was thinking like ‘we could have done this the whole game,'” Hyde said. The offensive line, they love power and my receivers they do a great job on the outside of blocking. I give credit to those guys and my big runs and the offensive line, that last run I had energy and I feel like we could have had that momentum the whole game.”
Miller said that despite winning by 25 points, the Buckeyes “didn’t really play a good game.”
“It wasn’t one of our pretty games, but we got (it) done,” Miller said.
Up next OSU heads back to Columbus for its final home game of the season and is set to take on Indiana. Kickoff has not yet been announced.