Ohio State’s redshirt sophomore quarterback J.T. Barrett returned from his one-game suspension to help guide the Buckeye offense to a dominating victory at Illinois, 28-3, thanks to outstanding performances by junior running back Ezekiel Elliott and the entire OSU defense.
The Scarlet and Gray started strong by keeping Illinois off the board on the first drive of the game. After taking over possession, the Buckeyes were able to drive all the way down inside the 1-yard line. Although the Illini managed to keep the Buckeyes from scoring after a stout defensive stand, the Buckeyes slowly began to flex their muscles as the game wore on.
Redshirt junior receiver Michael Thomas continued his terrific season after catching a 24-yard touchdown throw by Barrett to help the Buckeyes score first. After an Illinois field goal, Barrett added another rushing score to help the visitors take a 14-3 lead into the half. In the second half, though, Elliott took control, as the Buckeyes wore down Illinois with their fierce running game.
Elliott ended the game with 181 yards rushing on 27 carries, as well as two touchdowns. As a unit, the Buckeyes rushed for 281 yards en route to 440 total yards for the day. Barrett added 159 yards through the air and two total touchdowns, but he also had an interception and a fumble on the day.
However, despite several offensive inconsistencies, the Buckeye defense performed spectacularly, holding Illinois to a measly 20 yards rushing and 261 yards in total. OSU also kept the pressure on Illinois junior quarterback Wes Lunt, who was unable to complete even 50 percent of his passes, and also recovered two fumbles from the Illini.
Illinois, which has lost four of its last five games, now find itself on the cusp of bowl eligibility at 5-5 as it travels to Minnesota next Saturday. OSU, on the other side, begins the toughest part of its schedule as the Buckeyes are set to meet Michigan State in Columbus next weekend in a battle of elite programs before traveling to Michigan for the regular-season finale.
By the numbers:
3,565: Elliott moved his career rushing total to 3,565 yards, the third most in OSU history behind Eddie George and Archie Griffin.
30: With the win, OSU has now won 30 straight regular-season conference games, the most of any team in the nation.
20: The current number of games where Elliott has rushed for at least 100 yards, tied for the second most in school history with George. This includes an active streak of 15 straight games.
97: The number of total tackles sophomore linebacker Raekwon McMillan has amassed so far this season after his 14 against Illinois. McMillan currently ranks third in the Big Ten for total tackles.
24: The number of years since Illinois last won a home game against OSU (1991).
101: The number of all-time matchups between OSU and Illinois (the only team that Illinois has played more is Northwestern, with 108 matchups between the two schools).
4: With the win, OSU has officially claimed its fourth straight season with double-digit wins. Illinois has not had a double-digit win season since 2001 and only has four in its 125 years of existence.
2nd: Everytime Illinois and OSU meet, the teams fight for the second-oldest rivalry trophy in the Big Ten: the Illibuck (The oldest is the Little Brown Jug, which is between Michigan and Minnesota). The Illibuck originally started as a live turtle, but has since been replaced by 10 different wooden replicas.