CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Ohio State finally implemented a successful strategy for alleviating their quarterback woes Saturday afternoon against Illinois: Don’t throw the ball.
The Buckeyes amassed more than 100 yards rushing in the first half and amassed 211 total yards in the game as freshman quarterback Braxton Miller attempted only four passes.
One of Miller’s passes, only one of which was completed, went for a touchdown to junior tight end Jake Stoneburner.
The “no pass” strategy was an effective one that played to OSU’s strengths. Senior running back Daniel “Boom” Herron made his season debut and had racked up 114 yards by game’s end.
Another key improvement for the Buckeyes is committing only two false starts against the Illini, and neither was called on senior right tackle J.B. Shugarts.
Mostly unhampered by penalties and avoiding third-and-longs, the offense could afford to run the ball and have a chance at moving the chains.
By running the ball so often, OSU also kept Illinois’ potent offense off the field. The Illini offense couldn’t score if it was on the sideline while OSU backs ran the clock down in the second half.
The defense played their part as well, allowing seven points on only 116 yards and stepped up at crucial moments. Illinois reached the OSU 32-yard line in the first half and was forced to punt.
On Illinois’ first drive in the second half, freshman Bradley Roby intercepted a pass that set up a Herron 12-yard touchdown run.
The unsung heroes of the game are the special teams players. Junior punter Ben Buchanan continued to shine for the Buckeyes, pinning the Illini inside their own 20-yard line on two occasions and averaging 42.0 yards per punt.
In addition to Buchanan’s punts, the coverage teams allowed -1 yards per punt return and 11 yards per kick return. That’s getting the job done.
Hats off to the coaching staff for executing the game plan, but it can’t be a model the team uses week in and week out. A stronger team will destroy a one-dimensional offense.
The Buckeyes now have two weeks to try and scrape together a passing game while continuing to improve the rushing attack. They will need all the practice time they can get before their date with No. 4 Wisconsin Oct. 29.