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Ohio State football’s special teams lays ground work for road upset of Illinois

Thomas Bradley / Campus editor

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — While much attention will be given to Daniel “Boom” Herron and the OSU rushing attack after Ohio State’s 17-7 win over No. 16 Illinois, credit also belongs to the Buckeyes’ special teams.

Head coach Luke Fickell said after the game that he knew two of the key aspects of the game would be the rushing game and field position.

“Obviously, the field position was a big part of special teams,” Fickell said. “When you come here (to Illinois), you know you’re going to get some kind of weather condition.”

On the Buckeyes’ first drive of the game, the OSU coaches ordered up a shot at a 43-yard field goal going into the wind, which sophomore kicker Drew Basil converted for his eighth straight field goal this season.

“Going into the game, we had a certain distance that we would take a (field goal) shot at,” Fickell said. “It was a little beyond where we said we wanted to take a shot, but we thought with how (the wind) was twisting, we’d take a shot.”

Junior punter Ben Buchanan, one of the top punters in the nation, booted another seven punts in the game including a 54-yarder. Buchanan also had two punts that pinned the Illini inside their own 20-yard line.

Buchanan leads the Big Ten with 17 punts inside the 20-yard line.

In coverage, the Buckeyes allowed just 11 yards per kick return and -1 yards per punt return.

Junior defensive lineman John Simon called the OSU special teams “tremendous.”

“The punt is the most important play in football,” Simon said. “Our guys take so much pride in special teams. I’ve never been on a team that has so much pride in what they do, and they do a great job for us.”

Redshirt junior tight end Jake Stoneburner, the recipient of the only pass completion of the game, said the win was a culmination of a total team effort.

“We just needed a full team game; we’ve been lacking that the whole year,” Stoneburner said. “So, for … the special teams to play like they did and for us to come out and score points, that was a great feeling.”

OSU (4-3, 1-2) continues Big Ten Leaders Division play against the Wisconsin Badgers (6-0, 2-0) Oct. 29 at 8 p.m. at Ohio Stadium.

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