Just about everything that could have gone right for No. 9 Ohio State (9-2, 7-1 Big Ten) went right. The Buckeyes steamrolled Illinois (2-9, 0-8 Big Ten) 52-14 Saturday in Ohio Stadium. This was the final home game for the 19 Ohio State seniors, and the Buckeyes’ final test before traveling on the road to face No. 24 Michigan.
5 – Illinois first downs. Ohio State dominated in nearly all facets of the game Saturday, and it showed in the offensive numbers put up by Illinois. The Fighting Illini offense was unable to get anything going all day, and it took until there was just 3:37 left in the second half for Illinois to come up with a first down. All told, the Fighting Illini were able to muster just five first downs in the game.
Ohio State’s defense was suffocating, and the inaccuracy of Illinois’ quarterback did not help. Quarterback Chayce Crouch was just 4-for-14 and had five (counting) incomplete passes on third down tries, contributing to the 8 percent third-down conversion rating. The weather also contributed to the struggles of the Fighting Illini, affecting multiple receivers who dropped third-down passes. Though holding the Illini to few first downs, Ohio State’s defensive strength was just as responsible as Illinois’ offensive futility.
18:05 – Time spent by J.T. Barrett under center. On his senior day, quarterback J.T. Barrett spent a total of 18:05 playing quarterback for Ohio State. He was in the game for all of the first quarter, two full drives in the second quarter and two in the third quarter when he was subbed back in for the backups. Ohio State had possession of the ball for 37:16 in the game.
Barrett’s final game in the ‘Shoe was exactly how many expected it would be: a blowout victory and early curtain call. The only reason Barrett returned at all for the third quarter was because backup quarterback Dwayne Haskins fumbled the football and saw the defense return it for a touchdown. Barrett then came out, had a three-and-out and then regained possession of the ball when Illinois muffed the punt. It was an early and expected hook for the three-time captain in a blowout as he attempts to stay healthy for Ohio State’s matchup against Michigan. He finished the game going 11-for-19 with 141 passing yards, two touchdowns. He added 33 rushing yards on five carries and a touchdown.
4 – Ohio State rushing touchdowns. Ohio State put up its most impressive rushing display of the season last game against Michigan State with 335 yards on 42 carries and four touchdowns. Though the Buckeyes did not have quite that much success against the Illini, its 325 rushing yards were good for second-most this season and the four rushing touchdowns were tied for the most.
While a lot of the rushing yardage came toward the end, when Ohio State was just trying to run out the clock, the rushing touchdowns for Ohio State in the first half were more the product of a team relying on its biggest offensive strength. Redshirt sophomore running back Mike Weber punched in two on the ground in the first quarter, Barrett also had one in the first and freshman running back J.K. Dobbins had one in the second quarter. This was the second consecutive game where even in meaningful minutes, Ohio State relied heavily on its running backs once again for the majority of its offensive production, and the offensive line was able to provide the backs with the space to run. Ohio State seems to have found where its offense has the most success, and heading into a matchup against two of the best rushing defenses in the nation in Michigan and Wisconsin, it will need to hope the offensive line holds up against a pair of potent pass-rushes.
55 – Illinois penalty yards. When it rains, it pours. And for Illinois, the rain was just the struggles to keep up with the gap in talent between the two teams. But so often, Ohio State poured it on the Illini by their penalties committed. Illinois had two penalties that resulted in the Ohio State offense receiving a first down, three penalties that pushed its own offense back and two on special teams. When it was all said and done, Illinois had a total of 55 penalty yards on seven penalties.
For most of the season, Ohio State has been the team that has been penalized. Ohio State’s 72.2 penalty yards per game were the 10th-most by any team in the nation heading into the game. While the Buckeyes ultimately finished with more penalty yardage (68) and the same number of penalties, Ohio State’s advantage in talent helped minimize the damage felt by its penalties. The lack of discipline by Illinois was not the difference maker in the game, but it certainly did not help an already overmatched Illinois team.
100 – Dwayne Haskins all-purpose yards. Ohio State was ahead by so much that it was able to send backup quarterback Dwayne Haskins into the game in the second quarter to get some playing time. And while he could not get anything going during his first two drives and fumbled on his third, he quickly turned things around and finished the game with 100 all-purpose yards, 77 through the air and 23 on the ground.
Haskins was just one of three Ohio State quarterbacks to play in the game — he received the second-most playing time — but he still fell just 6 yards shy of surpassing the total yardage of the entire Illinois offense. His performance was far from perfect, but even he was able to lead Ohio State to more offensive success on just his small handful of drives than the Illinois’ offense was able to produce the entire game.