The passing game just wasn’t working for Ohio State on Saturday at Illinois.
Thirty attempts, 13 completions and a modest 150 yards.
Maybe it was the wind, as quarterback Braxton Miller said. Maybe something else, because Illini quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase completed 33 passes for 288 yards.
Whatever the case, it gave the Buckeyes (10-0, 6-0 Big Ten) a chance to put the ball on the ground Big-Ten style. And, in a bad sign for Indiana, Michigan and any other teams left in the Buckeyes’ path, it worked all too well.
Ohio State pounded the Illini for 441 yards on 42 carries in a 60-35 win.
“Yeah, we went back to basics,” Miller said. “We just handed the ball to Carlos (Hyde) or me and we’ve got the best offensive line in the Big Ten or the country.”
On Sunday, the Buckeyes dropped from third to fourth in the AP poll.
Hyde piled up 246 yards on 24 carries, along with four rushing touchdowns. Miller had 184 yards on the ground and a score.
The wind blew at a steady 18- mph for much of the game.
Miller, who two years ago threw just four times in a windy 17-7 win in Champaign, said he struggled with the weather.
“The wind was so tricky at times,” he added.
But when Illinois (3-7, 0-6) started coming back from a 28-0 deficit, the turn to the run game let Ohio State grind the Illini down.
Hyde blew through the tired Illinois defense for a 55-yard touchdown and another from 51 yards less than two minutes apart late in the fourth quarter.
“No question we wore down,” Illinois coach Tim Beckman said.
While the Buckeyes found out just how much they can rely on their running game, Hyde said the Buckeyes’ failure to put away a team they led by four touchdowns early shows they have work to do if they want to keep winning and stay in the hunt for Big Ten and national titles.
“A win is a win, but I’m not pleased with the way we performed today,” he added. “If we (want to) get to where we want to go this year, we have to get better.”
For his part, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said he’s finished talking about the big picture and those goals.
“We have to make sure that our focus is getting better each week instead of the national stuff,” he added. “I think I’m learning a lesson to shut my mouth and quit worrying about this and that.”
Beckman’s Illini, meanwhile, are left an end to their talk of bowl eligibility, a 20-game Big Ten losing streak and just two games left — at Purdue and against Northwestern — to end it.
BUCKEYES BUZZ: A game looks differently from different perspectives.
For instance, Ohio State’s 60-35 win at Illinois on Saturday was either a valiant comeback by an undertalented team or a steamroller-like victory by an unbeaten squad. Of course, there are also shadings on each of those opinions as well.
Illinois (3-7, 0-6 Big Ten) coach Beckman was displeased that his team fell behind 28-0, thrilled it fought back to 47-35 in the fourth quarter and unhappy that his team then allowed the Buckeyes to tack on two long Hyde runs (51 and 55 yards) for touchdowns in the waning moments.
“To start off, (Ohio State) is a good football team. No question about it. They’ve got some skilled athletes, very well-coached,” he added. “I thought our players battled to the dang end; they never came up short, they continued to fight. Probably the last three or four minutes, as I told them, were disappointing times but I was proud of the way they competed and proud of the way this coaching staff coached it. We’ve got two remaining football games and we want our seniors to leave winners and to win that football game that is necessary for them to get this losing streak done. They’ve worked extremely hard.”
The loss was the Illini’s 20th straight in Big Ten play.
Illini QB Nathan Scheelhaase completed 33-of-50 passes for 288 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions.
He fell back on another sport to provide his unique perspective.
“You look at it from a boxing standpoint, we came out and they knocked us down twice in part of the first two rounds,” he said. “I was just so happy with the way we responded. I mean we stood up and we fought until the 15th round.”
Then there was the Buckeyes’ viewpoint. First and foremost, they won. At times they didn’t look perfect, particularly on defense, but they got to the finish line with their 10th straight win this season (10-0, 6-0). It was also Ohio State’s 22nd consecutive victory overall, tying a school record.
Meyer said the big thing this week against Indiana (4-6, 2-4) will be to tune out all the noise about polls, rankings and the BCS.
“We have to make sure that our focus is on getting better each week instead of all of the national stuff,” Meyer added. “I think I’m learning a lesson to just shut my mouth and quit worrying about this and that. Let’s get a little better. We’re down 11 players for the year. Our special teams are a little bit of a mess right now. Some of the guys playing right now, quite frankly, haven’t played at all and as a result, we just have to coach better.”
POLL DANCING: The Buckeyes dropped a spot, to No. 4, in The Associated Press Top 25 media poll. Baylor traded positions to move to No. 3.
They held the No. 3 spot — barely — in the USA Today coaches’ poll, which is a component of the Bowl Championship Series rankings that determine the two teams who will play in the national championship game.
HYDE AWAY: Hyde had the biggest day of his college career, totaling 246 yards on 24 carries — and average of 10.2 yards per attempt — and four TDs. He also two passes for 26 yards and another score.
“A win is a win but I’m not pleased with the way we performed today,” he said. “(To) get where we want to go this year, we have to get better. We can’t focus too much on our opponent’s records; we just need to focus on what’s good for us and that’s getting better in practice. We need to play our game no matter who our opponent is.”
THE WEEK AHEAD: It’ll be an interesting week around the nation, starting with a rare Wednesday night game in the Buckeye state when Toledo hosts No. 20 Northern Illinois.
The premier game of the week will pit No. 3 Baylor against No. 11 Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Okla.
Elsewhere in the Top 10, top-ranked Alabama hosts Chattanooga, No. 2 Florida State welcomes Idaho, No. 5 Oregon visits Arizona, No. 7 Clemson hosts The Citadel, No. 8 Missouri is at No. 24 Mississippi, ninth-ranked Texas A&M plays at No. 18 LSU and 10th-ranked Stanford, which lost at Southern Cal on Saturday night, hosts Cal.
B1G GAMES: Around the Big Ten, No. 13 Michigan State visits Northwestern, No. 16 Wisconsin is at Minnesota, Nebraska travels to Penn State, Michigan is at Iowa and Illinois heads for Purdue.