Buckeyes End Skid, Beat Illini - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Buckeyes End Skid, Beat Illini

By DAVID MERCER

Associated Press

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) - Still stuck under the NCAA cloud hanging

over Ohio State and desperate for a way to end a two-game losing

streak, interim coach Luke Fickell drew up a game plan Saturday

that conservative Buckeye legend Woody Hayes would have loved.

Keep the ball on the ground and out of freshman quarterback

Braxton Miller's hands, lean hard on tailback Daniel Herron -

playing his first game since January after serving a pair of NCAA

suspensions - and count on the defense to stop No. 16 Illinois.

It worked, all of it, and the Buckeyes (4-3, 1-2) ground out a

17-7 upset over the Illini (6-1, 2-1).

"The game plan was to win - that's the ultimate, most important

thing," Fickell said. "However way we had to do it, we were ready

to do it."

The defense forced three turnovers - two of which set up the

Buckeyes' touchdowns - while Miller threw just four passes. Herron

carried the ball 23 times for 114 yards and the third-quarter score

that was the game winner.

"It was hard staying at home and watching the games," said

Herron, who missed the season's first six games. "Now that I'm

back out here, I'm doing everything I can to help this team, be a

leader and get some more wins."

The loss ended Illinois' perfect start, and, in a game the

Illini hoped would help them prove they were for real, raised

questions about how good they really are.

"We have got to regroup, and we're still in a position to

control our own destiny," Illinois coach Ron Zook said. "I think

our guys have to understand that and they do."

A week after Miller lost a fumble that gave Nebraska a way to

get back into their game against Ohio State - which the Cornhuskers

turned into an epic win - the Buckeyes kept it simple, real simple,

and gave themselves a chance to win.

The Buckeyes didn't throw their first pass until the 7:22 mark

of the second quarter. Miller, in fact, didn't complete a pass

until he hit tight end Jake Stoneburner on a 17-yard TD pass with

13:06 left in the game for a 17-0 lead.

"Up 10-0, we were on the sideline saying, 'Man, we haven't made

a pass yet,"' Stoneburner said. "It was kind of funny, but we

were all saying, 'Who cares?' We're up, and if we complete one

pass, I'll take the catch."

No Ohio State team had gone through a game with just one

completion since 1976, a 22-21 loss to Missouri with Rod Gerald

under center.

That Ohio State team was ranked No. 2, while this one was just

trying to get its head above water, end the two-game losing streak

and chalk up its first Big Ten win.

Enter Herron, who had to sit out six games as a result of his

role in a cash-for-memorablia scandal - the mess that cost ex-coach

Jim Tressel his job - and then for taking too much money for a

summer job.

Fickell said during the week he wasn't sure how much the senior

tailback would play and he wasn't listed as the starter.

But Herron was in the backfield from the beginning, and carried

the bulk of the load on the opening drive, one that on a day of

gusty 20-plus mph winds delivered a 45-yard Drew Basil field goal.

It was the only score of the half.

The Ohio State defense, meanwhile, played big, holding an Illini

offense that was averaging almost 450 yards and 34.7 points a game

to 285 yards and, until the 6:22 mark of the fourth quarter, no

points.

Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase was 20 of 34 for 169

yards, with two interceptions and a late 3-yard touchdown pass to

Evan Wilson that finally put the Illini on the board.

Illinois hasn't been shutout since losing 30-0 two seasons ago

at Ohio State.

"The biggest thing when you look at this is the turnovers,"

Zook said. "In the past we've held teams to field goals instead of

touchdowns and they were able to get two touchdowns off of the

turnovers."

Stoneburner's touchdown was set up by an A.J. Jenkins fumble at

the Illinois 37 while Herron's 12-yard touchdown run - which gave

the Buckeyes a 10-0 lead - followed an interception by Bradley Roby

that he returned to the Illinois 12. Scheelhaase threw to Jenkins

and the receiver appeared to ruin a shorter route than Scheelhaase

anticipated. The ball flew 10 yards past Jenkins and right at Roby.

"It was key," Roby said of his interception, "because we were

coming out of halftime and we needed a big play. I was in a cover

three, and I was backing up when I saw (Jenkins) on the curl, and

then I saw the ball come right at me."

In addition to stifling Scheelhaase, the Buckeyes also held

Illinois other big weapon in check.

Roby said during the week that Jenkins, who was averaging 135.8

yards a game, was "nothing special, a product of Illinois'

system." Jenkins, often covered by Roby, had 80 yards Saturday,

but his eight catches didn't amount to much.

Illinois senior tailback Jason Ford left the game in the third

quarter with an injured left shoulder after a big hit on a

first-down carry. He finished with 30 yards on six carries.

Scheelhaase was Illinois' leading rusher with 16 carries for 49

yards.

 

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

 

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