Elliott, Buckeye defense dominant against Illinois
Final: No. 3 Ohio State 28, Illinois 3
Key play: J.T. Barrett scrambles on 4th and 11 and end of second quarter
The Buckeyes got off to their usual slow offensive start. Facing a fourth-and-11 and only up 7-3, the Buckeyes needed a big play to keep the chains moving at the end of the first half. Barrett showed why he’s so dangerous by busting loose and picking up the first down. That led to him capping off the drive with a touchdown run, thanks in large part to a monster block by Ezekiel Elliott. Barrett’s conversion settled him down and got the Buckeye offense the tempo it needed at the end of the first half. An 11-point lead also was going to be surrendered with the way the Buckeye defense played.
Telling stat: Illinois rushes for less than one yard per carry
We saw the Illini running backs go off for over 300 yards from scrimmage last week. Against the Buckeyes, it was a different story. Josh Ferguson actually didn’t look bad in limited work, but Ke’Shawn Vaughn couldn’t get anything rolling. Raekwon McMillan and Joey Bosa were everywhere, and combined for five of the Buckeyes whopping 11 tackles for loss. Even Vonn Bell and Tyquan Lewis blew up plays to frustrate the Illini skill players. The pass defense wasn’t perfect for the second straight week, but the Buckeyes again turned an offense into a one-dimensional unit. That’s usually all it takes for them.
-Elliott notches 15th straight 100-yard game
The most consistent — and arguably most dominant — tailback in the country did exactly what he’s been doing all year. He ripped off 181 yards on 27 carries with a pair of scores. Significant was the fact that the Heisman Trophy candidate got 18 second-half carries. Elliott righted the ship after a slow offensive start and continued his incredible 100-yard game streak. Also impressive was the fact that Elliott moved into third place all-time in Ohio State rushing yards. His 20th 100-yard game tied him for second in program history. If you’re tired of hearing about Elliott and school records, that’s unfortunate. He has plenty more marks to break. Speaking of breaking marks, that was Ohio State’s 30th straight regular-season conference win, which is a new FBS record. That’s pretty good.
–Vaughn leaves game with undisclosed injury
That wasn’t what Illinois fans wanted to see. Right when the offense had a chance to establish an identity with Vaughn and Ferguson, the freshman went down. Vaughn was nowhere near as productive as he was last week against Purdue. He actually finished the day with negative yardage, which was a product of him trying to force a run to the outside against the quick Ohio State defense. But poor day aside, Illinois needs him healthy down the stretch. We should hopefully got a clarification on what knocked the talented tailback out of the game.
What it means: Illinois, OSU still keep same long-term goals
For Illinois, Saturday was all about getting some defensive confidence against Ohio State’s high-powered offense. Not letting the Buckeyes run wild was a moral victory. Unfortunately for Illinois, it might be without Clayton Fejedelem, who limped off the field late. Two of Illinois’ top playmakers will be needed to get that sixth win. For the Buckeyes, Saturday was all about getting out of Champaign healthy with the perfect record intact. That’s exactly what happened. Darron Lee briefly went down, but other than that, the Buckeyes did what they came to Illinois to do. Now the stage is set for next week’s showdown with Michigan State. Despite MSU’s loss to Nebraska, the same stakes will be up for grabs next week in Columbus. It’s hard to ask for much more than that.