Saturday, September 26, 2009

OBSERVATIONS FROM OHIO STATE'S 30-0 WIN OVER THE FIGHTING ILLINI

Photo by Darla Dunkle-Hudnell

COLUMBUS — Saturday's 30-0 win over Illinois was perhaps the best overall performance by Ohio State in the past three or four seasons.

The intensity was ferocious, the play calling was fantastic, the blocking was incredible, the tackling was stellar. The only negative about the game was that it had to end.

Where do we begin?

Offensively, the play calling was run-heavy — 46 of the 59 offensive plays were on the ground — obviously because of the poor weather conditions. However, it wasn't in the traditional Jim Tressel style, you know, I-formation follow the fullback for a yard type of runs. No, Tressel employed a shotgun look on nearly every carry and it worked to perfection, as the Buckeyes tallied 236 yards (5.1 avg.) on the ground in the win.

Boom Herron and Brandon Saine were a sensational 1-2 backfield punch for the Buckeyes in the win, as the two combined for 156 yards on 27 carries in the win. Saine led the team with 81 yards on 13 carries, while Herron ran for 75 yards on 14 totes and two touchdowns.

"Well, we wanted to lead with the run and mix in the pass had it been a beautiful day," Tressel said. "We wanted to be very balanced, but that didn't make sense with the circumstances. It was hard to throw the ball, but I think it was even harder to catch it."

Buckeyes quarterback, Terrelle Pryor, only attempted two passes in the first half — when the rain was coming down in buckets — but in the second half, when the skies began to dry up, the big QB, who ran for 59 yards of his own in the win, put the rock up in the air with great effectiveness.

Pryor completed eight of the 11 passes he threw in the second half for 82 yards and a TD. Oh, and that TD was sent with a message courtesy of James Patrick Tressel which stated "the conservative approach is dead and gone."

With the Buckeyes ahead 23-0 with 1:18 to play in the game — and facing a fourth down and goal from the 3-yard line — Tressel decided to loosen up the vest and go for it to the delight of his players and fans in the stands. Pryor hit receiver Dane Sanzenbacher on a quick out-pattern in the end zone for the score.

Now, to the defense.

Wow! The Buckeyes defense was nasty in the win, shutting out the Illini offensive attack led by quarterback, Juice Williams. Illinois gained just 170 total yards (2.7 yards per play) in the win and Williams, who killed the Buckeyes defense in their last meeting at Ohio Stadium was held to just 95 yards total.

Safety Kurt Coleman led the Buckeyes with nine tackles, while Doug Worthington, Todd Denlinger, Rob Rose and Andrew Sweat all recorded sacks in victory.

However, it was linebacker, Brian Rolle, who stole the show once again, tallying eight tackles, a half-sack and a huge interception on Illinois' opening series in the first quarter that killed a potential scoring drive deep in Buckeyes' territory.

"Yeah, I think that was huge," Tressel said of Rolle's interception. "I thought that was a huge momentum change. (Illinois) came in and made a couple first downs, made a couple good plays, and then when our guys were where they were supposed to be and B. Rolle was on the spot and picked it off and got it back there ... that set the tone for (Illinois) that it was going to difficult to score on us."

Other quick observations ...

— Sophomore Donnie Evege was spectacular on special teams in the win, recording four tackles, including a big pop on A.J. Jenkins in the first quarter.

— Kicker Aaron Pettrey didn't seem to be affected by the driving rain, as the senior booted three field goals of 50, 46 and 27 yards.

— The Buckeyes offensive line with Mike Adams at the left tackle spot played by far its best game, paving huge running lanes for the Buckeye backs.