Nov 14, 2015; Champaign, IL, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Michael Thomas (3) makes a touchdown catch against Illinois Fighting Illini defensive back Eaton Spence (27) during the first quarter at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Slow and steady wins the race, they say. With one touchdown in each quarter and a suffocating defense, the Ohio State football program won their 30th game in a row by beating Illinois 28-3. FoS has everything you need to know about Ohio State’s win on Saturday.
Rapid Reaction: 1st Half
The first half saw a strong start and a strong finish for the Buckeyes…buyt the middle? Not so much. OSU’s first two drives went for a total of 100 yards. The next three? 49 yards total. All of the credit for that goes to Illinois’ defense, which seemed to figure out the Buckeye attack until J.T. Barrett‘s 5-yard touchdown run capped off the last Ohio State drive of the half. It’s easy to overlook the fact that Illinois’ defense is 33rd in the nation in points allowed and 31st in yards allowed. This is a good defense that asserted itself in the middle portion of the half.
Michael Thomas is really good, in case you have been under a rock all season long. What impressed me in the early going was his ability to be physical and take a hit, but get right back into action. In the first quarter, Thomas caught a-22 yard pass and got lit up by an Illinois defender. On the very next play, Thomas hauled in a pinpoint pass from Barrett deep in the front corner of the end zone for a 24 yard score.
The catch was over an Illini cornerback who was actually in great position. But Thomas used his strength and ball skills to just outmuscle the defender for the score. That play will certainly be on his scouting reel ahead of the 2016 draft.
It looks as if the momentum the defense had coming out of the Minnesota game made the road trip to Champaign: 101 total yards allowed, 2-10 on 3rd down, and only 2.0 yards per carry for the Illini backs shows that this unit has started to put it all together at the right time. Josh Ferguson has run well for Illinois, gaining 44 yards on only 7 carries and adding 27 yards on 3 catches (mostly from a big 25-yard screen play). Joey Bosa and company, however, have been even better. They’ve taken advantage of all of the attention Bosa gets (he beat a TRIPLE TEAM in the first half) and won most of the one on one match ups across the rest of the line.
It’s a good thing that none of the games in 2015 have come down to a field goal. Jack Willoughby couldn’t secure the job, so Sean Nuerenberger was given a shot. Instead, he missed his one attempt from only 24 yards away. Last year, Nuerenberger made barely half of his kicks. Willoughby is a graduate transfer from Duke that was supposed to be the answer. Either way, Urban Meyer cannot be happy with the state of his kickers and will need his explosive offense to keep them out of crucial situations.