Runaway train: Buckeyes crush Illini

Runaway train: Buckeyes crush Illini

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Juice Williams wasn't there to save the day. No bucket of Gatorade dumped on the head coach.

Just another loss. A big one.

On a rainy Senior Day at Ohio State, Urban Meyer's team kept its College Football Playoff hopes alive with a 52-14 blowout win against Illinois.

"We were dominated in all phases (Saturday)," Illinois coach Lovie Smith said.

"If you stay in coaching long enough, you have games like this where the team is better than you."

Better now, yes.

But it wasn't always the case.Ten years ago, Williams threw four touchdown passes in a 28-21 Illinois victory against No. 1 Ohio State. But that seems like it was centuries ago, not a decade.

Since then, Illinois has fired three head coaches, managed just two winning seasons (7-6 both times) and earned three lesser bowl bids.

Illinois has guaranteed its fourth season in the last 10 with three wins or fewer.

The school has made a commitment to football, hiring Smith after he was fired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His six-year contract is worth $21 million, the bulk due at the back end.

The school has announced plans for an $80 million football performance center that will be built adjacent to the Irwin Indoor Practice Facility. The on-field performance has not matched the commitment. Only one of the nine losses — a 24-17 decision at Minnesota — was by single digits.

Illinois (2-9, 0-8 Big Ten) had been more competitive in recent games. But the Illini's will to keep fighting was tested by eighth-ranked Ohio State (9-2, 7-1).

"As much as anything, you want to see how the team will handle this situation," Smith said. "Especially after the half. We were really down. You want to see how guys will fight in the second half. I thought our team fought hard."

Not that the Buckeyes needed it, but the Illini assisted on Ohio State's opening scoring drive. On a third-down incompletion that would have ended the drive, senior cornerback Jaylen Dunlap was called for pass interference.

Ohio State backup tailback Mike Weber, who has missed time this season with a hamstring injury, capped the first drive with a 4-yard touchdown run.

Chayce Crouch, who started for the first time since the Nebraska game on Sept. 29, completed a pass for 8 yards on the opening drive. But the Illini couldn't convert a short third-down play.

Crouch, from nearby Newark, Ohio, finished 4 of 14 for 16 yards. He was injured in the fourth quarter on a late hit and had to leave the game.

"I don't exactly know what the injury was," Smith said. "He took a shot on the sideline, fell on the concrete there a little bit."

Frankly, it didn't matter who played quarterback for Illinois. Or that the Illini are missing key players on both sides of the ball.

The Buckeyes left no doubt.

The Illini entered the game as a 40-point underdog, an unheard of number in a game involving teams from the same Power Five conference.

Ohio State led by 38 at halftime.

The Buckeyes outgained Illinois 358-43 in the first half. The domination was similar in the running statistics, with the Buckeyes holding a 329-34 edge.

For the game, the Illini were held to five first downs and 105 total yards.

Was it more the doing of the Ohio State defense or the failure of the Illinois offense?

"I think it's a combination of both," Smith said. "Start off with they are an outstanding football team in all three areas. They were better than us. They dominated us up front on both sides of the football."

The only suspense in the second half was whether a vicious line of thunderstorms would interrupt the game.

Torrential rains, which caused flash flooding in nearby counties, sent plenty in the crowd of 105,282 to the exits long before the game ended.

Illinois ended Ohio State's shutout bid with 11:04 left in the third quarter.

Illini safety Stanley Green got a hard hit against Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins, forcing a fumble. Haskins entered for starter J.T. Barrett late in the first half.

Backup defensive back Ahmari Hayes scooped the fumble and returned it 54 yards for his first college touchdown.

That cut the Ohio State edge to 38-7.

Barrett, who played his final game at Ohio Stadium, returned for the next series.

After a fumbled punt by Illinois freshman Nate Hobbs, Barrett led Ohio State to another score.

Earlier in the game, Barrett threw the 100th touchdown pass of his long career.

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Moonpie wrote on November 19, 2017 at 8:11 am

Lovie Dovie Savior Man!

The Lazy Gazoo seem to want to bury this one. Nothing to see here -- move along, folks!

And then Cheerleader Central avids reality (like all good Trumpies do) and reminds us that we once beat Ohio State in a universe far, far away.

Just keep guzzling that Lovie Dovie Kool-Aid.