The Illinois Fighting Illini came into Saturday’s game against the #3 Buckeyes of Ohio State looking to upset the 2015 College Football Playoff champions. The Illini showed promise throughout majority of the first half, and the defense did their part for Illinois ,but the offense just couldn’t seem to get going as Illinois would end up losing by a final score of 28-3.
Illinois' (5-5, 2-4 B1G) defense in the first half was outstanding as the Illini held Ohio State to only two touchdowns in the first half of play.
Ohio State (10-0, 6-0 B1G) got on the board late in the first quarter when quarterback J.T. Barrett connected with wide receiver Michael Thomas for a 24 yard touchdown with a little under four minutes to play. The Illini wouldn’t answer back until the start of the second quarter when senior kicker Taylor Zalewski knocked in a 46 yard field goal to put three points on the board for Bill Cubit's team.
The numbers after the first quarter of play were completely in favor of the Buckeyes. Ohio State had 115 total yards of offense with 59 of them on the ground and 56 of them through the air. Illinois had only 48 total yards of offense with 37 of them through the air and 11 of them on the ground.
The second quarter was filled with offensive disasters for the Orange and Blue. Every time the Illini would get an opportunity, whether it was a big stop on the defensive end or a big pick up on the offensive end, they couldn’t quite finish the job and ended up having to punt it away.
The big setback came after senior running back Josh Ferguson had a 27 yard run that brought the Illini to their own 37 yard line. Then on the ensuing play, they would get knocked with a false start which set them back five yards. Then freshman Ke’Shawn Vaughn would rush for a loss of four yards and then Illinois would be penalized for an illegal motion. After all of that the Illini would be forced to give it to punter Ryan Frain who sent the ball through the end zone resulting in a touchback and Ohio State would take over on their 20 yard line.
From that point on the Illini just struggled and couldn’t get anything going. The Buckeyes would go on to score two more times, once in the third and another in the fourth. Both of the touchdowns were scored by Buckeye running back Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott would finish the day with two touchdowns and 181 yards rushing on 27 carries. Quarterback J.T. Barrett would finish the day 15 for 23 and 150 yards and one touchdown and one interception.
Illinois quarterback Wes Lunt would finish with 23 completions on 47 attempts and finished with 241 yards. Running back Josh Ferguson finished with 49 yards, 27 of them came on one run. On the defensive side, junior safety Caleb Day would finish with one interception.
The loss puts Illinois at 5-5 overall, Illinois needs one more win to be bowl eligible and with two games left in the season hopefully Bill Cubit's team can get it done. Next week they go on the road to face Minnesota and following that game they end the year playing in state rival Northwestern at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL on November 28th.
Ohio State, on the other hand, keeps on winning. Although there are certainly chinks in the armor, the Buckeyes are still sound. Joey Bosa and his all-star defensive teammates are playing quality football, while the OSU offense is doing decently. Next week, OSU hits their toughest test of the season so far as they tussle with Michigan State at home.