Read the Rapid Recap
Ohio State 28, Illinois 3; 9:47 left 4Q
When you're trying to pull off an upset, you can't make mistakes. Illinois has made a lot of them. The latest? V'Angelo Bentley's muffed punt leads to an Ezekiel Elliott touchdown.
Ohio State 21, Illinois 3; 4:53 left 3Q
And the Illini red-zone offense struggles continue. Lunt made a few big throws to Malik Turner and Desmond Cain but the Illini turned it over on downs. The Illini tried to hurry up on 4th and 1 and Lunt and walk-on running back Cameron Tucker had a miscommunication. Tucker was tackled for a 3-yard loss. Ke'Shawn Vaughn is out for the game with an undisclosed injury. Too many missed opportunities.
Ohio State 21, Illinois 3; 6:57 left 3Q
To steal a line from Paul Petrino: feed the stud(s). Ohio State finally fed its best offensive player, Ezekial Elliott -- what took so long?! -- for a long drive into the end zone. Elliott carried 7 times for 47 yards on that drive and now has 102 rushing yards for the game, his 15th straight 100-plus yard game.
Ohio State 14, Illinois 3; 10:55 left 3Q
Illinois finally got Geronimo Allison involved. He made a few defenders miss, but the Illini redzone issues cropped up again. Wes Lunt is having one of his roughest games. He's missed a lot of sideline throws he usually completes and has missed a few key open receivers, including Dionte Taylor in the endzone on the last drive. Illinois had to settle for a FG attempt and Ryan Frain botched the hold. Illinois is missing so many opportunities. If they cashed in on a few, an upset could've been in the works.
HALF: Ohio State 14, Illinois 3
Total yards: OSU 209, ILL 101
Rushing yards: OSU 103, ILL 32
First downs: OSU 11, ILL 6
Yards per play: OSU 6.3, ILL 2.7
Third downs: OSU 1-6, ILL 2-9
Turnovers: OSU 1, ILL 0
Penalties: OSU 2-10, ILL 2-10
Time of possession: OSU 13:39, ILL 16:21
J.T. Barrett, OSU: 9-13, 106 yard, 1 TD, 0 INT; 11 carries, 56 yards
Ezekiel Elliott, OSU: 9 carries, 47 yards
Joey Bosa: 6 tackles, 3 TFLs
Josh Ferguson: 10 touches, 71 yards
Wes Lunt: 9-21, 69 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT
Carroll Phillips: 6 tackles, 0.5 TFL
Clayton Fejedelem: 6 tackles
Ohio State 14, Illinois 3; 0:50 left 2Q
That's why not scoring after the fumble was a killer for Illinois. Ohio State capped a quick drive with a J.T. Barrett touchdown run. Barrett's legs (56 yards) have been difficult to account for. He scrambled for a first down on 4th and 11 from the ILL 38. The Illini defense has done its part though. Josh Ferguson appeared to have suffered a hamstring injury. That may limit the Illini offense even more.
Ohio State 7, Illinois 3; 4:43 left 2Q
Illinois defense is stepping up and finally got the big game-changer it needed with James Crawford forcing a JT Barrett fumble, but the Illini offense did nothing with it. That's a killer. The offense gained zero yards and Zalewski's 50-yard FG attempt bounced off the right upright. Illinois had the chance to put a ton of doubt in OSU and a ton of belief on their sidelines.
Ohio State 7, Illinois 3; 10:12 left 2Q
The Illini offense has a first down on every drive but finally got a second first down on a drive with Josh Ferguson's 25-yard gain on a perfectly set up screen pass. But after failing to get a third, had to settle for a 45-yard FG from Taylor Zalewski. Nonetheless, a score is a confidence-booster. The Illini probably need to muck this up a bit more and eat some clock. But the defense has done its part so far.
End 1Q: Ohio State 7, Illinois 0
Well, it could be much worse. Ohio State has outgained Illinois 115 to 48 and is averaging 7.8 yards per play to Illinois' 2.8 yards per play. The Illini are really unbalanced offensively, calling 14 pass plays to just 3 run plays. Very little Ke'Shawn Vaughn and Josh Ferguson in the game at the same time.
Ohio State 7, Illinois 0; 3:43 left 1Q
Welp, there goes the momentum. The Illini offense has called just one running play. Ryan Frain's punt was tipped and Ohio State drove 50 yards in 3 plays, ending with a 24-yard touchdown pass to Michael Thomas.
Ohio State 0, Illinois 0 ; 6:37 left 1Q
What a swing! Ohio State appeared to have a TD not once but twice but reviews showed JT Barrett failed to cross the goal line twice from the half yard line. Then an OSU false start forced a 3rd and goal from the 6. Dawuane Smoot did a great job of blowing up the play and allowing teammates to drag down Barrett. Then OSU missed the FG. Huge swing of momentum, and an Illini sideline and crowd that looked lifeless now has some pep
Great show by the parachutists and the flyover, and a nice touch by Illinois with a moment of silence for the people of Paris.
Ohio State won the toss, deferred and Illinois will take the opening kickoff into a stiff wind from the south.
Illini captains: Karras, Ferguson and Fejedelem.
20 minutes until kickoff
It's Dad's Day. A bunch of Illini football faterhs are on the sidelines in their sons jerseys. Some look good and svelt, but some are squeezing into those things.
There will be a flyover with a couple military jets and a few parachuters landing inside the stadium. That was one of my favorite things as a student. Thank you to all of you who keep us safe every day. This week -- Veterans' Day and the Paris attacks -- are a reminder of that.
I had my normal pregame conversation with Illini Radio Network analyst Martin O'Donnell. He thinks Penn State's defensive line is the best in the Big Ten, but Ohio State's is pretty close. Joey Bosa is the best defensive lineman in the country and may be the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft. He's big, strong, athletic and versatile (can play DE or DT). Adolphus Washington is a really good DT, though not quite as good as Maliek Collins or Austin Johnson. DT Tommy Schutt and DE Tyquon Lewis are solid. Their second level is as good as it gets though with LB Darron Lee and LB Joshua Perry.
1 hour until kickoff
No surprise, but there is a lot of scarlet and gray here today. Ohio State fans travel well. Combined with Dad's Day, that should make for a pretty good crowd today. The Illini high attendance this season is 45,438 for homecoming against Wisconsin.
No big changes to the depth chart. Andrew Davis is starting at tight end and Tim Clary has returned from a leg injury that kept him out last week. He still has that big club on his hand though. Jihad Ward again is listed as a starter at defensive tackle, moving in from defensive end. Carroll Phillips now starts at DE, giving Illini more athleticism, speed and burst. Chunky Clements played a lot less against Purdue, despite a solid season so far. The good news: Illinois now has five pretty good defensive linemen. They'll have their hands full against Ohio State's Big Ten best rushing attack and J.T. Barrett, Ezekiel Elliott and Braxton Miller.
Speaking of running game, Illinois got its going against Purdue and Illini Inquirer football analyst Micheal Young broke down how.
2 hours, 15 minutes until kickoff
Illinois is hosting a bunch of recruits today, including several prospects committed elsewhere. Check out Ryan Easterling's visit primer for the details.
Obviously, it's a weird time for Illinois football recruiting. The interim coach isn't guaranteed any time past the Nov. 28 regular-season finale against Northwestern. But kudos to the staff for not only keeping together the class but adding three commits since Tim Beckman's dismissal. I like that Cubit's staff is swinging for the prospects for a few prospects and has given themselves a chance, should they get the job long-term. They are expected a bunch of visitors in December, if they keep the job.
I'm hopping on College GameDay Live on ESPN Radio to talk Illini hoops, football and the AD search. You can stream it live here.
2 hours, 30 minutes until kickoff
Ohio State game means there is a full press box. Only one open seat this week. Usually there are dozens.
Not only do the Buckeyes bring a strong media contingent. They bring a lot of NFL scouts. Representatives from the Bears, Cowboys, Jets, 49ers, Titans, and two from the Dolphins are expected. As I mentioned below, the Buckeyes are expected to have up to eight players selected in the first two rounds. DE Joey Bosa, RB Ezekiel Elliott, OT Taylor Decker, DT Adolphus Washington, WR Michael Thomas and LB Darron Lee all have the chance to go first round and S Vonn Bell andLB Joshua Perry aren't far behind.
Illinois also has some NFL prospects for the first time in a few years. I'm told scouts really like senior DE Jihad Ward, and that was proven by his invitation to the Senior Bowl. He has a top-three-round stock right now. RB Josh Ferguson likely will be drafted, and S Clayton Fejedelem also has earned a lot of NFL interest.
3 hours until kickoff
Jeremy Werner here, Illini Inquirer publisher. Springfield last night, Champaign this morning. A busy weekend -- and a crazy week -- for Illinois athletics. The Illini football team just hopes its weekend goes better than Illinois basketball, which lost 93-81 to a hot-shooting North Florida team last night in their opener.
We had plenty of coverage of the game.
- Read Piper's Points, Derek's analysis of the game
- Read the Rapid Recap
- Hear John Groce's reaction, as well as Illini Mike Thorne Jr. and Malcolm Hill
Obviously, it was not a good start for John Groce. And while his team is relying on too many freshmen due to injuries (Kendrick Nunn, Leron Black and Tracy Abrams are all out and Jaylon Tate suffered an open discolacation of his finger last night) and while UNF is one of the better shooting teams in the country and a reigning NCAA Tournament team, fans don't want to hear excuses about losing to a mid-major program in the opener -- especially after missing two straight NCAA Tournaments. Wisconsin (which lost to Western Illinois) is feeling similar pain this morning, but Bo Ryan's program has built up a little bit more leeway following back-to-back Final Fours. But UNF is a good team, and Illinois is really vulnerable right now.
I asked a few people this week if they'd trade an Illini basketball season-opening loss for an Illinois football loss -- and amazingly, they took time to think about it! That's crazy, guys.
Illinois (5-4, 2-3 Big Ten) is obviously a heavy underdog (+17 in Vegas) today against the defending national champion Ohio State Buckeyes (9-0, 5-0). The Buckeyes are 29-0 in Big Ten games under Urban Meyer, have won 22 consecutive games and 16 consecutive road games. They have eigh of the top-51 draft prospects, according to CBS Sports.
But for Illinois -- which has an interim coach, who has an interim athletic director, who has an interim chancellor -- there is no pressure today. They're expected to lose and expected to lose big. But they'll have two more opportunities to clinch bowl eligibility. They have the chance to shock the world. The task is large and the odds are against them, but the Illini should play loose today.
Read my full game preview, which includes players to watch, keys to the game and my prediction.