5 Answers: Ohio State at Illinois

This week we look back at Illinois' defensive plan as well as the hosts propensity for penalties. We figured the running game would be pivotal for both teams and wondered about the effect of the loss of Jake Stoneburner. Finally, would the Ohio State defense bounce back from a so-so performance in week four?

1. How will Illinois try to defend Ohio State?

Unlike a season ago when Illinois seemed content to let the Buckeyes chew them up inside running the ball against two deep safeties, the Fighting Illini mixed things up well enough to keep Ohio State off balance.

On Terrelle Pryor's interception, the defense showed tight coverage on the outside with deep safeties, but the cornerbacks bailed at the snap and the defensive call put safety Trulon Henry right in Pryor's passing lane.

Illinois seemed to confuse Pryor and his protection with a couple of well-disguised blitzes that resulted in sacks, but the Ohio State quarterback hurt them with a pair of long runs in the first half that led to touchdowns.

"Pryor is going to get loose on people a little bit," Illinois head coach Ron Zook said. "I thought in terms of the passing game and so forth we did a good job."


2. Will the Ohio State defense redeem itself from the Eastern Michigan game?

Aside from a pair of scoring drives, the Buckeye defense was practically impenetrable.

The Fighting Illini drove 55 yards for a touchdown on their first possession and went 67 yards to tack on a field goal in the fourth quarter, but they went three-and-out five times.

"Illinois always has an athletic team," defensive end Cameron Heyward said. "They have really good backs, and you've got to commend their offense. They had a week off and came in prepared well. They came out with the right mindset but I think we just made the corrections and played tougher. We were resilient. You're going to have some bad plays and they're going to capitalize, but it says a lot about this team that we were able to make up ground and keep fighting through it."


3. Which team will run the ball better?

Ohio State improved to 86-4 in the Jim Tressel era when outrushing its opponent.

Although quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase and running backs Mikel Leshoure and Jason Ford were able to do some damage, the Buckeyes held them in check for the most part.

Meanwhile, Ohio State's dormant power running game came to life when it was needed.

Dan Herron ran for 89 yards in the second half, including 41 yards on Ohio State's game-clinching touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. The rest of the yards came via penalty.


4. Will the Buckeyes miss Jacob Stoneburner?

The sophomore tight end stayed home to nurse a high ankle sprain, but how much he was missed was hard to gauge.

Reid Fragel, his replacement, caught one pass for eight yards and was a valuable part of the run blocking.

The threat of Stoneburner's speed down the middle might have discouraged the Illini from using Henry to rob routes underneath, but that is hard to determine for certain.


5. Can the Fighting Illini avoid hurting themselves?

True to form, Illinois had run out of toes to shoot off its feet by the time the game ended.

The Fighting Illini were guilty of a senseless illegal motion penalty on the first offensive snap, a violation that did not do much damage in and of itself but served as a harbinger of things to come.

There was also a defensive holding penalty that allowed Ohio State a second try at a point-after-touchdown conversion, and a personal foul for grasping the facemask on a fourth-quarter drive that yielded a Buckeye field goal.

In total, nine penalties were accepted against Illinois resulting in 74 yards. Ohio State gained four first downs via penalty.

"The dumb penalties I really get frustrated with because you can't have those things when you play a good football team," Zook said. "You have to go back and look at them and you have to learn from them."


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