Return Of Herron Bolsters OSU In Win

Whether it was the wind or the novice freshman quarterback, Ohio State's gameplan was to get back to Buckeye football. In other words, the Buckeyes were going to run the football. The return of Dan Herron boosted Ohio State in a much-needed win against previously unbeaten Illinois.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — It was the fourth quarter and freshman quarterback Braxton Miller was fully aware that he had yet to complete a pass. It couldn't have been more irrelevant in the mind of the signal caller.

"I didn't care as long as we're winning," Miller said. "We had our senior leader back and he gave us a hype in the huddle and we just kept running it down their throats."

Miller was content feeding senior running back Dan Herron the football, who was clearly the centerpiece of Ohio State's game plan in his first action with the Buckeyes since the Sugar Bowl after serving a six-game NCAA suspension to open the season.

Forced to shake off any rust that may have lingered, Herron rushed the ball 23 times for 114 yards and scored a crucial third quarter touchdown to help the Buckeyes to a 17-7 bounce-back victory over No. 15 Illinois.

"Just being out here with my teammates again after the long wait, man it couldn't have felt better," said Herron, who was immediately welcomed back to the lineup after rushing for 16 touchdowns as a junior. "I love running the ball and I love helping my team out, so whatever I can do to help this team out and to help us win, I am all for it."

Restricted to watching Ohio State's first six games of the season at home – three of which the Buckeyes came up short in – Herron admitted it was tough for him to sit on the couch knowing his rightful place was in the Buckeyes' backfield.

But with a novice quarterback not prone to be a prolific passer combined with the horrendous wind infamous for Memorial Stadium, Ohio State offensive coordinator Jim Bollman was more than content helping Herron make up for lost time.

"Well we (didn't plan on having only one completion) but we'll take the win," Bollman said, acknowledging the team had relied on the running game. "This is a stadium where things are changed by the wind. It was nice to have Boom back so we could get him the football."

Ohio State was committed to moving the football on the ground against an Illinois (6-1) defense who hadn't seen a team rely on its running game this season, which was evident because the Buckeyes didn't attempt a pass until midway through the second quarter.

Miller – who completed one pass to tight end Jake Stoneburner for a game-sealing 17-yard touchdown strike – led Ohio State to a win in its first game with only one completion since the Buckeyes lost to Missouri in 1976, 22-21.

"One the sideline we were on the sideline and we were like, ‘Man, we haven't even completed a pass yet," Stoneburner said. "But we were all said as long as we win we didn't care. If we complete one pass, I'll take the catch. I am alright with that."

Herron had sat out the first five games of the season due to his role in Ohio State's tattoo and memorabilia scandal that eventually led to the resignation of former head coach Jim Tressel.

The senior was prepared to return to the Buckeyes' backfield for Ohio State's game at Nebraska last week, but he was given an extra game when it was announced during preparation for the Cornhuskers that he had accepted too much money for a summer job.

"That Sunday before Nebraska and he was all amped and we were cracking jokes about him finally being behind me again," junior fullback Zach Boren said. "It was definitely a hit when they said he couldn't play, but he was amped up again this week. He told that he was going to run behind me today and we were going to do our thing.

"With him back, we had an attitude this week that we're going to go back to Buckeye football," he continued. "We just need to be ourselves. Buckeye football is smash mouth football. It always has been and it always will be. We had the attitude of doing that today."

Ohio State was cruising toward its first victory in the Big Ten last week when it jumped out to a 27-6 lead in the second half of the Cornhuskers game, but a quick touchdown by Nebraska after a Miller fumble turned the tide in a game Ohio State eventually lost 34-27.

The Buckeyes' offense became immobile when Miller rolled his ankle on the play where he fumbled the ball midway through the third quarter and Herron admitted to being home feeling that he could've helped his team move the chains enough to regain momentum.

Had he been in the game for Nebraska the Buckeyes may have been able to hold onto a much-needed road win. Instead, the Cornhuskers sent the Buckeyes to its second consecutive loss to open up conference place.

"I wish I was out there helping my team," Herron said. "Maybe things would have been different, but I came back this week and we're back on track. All I am about is helping my team and I couldn't wait to get back so I could do that."

Herron, who has now rushed for 320 yards and five touchdowns against Illinois in four career games, hopes insertion back into the Buckeyes offense can get an Ohio State team accustomed to winning back on that track.

"I learned to think twice about making decisions," he said. "It made me grow up as a man, just looking at things a lot differently and not taking anything for granted."

Herron's presence back in the Buckeyes' backfield is certainly welcomed.

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