Air Attack Progressed After '11 Illinois Trip

Ohio State completed a mere one pass in its last trip to Illinois - a 17-7 victory at a windy Memorial Stadium in Champaign. Freshman Braxton Miller and his wide receivers have come a long way from that afternoon.

The noise junior wide receiver Evan Spencer made Monday when someone mentioned the 2011 Ohio State football game at Illinois was tough to describe.

It was a mixture of "woof" and "ugh." Maybe "wugh?"

Either way, the memory was not good – even though the Buckeyes recorded a 17-7 victory at a very windy Memorial Stadium in Champaign. Ohio State earned its first Big Ten win in three games and knocked the Fighting Illini from the ranks of the unbeaten by battering its hosts via the ground game.

Playing in a westward wind of 21 mph with gusts to 30 mph, OSU rushed 51 times for 211 yards. More notably, freshman quarterback Braxton Miller completed a mere one pass – a 17-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jake Stoneburner – and attempted only four passes in the game.

Could Spencer imagine a team completing only one pass and winning a Big Ten game?

"Yeah because we did it," Spencer said.

Spencer started that game but obviously did not catch any passes. He said he spent his freshman season "trying to get my head above water." So was his quarterback, through both Spencer and Miller have come along nicely since that first year in Columbus.

For Miller, the turnaround has been dramatic. More of a raw talent as a freshman, Miller is starting to show the potential many experts saw in him during his days at Huber Heights (Ohio) Wayne. The junior QB, who said Wednesday that he was perhaps not ready to play as a freshman, leads the Big Ten in passer efficiency with a 175.9 rating and is coming off an impressive – albeit limited – performance at Purdue. He completed 19 of 23 passes, threw four touchdown passes and compiled 324 yards (222 passing, 102 rushing) of total offense in a 56-0 win over the Boilermakers.

Miller said Wednesday that he does not remember all of the details of the 2011 win in Champaign.

"I remember that I threw one touchdown," he said. "I think I completed one ball. I can't remember (anything else)."

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer was a television broadcaster that year and said he did not catch the OSU-Illinois game that fall. Nor has he watched any film of that game.

It's ancient history when it comes to Miller and his development.

"I can assure you that he's in a much better place than he was two years ago, and I can see that," Meyer said.

"Win the game however you can," Meyer said of the 2011 battle for the Illibuck. "I don't know the conditions. I know (then-interim head coach Luke Fickell) had a young quarterback and a fairly young group of wideouts. I would imagine you'd do what we did: Run the quarterback a lot. Do what you've got to do to walk out of there with a win."

Ohio State, ranked No. 3 in the latest edition of the BCS standings and needing help to reach the top two spots that will play for the national championship in January, will do what it needs to do to win this weekend. Odds are, however, that the passing game will be a larger part of the attack.

"Looking back, that's crazy to me just because our passing game has evolved so much now and so many different guys can score touchdowns for us now," senior left tackle Jack Mewhort said. "One pass, that's kind of unreal to think about, and Braxton and the skill guys have come so far."

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