12 Games Of Christmas: Illinois

In celebration of the holiday season as well as Ohio State’s appearance in the College Football Playoff, we’re counting down the 12 wins that made it possible, including this recap of the prime-time win vs. Illinois.

Nov. 1: No. 16 (CFP) Ohio State 55, Illinois 14
Columbus, Ohio
Box Score

Quick Recap: After a tight game the week prior at Penn State, Ohio State didn’t waste much time decimating a sloppy, penalty-riddled Illinois team, opening a 31-0 halftime lead on the way to the blowout win. The lead got as big as 48-0 despite the fact J.T. Barrett – coming off a knee sprain suffered the week prior and dealing with frigid temperatures in the November night game – missed a few passes early. Devin Smith caught two TD passes from Barrett and surprise starter Curtis Samuel had two rushing scores for OSU in the first half before the Buckeyes turned to Cardale Jones, who finished 5-for-9 for 82 yards and two touchdowns in his first extended throwing action. OSU piled up 296 rushing yards and 249 passing yards in the win while limiting to Illinois to 243 in the win.

Urban Said: “I think we have a good bunch of players that care about each other, and now we get ready for a big week. I thought our defense came out and played really well. A little disappointed in the red zone offense, a couple of field goals we could have probably kicked or we could have went for, but I still want to put a lot of pressure on our offensive line and quarterback in those kinds of situations because we know they're coming down the road.

“(We played Jones more because) I've never been down to our third- and fourth-string quarterback, but you always try to be ready in case something happens. And he's a gifted guy. So we're going to expand his package each week. J.T. missed a couple of wide open guys early in that game, but I was really impressed by the way he came back and he made some very good plays in the second quarter. So and Cardale, I think that was the first time we let him play. Usually gets in there, we just kind of mush around. And he was in there with some really young linemen and still moved the ball, so I thought did he very well.

Play of the Game: An interception by Darron Lee ended the Illini’s first possession, and three plays later the Buckeyes were in the end zone. Samuel took a sweep over the right side from 23 yards out to ignite the blowout, and it was a classic play. Ohio State used a pair of tight ends to block down on the right edge then pulled center Jacoby Boren and right tackle Darryl Baldwin to lead the way. A crushing block from the edge by Noah Brown sealed the deal, and Samuel went around the corner and cruised untouched to the end zone.

Player of the Game: Picking a single player who stood out might be tough as this was a true team effort with six rushers finishing between 37 and 69 yards, two QBs splitting time, nine receivers pulling in grabs and 23 different players making tackles. But we’ll go with Smith, who snagged touchdown passes of 32 yards and 8 yards to help out Barrett on the way to a three-catch, 72-yard performance.

What Was Accomplished: Ohio State got its confidence back before heading to East Lansing for the season-defining revenge game at Michigan State. Coming off the Penn State struggle and dealing with a sore knee, Barrett showed enough to make observers believe his knee wouldn’t be an impediment going forward, and Ohio State was dominant enough to feel pretty good going into the biggest week of the year.

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