Buckeye Breakdown: Ohio State Beats Illinois, 28-3

We broke down the key phases of the game for Ohio State and picked out key learning points after the Buckeyes 28-3 win at Illinois.

Unit Breakdowns

Ohio State Run Offense: Although there were some hiccups with the Ohio State offensive against Illinois, the run game was a dependable option throughout the 28-3 win for the Buckeyes. Finishing with 283 rushing yards as a team will get the job done just about every time, and that total was more than enough for the Buckeyes to reach their 10th win of the season. Junior running back Ezekiel Elliott entered the game needing 170 yards to pass Tim Spencer for third on OSU’s career rushing list, and for many that would have been a tall task. But Elliott got it done with time to spare, and OSU put away a pesky Illinois team. – Ryan Ginn

Ohio State Pass Offense: It seemed early in the game as though J.T. Barrett would not miss a beat coming off the one game suspension against Minnesota as he connected on his first five passes of the game, including a touchdown pass to Michael Thomas. After that, however, Barrett’s pass protection began to struggle mightily and Barrett struggled to get passes off. On his interception, Barrett was looking for Curtis Samuel, who had his man beat up the sideline. The pressure got to Barrett before he could get the ball off however and his pass fluttered into the air for an easy interception for the Illini. If the Buckeyes can improve their pass protection, they can return to the playoffs. If not, Michigan State could very well pull the upset. – James Grega

Ohio State Run Defense: For the second week in a row the Buckeyes were excellent against the run. The Illini had two rushers clear 100 yards against Purdue a week ago, but were completely stonewalled by Ohio State. Illinois finished with just 20 yards on the ground, finishing with -12 in the second half. While it helped that the Buckeyes built a lead and forced the Illini to go to the air often – passing 47 times against just 25 rushes – but when Illinois did try to run they found nothing. The long gainer on the day for Illinois was 27 yards, meaning that on the team’s other 24 carriers they averaged negative yardage. Another strong day from the Ohio State defense was centered on stopping the run. – Blake Williams

Ohio State Pass Defense: Illinois quarterback Wes Lunt threw for 241 yards, but he completed just 23 of 47 pass attempts. That’s a lot of yards, but forcing a quarterback to complete less than half his passes is always a decent day. The real problem was in downfield tackling, especially along the sidelines, as Illinois’ best plays usually included chunks of yards after the catch. Ohio State also didn’t come up with an interception, which isn’t what the Buckeyes expect when forcing a team to throw that often. Overall, it was a decent day for the pass defense, but Ohio State will be hoping for better performances against Michigan State and Michigan over the next two weeks. – Tim Moody

What We Learned

Ryan Ginn: The offensive line as presently constructed doesn’t seem good enough to win a national championship right now. The “Slobs” were further along as a unit by this point last season, and the pass protection is becoming more of a concern as the biggest games of the season approach. Right tackle Chase Farris had a number of problems today, and it was easy to imagine those becoming magnified in a game against a playoff-caliber team with monster defensive ends. There’s still time to get things together, but it’s not hard to wonder if a different combination would have had more success out there today

James Grega: This Ohio State team will go as far as the defense and Ezekiel Elliott will take it. After one offensive explosion against Rutgers, the Buckeyes were less than impressive against Minnesota and Illinois and in both games pass protection has been an issue. It doesn’t seem to matter much anymore who is at quarterback for the Scarlet and Gray. If they cannot protect the signal caller, they will struggle and with Michigan State on the horizon, the front five on the offensive line will need to improve if Ohio State wants a chance to repeat.

Tim Moody: There are issues on offense, and perhaps bigger issues in the kicking game. First off, Ohio State struggled mightily in pass protection agains the Illini, and that was a big reason the Buckeyes finished just four of 13 on third down. J.T. Barrett was only sacked once, but he was pressured repeatedly and his lone interception came as he was hit. That was a low point, another was Sean Nuernberger’s one field goal try — a miss from just 24 yards. He took over for Jack Willoughby this week, and Urban Meyer must be very concerned about the possibility of an Ohio State game coming down to a field goal try sometime down the stretch.

Blake Williams: Pass protection is an issue. It was one of the first things Urban Meyer brought up in his postgame press conference and it had been obvious all game. The Ohio State offensive line failed to give J.T. Barrett much time to throw and his lone interception of the afternoon came when he was hit while attempting to throw. Chase Farris was particularly bad in protecting the quarterback and while Barrett only took one sack, that was a minor miracle. The Buckeyes were unable to give Barrett time to get off a deep ball without the aid of play action and that’s a major concern moving forward.

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