After cruising to a 9-0 record, it took a 2-7 team to put a scare in Ohio State.
The Buckeyes stormed out to a 17-0 lead before having to hold off the upset-minding Fighting Illini, 17-10, on Nov. 4, 2006.
Ohio State looked to be in control with its big lead midway through the third quarter, but Illinois rallied for 10-unaswered points in the fourth quarter and was only a recovered onside kick away from having a chance to send the game into overtime.
"A win is a win any which way you cut it, whether you score 50 points or you score 17," said OSU quarterback Troy Smith, who completed 13 of 23 passes for 108 yards and one interception. "We won today, and we'll continue to grow."
Ohio State had 175 yards of total offense midway through the third quarter, but the Illini held OSU to only 29 the rest of the way. Jason Reda cut the deficit to 17-3 with a 27-yard field goal, and a 3-yard touchdown run by Rashard Mendenhall with 1:40 left forced the several thousand OSU fans in attendance at Memorial Stadium to hold their collective breathe. Brian Robiskie helped ease their fears when he pounced on the loose football on the ensuing onside kick.
The Buckeyes then ran out most of the clock. Punter A.J. Trapasso came through with a key kick, punting 55 yards and forcing Illinois to settle for one play from the Illini 2 with only four seconds remaining. The Buckeyes held and remained unbeaten.
"I think it's a valuable learning lesson for us," OSU defensive lineman Doug Datish said. "We needed a battle. This was definitely one for us."
It did not take the Buckeyes long to jump out in front. Ohio State took the opening kickoff and drove 80 yards in 14 plays. Chris "Beanie" Wells capped the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run. Antonio Pittman added a 1-yard second-quarter touchdown run, and Aaron Pettrey gave the Buckeyes a 17-0 lead at halftime when he made a 50-yard field goal with less than a minute left in the first half.
Despite the solid start, the Buckeyes still struggled offensively. Illinois out-gained Ohio State, 233-224.
"We have to pay Illinois as much respect as we can," OSU head coach Jim Tressel said. "I thought we were controlling the tempo of the game pretty well through the first series of the third quarter. But then things changed. We didn't finish that drive and we seemed to lose the momentum.
"But a lot of credit goes to Illinois. They were behind 17-0 and they never stopped playing. Not that our guys did, but Illinois played hard defending their own turf. But we won, which is the most important thing, and we know that championships are won with tough wins on the road."
Pittman led OSU's rushing attack with only 58 yards on 32 carries. Wells had only four carries for 21 yards. He also fumbled for the fourth time in 2006 and fumbled for the second time in as many games.
James Laurinaitis led the OSU defense with 11 tackles and caught a key second-half interception.
J. Leman had 19 tackles, 3.5 for a loss, to lead Illinois' inspired defense.