The 2002 Ohio State Buckeyes proved once again today in a big way that they are not for the faint of heart. Fortunately, the Buckeyes themselves are not light in the heart department as once again, they came close to defeat, but they pulled it out as they topped Illinois 23-16 in overtime. Craig Krenzel and Michael Jenkins once again made big plays when it counted, and once again, OSU just found a way to win.
The Fighting Illini opened the game with possession and started at their own 20 after a touchback, but the Buckeye defense was rugged right away and forced a three-and-out. The wind immediately became a factor as Steve Weatherford's punt only went 21 yards, giving OSU field position at the Illinois 43. The Buckeyes could not capitalize though as they went three-and-out as well.
The Groom punt pinned Ilinois back at their own 8-yard line, and after a couple of running plays and a sack by David Thompson, the Illini were forced to punt again. Weatherford got off another short punt, this one for just 25 yards, and the Buckeyes took over at the Illinois 29. The Buckeyes ran the ball down inside the 10, and then on a second-down play, the Buckeyes were the victims of an apparent missed call as Craig Krenzel took off running and seemed to have broke the goal line with the ball, but he was called down at the 1. From there, the offensive line was called for three straight false start penalties, and after being driven back, the Buckeyes had to settle for a 33-yard Mike Nugent field goal to make it 3-0.
Illinois took over on the OSU 35 after a touchback and an OSU personal foul on the kick, but the OSU defense once again forced a three-and-out. Weatherford got off yet another short punt, this time for just 17 yards. The Buckeyes had good field position once again and moved the ball within field goal range with the help of a Chris Gamble catch and a Maurice Hall 16-yard run, but that was all as they had to settle for another Nugent field goal, this one from 47 yards to make it 6-0.
On the next Illinois possession, the Illini started to move the ball as a few Antoineo Harris runs and a Brandon Lloyd catch moved the ball across midfield, but then they went backwards in a big way as a holding call, a personal foul, and a Buckeye sack set up a 3rd and 42, which (not surprisingly) was not converted. Illinois punted back to OSU, and Chris Gamble returned it to the Illinois 47.
The Buckeyes moved the ball down into field goal range once again with the help of some Maurice Hall runs and a Michael Jenkins catch, but they once again could not get any closer and had to settle for a 37-yard field goal attempt. This time, however, Mike Nugent missed the field goal, stopping his streak at 23 straight.
Illinois took over late in the half at their own 20 and went three-and-out once again, but the Buckeyes could not do much on their next possession and had to punt back to Illinois. Andy Groom came up with another beauty as he pinned the Illini at their own 4, but Illinois came out firing and came up with their best drive of the first half as they moved the ball through the air downfield deep into OSU territory. The Illini could not put it in the end zone though and had to settle for a 40-yard John Gockman field goal, which cut the OSU lead to 6-3. Despite fine defense and excellent field position, the Buckeyes would go into the half with just a three-point lead.
The Buckeyes would continue to get a fight from the Fighting Illini in the second half. Things started out about as good as Illinois could have hoped as the Buckeyes went three-and-out on the opening possession, and after Eugene Wilson returned the punt 50 yards to the OSU 23, Illinois struck soon after with a 19-yard pass to Walter Young. The PAT made it 10-6 Illinois (and it wasn't the last we'd hear of Young).
Ohio State wouldn't be behind for long though. After starting the next possession at their own 35, Maurice Hall took a couple of carries out to midfield, and then shortly after, Craig Krenzel hit Michael Jenkins deep for a big 50-yard TD. There were memories of last week's big play against Purdue as Krenzel let it fly and Jenkins came down with a fine catch. The Nugent PAT made it 13-10 OSU.
Illinois took over at their own 20 and drove down the field well once again. With the help of three Walter Young catches, the Illini made it down deep into OSU territory, but the Buckeye D came up big as Will Smith forced a fumble on an Antoineo Harris carry that was recovered by OSU at their own 18. The Buckeyes could not do anything with the offensive possession, but an Andy Groom 65-yard punt sent Illinois back to their own 20.
On the next drive though, Walter Young gave OSU fits again as he had a 20 and 24-yard catch to help Illinois get back down the field in a hurry. The Buckeye defensive line came up big again as two consecutive sacks helped force a field goal attempt, but kicker John Gockman stepped up as he booted a 47-yarder to make it 13-13.
OSU started the next drive on their own 37, and they found some success through the air as Craig Krenzel would hit Michael Jenkins for 25 and 10-yard passes to help move OSU deep inside Illinois territory. The Buckeyes would not be able to punch it in for a TD, but a Mike Nugent 37-yard field goal gave OSU the 16-13 lead.
Illinois' next drive stalled largely in part to a personal foul penalty, but a punt and an OSU illegal block gave the Buckeyes their worst field position of the day at their own 9. The Buckeyes went on a solid drive though as on the second play, Craig Krenzel hit Michael Jenkins for another big gain, this one for 41 yards. After a few Krenzel and Maurice Hall runs, OSU was faced with a big 3rd down play, but Craig Krenzel made a tremendous play as he somehow avoided being sacked by two defenders and scrambled for a first down to put OSU in field goal range. OSU seemingly played for the field goal from there, but Mike Nugent missed from 41 yards away.
Illinois took over with about five minutes on the clock and moved the ball across midfield. The Buckeyes held though as Illinois could only manage a 59-yard field goal attempt that fell short. OSU got the ball back at the 42, but they could not get a first down and punted it back to Illinois with 1:04 left to play.
Illinois took over at their own 25, and on their first series, they faced a fourth down, but they were able to convert. Soon after, Jon Beutjer hit Aaron Moorehead on a 10-yard pass and then a 27-yard pass to put Illinois in field goal range with just seconds on the clock. This time, Gockman did not miss as he booted a 48-yarder to send the game into overtime.
The Buckeyes started out with the ball in overtime. The first two plays were incomplete passes (the second was a drop by Chris Vance on a strange pass that would have been a TD), but on third down, Krenzel came up big as he scrambled for a 14-yard gain and a first down. After another 3-yard scramble, Maurice Hall took it in for an 8-yard TD, and the PAT gave OSU a 23-16 lead.
Illinois took over, and things looked good as David Thompson sacked Beutjer for a 10-yard loss, but immediately after, Walter Young made a 19-yard catch, and the Illini were able to get a first down on the next play. After a first down incompletion, Beutjer hit Moorehead in the end zone, but Moorehead's foot came down out of bounds. On third down, a controversial play took place as Beutjer found Walter Young in the end zone, but the official ruled Young was bobbling the ball and called it incomplete (replays showed he did bobble it for at least a time, but it was a tough call and a bit hard to tell). On fourth down, the Buckeyes sealed the deal when Tim Anderson batted a Beutjer pass down at the line of scrimmage for the game-ending play.
- The Bucks didn't look that great, but hey... they're not trying to meet women; they're trying to win football games. There's no such thing as a bad win. The first half was disappointing offensively as OSU had three possessions that started inside Illinois territory and two others that also had good starting points, but only 6 points were scored. The defense played well in the first half and had a little harder time in the second half. Walter Young was giving Dustin Fox fits (although it was just overheard on the radio that Fox may have been fighting a bit of an injury). Young had a big day as he had 10 catches for 145 yards and the lone TD (Jenkins outgained him though as he had 6 catches for 146 yards and a TD). Illinois outgained OSU offensively, and they gave up the game's lone turnover. Illinois also allowed six sacks while OSU allowed four.
- Was Young in possession of the ball on the third down play in overtime? It's quite possible he was. It looked like he bobbled it at first, and then he may have had it for a second when his knee hit the ground, and then he bobbled it again out of bounds. Did he have it long enough? It would have been hard to tell. If he did catch it, then both teams were victims of missed calls on touchdowns because Craig Krenzel most certainly seemed to be in on his first quarter run.
- Maurice Clarett did not play today. He most certainly wanted to; he even seemed to be heading out on the field one time in the second half, but was kept out. They may have to physically hold him down to keep him out next week though. :-)
- Darrion Scott also did not play today due to injury... also of note, Nick Mangold saw significant time at center, and Rob Sims was a starter on the offensive line. Andree Tyree also got in the game for the first time as a fullback.
- Two guys who don't start came up big today; Maurice Hall was one as he led the team with 71 yards on 17 carries and scored the game winning TD, and David Thompson also had himself a fine afternoon as he racked up three sacks.
- All good things come to an end, and today, Mike Nugent's field goal streak came to an end at 23. He fell two short of a national record. Nugent missed twice today.
- The Buckeyes stand at 12-0, and their next opponent needs no introduction. The stakes are huge as all OSU needs is one more win and they'll be playing for all the marbles. College Gameday should be in town as it will be the biggest game of rivalry weekend. Go Bucks!!!