5 Answers: Ohio State at Illinois

Stopping Juice Williams was priority No. 1 for the Buckeyes, who also had to contend with a number of other talented Fighting Illini offensive players. How they did that, how Terrelle Pryor continued to progress and which way the battles in the trenches went are all examined in this week's "Five Questions".

1. Can Juice Williams do it again?

In terms of leading Illinois to another victory over the Buckeyes, the answer is no, but the Fighting Illini junior had a fine game nonetheless.

He threw for 192 yards two touchdowns and ran for another 48. He also kept numerous plays alive with his scrambling ability, and the Buckeyes came away saying plenty of good things about him.

"He's a tough quarterback," said OSU linebacker/safety Tyler Moeller. "He's big and he's shifty. He can do just about everything."

However, an ill-advised throw into coverage resulted in a Kurt Coleman interception that killed an Illini drive, and Williams' first-quarter fumble forced by Moeller inside his own 20 set up the Buckeyes' first touchdown.


2. Can anybody help Williams?

Running back Daniel Dufrene came the closest, but his 121 all-purpose yards were not enough.

He ran for 79 yards on eight carries, doing most of his damage on a couple of long runs, and caught five passes for 42 more yards. He was a positive option in the flats on screen passes, too.

Aurrelious Benn entered the game leading the Big Ten in receiving yards per game (94.7) but failed to reach his usual production. The highly touted sophomore caught three passes for 65 yards, including a 30-yarder.

Ohio State appeared to win the battle up front as well. They sacked Williams twice and had three other plays go into the stat sheet as quarterback hits. He was pressured on the majority of pass plays and had to contend with defenders in the backfield on some option plays.


3. How will Ohio State try to defend the Fighting Illini?

Last year, the Ohio State coaching staff came under fire for a game plan perceived to be too passive after the Fighting Illini gashed the Buckeyes for 400 yards, including 260 on the ground, but no such claims should be made this season.

Although the Buckeyes actually allowed more total yards (455), they were the aggressors when they needed to be and still held their hosts to more than 10 points below their usual scoring average.

"I think we were just a lot more aggressive," linebacker James Laurinaitis said. "We started attacking. I think with an offense like this you can't sit back and wait. They have too much talent. If you sit back and wait for what decision they're going to make on those zone option things and on the pitches and stuff they'll just beat you to the punch. So you have to kind of attack them, and we made more plays today than they had a chance to."


4. Can Terrelle Pryor continue to progress?

The freshman had his deadliest college day as a runner and looked solid in his few throws. He finished with a career-high 110 yards rushing and completed 6 of 10 passes for 49 yards. He threw for a score and ran for another.

"I thought he showed a lot of patience as far as when we threw the ball, which wasn't a whole bunch," OSU head coach Jim Tressel said. "He did a good job of waiting in there and even though on a couple of incompletion his patience was pretty good and we just didn't quite put them in there. He, I think, understands it more and more everyday."


5. Can the Buckeyes keep improving up front?

When the final stat sheet shows the first 300-yard rushing day since 2005, the big fells up front must have been doing something right.

"I think the line blocked very well today," Pryor said. "After I would hand the ball off and look up field there were large holes."

Chris "Beanie" Wells ran for 143 yards on 24 carries, making he and Pryor the first pair of Buckeyes to eclipse 100 yards rushing in the same game since Troy Smith and Antonio Pittman did so against Iowa in 2005. That 31-6 win was also Ohio State's last 300-yard day as a team.

"That was big for Beanie to have a big day," Pryor said. "It's big for the linemen to get their focus and everything back to let them know they can do it."

On the flip side, the defensive line continued its surge during the second half of the season. End Cameron Heyward had seven tackles and tackle Nader Abdallah (two tackles and a fumble recover) was a force both against the run and as a pass rusher.

The group helped make room for linebackers Laurinaitis, Marcus Freeman and Moeller to combine for 23 tackles, 3.5 of which were for loss.


Buckeye Sports Top Stories