Pryor and Wells weren't the only outstanding performers for Ohio State, and several other players stepped up their games as the Buckeyes rolled to another Big Ten road win.
In this era of wide-open offenses and multiple spread looks, it's pretty hard to imagine winning a game with only ten passing attempts, but that's exactly what Ohio State accomplished against Illinois. Ohio State basically lined up and ran the ball right at the Illini defense from start to finish on Saturday, with little resistance. The Buckeyes finished with 52 rushes for more than 300 yards in one of their top rushing performances of the season.
The bulk of the credit for the Ohio State rushing dominance lies with the offensive line, as this much-maligned group might have played their best game of the season. Mike Brewster, Steve Rehring, Alex Boone, Jim Cordle and Bryant Browning crushed a pretty good Illinois front seven all day long, even when the defense knew the run was coming. This group established the tone for how the game would be played early on, and the Illini never recovered.
Senior Nadar Abdallah followed up his great play against Northwestern by coming up big against Illinois. Abdallah pressured Juice Williams from his defensive tackle spot and was active in the middle of the defensive line all day long. Abdallah is another in a long line of Buckeye seniors that have played their best football as their careers come to an end. He has earned the right to start against Michigan, and will be counted on to help control the Wolverine offense.
Tyler Moeller received his first extended playing time, and this speedster certainly proved himself worthy of defensive coordinator Jim Heacock's trust. Filling in for an injured Jermale Hines, Moeller contributed seven tackles and a forced fumble to the Buckeye defensive effort. With the departure of James Laurinaitis and Marcus Freeman, Moeller might have thrown his name into the hat for major playing time in 2009.
Sophomore receiver Dane Sanzenbacher only had two pass receptions, but both were memorable. His first catch was the standard grab across the middle where he was again clobbered by a defender. To nobody's surprise, Sanzenbacher not only held onto the football, but was ready to come through when his number was called again. Late in the second quarter, Sanzenbacher beat his man and caught a perfectly-thrown pass from Pryor for a touchdown, giving the Buckeyes a 23-7 lead. Sanzenbacher might not be looked at as a tough guy, but there might not be a tougher football player on the team.
It's probably a bit absurd to consider Jim Tressel as an unsung hero of this football team, but in a year where high expectations haven't been met, Tressel must be commended for keeping his team together.
Following the crushing loss to USC, Tressel inserted two freshmen, Brewster and Pryor, into the starting lineup. Even a disappointing loss to Penn State cannot diminish the coaching job Tressel has done in putting the Buckeyes in position to share another Big Ten championship.
While the Buckeyes haven't been in the hunt for a national title, the truth is that this team has not fallen apart following two tough defeats, and Tressel deserves a lot of the credit for that fact.
This Saturday, Tressel will look to extend his record of dominance over arch-rival Michigan. A win over Michigan will go a long way toward erasing some of the disappointment of the two earlier losses.