5 Answers: Illinois at Ohio State

Neither quarterback recreated past successes in the Buckeyes' 30-0 win over Illinois on Saturday, but that was a much bigger deal for the visitors. We inspect those topics as well as both running games and the success, or lack thereof, Illinois' talented receiving corps enjoyed in this week's Five Answers.

1. Can Juice Williams do it again?

The Illinois senior quarterback was not able to duplicate the masterful performance he put on the last time he played at Ohio Stadium.

Contending both with the rain and an aggressive Ohio State front seven, Williams completed 13 of 25 passes for 77 yards. He was sacked four times and threw two interceptions.

The first pick halted Illinois' game-opening drive, and that turned out to be the closest the Fighting Illini would get to the end zone.

That appeared to be an ill-advised throw, but many of the rest of his struggles had a lot to do with getting little help from his teammates.

The Buckeyes came away impressed with Williams despite his lack of numbers. He still proved elusive and tough to bring down when they did pressure him.

"It was crazy," said Ohio State linebacker Brian Rolle. "I told the guys one time I missed a sack but happened to grab him on the leg and get him down, and I was like, ‘Man, that dude is strong.' Juice Williams is a good guy, better than I think most people give him credit for."

2. Can Terrelle Pryor do it again?

Ohio State's sophomore quarterback did not torch the porous Illinois secondary, but he did not need to.

"We had a huge gameplan today to throw the ball a lot because they play some kind of cover-2 that you can fit in sideline passes against, so we were going to attack that a lot, attack the flat routes and the corner routes, but we didn't get a chance to because of the rain," Pryor said.

Coming off a career-best passing day against Toledo one week earlier, Pryor was content to complete 8 of 13 passes for 82 yards. He threw a touchdown pass and ran 11 times for 59 yards.

"We probably could have passed, but Coach Tressel is very smart so I'm glad that he took all the passing plays out because you never know what could have happened," Pryor said. "As a quarterback, I want to pass every down, but that's part of football. The rain came down and the line stepped up and ran the football. You never know the ball could have slipped out of my hand and I could have thrown a couple interceptions, so I'm glad Coach Tressel didn't put me in that situation."

3. What have the Buckeyes learned about stopping the shotgun sweep?

Illinois gashed the Ohio State defense repeatedly last season with big runs on the edge, something Michigan was also able to do the following week from the same shotgun set the Illini used with such success, but Illinois never was able to find much of any way to consistently attack the Buckeyes this year.

Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Heacock was more apt to credit the players for raising their games than he was in the mood to call attention to any adjustments he and the rest of the defensive staff made.

"We probably do a lot of the things that we did in the past, and we probably do some different things that we did in the past, but I think we've got some guys who are a little more experienced up front," Heacock said. "I think that really helps a lot. I think they're able to handle some changeups and some things that are coming at'em. We've got pretty good speed at linebacker, too, and I think that helps in the spread offense. Our back end's been doing a good job, and I guess the trademark of this group is the team. I don't know if anyone is really standing out. It's a different guy every game.

4. Can Ohio State's defensive backs prevent big plays in the passing game?

Illinois' big-play passing game never got off the ground.

Star receiver Arrelious Benn caught just four passes for 33 yards, but those totals were the best on his team.

"They didn't get a chance to throw the ball around like they wanted to, but I think we were all over them in the secondary," said Ohio State cornerback Devon Torrence, who had three tackles.

He said the Buckeyes played man-to-man about 50 percent of the time and that the plan was to "just be physical with them and know what they're doing before they do it. Pay attention to their splits and just play football."

5. What about the Ohio State running game?

The final rushing total of 236 yards was lower than a week ago, but the method was more notable.

The Buckeyes ran exactly one play from under center in the first three quarters, and that was simply a call for Pryor to take a knee to run out the clock in the first half.

The rest of the time, it was all shotgun, generally with three- or four-receiver sets. But the Buckeyes did not spread out the Fighting Illini to pass. They mostly did so to run.

When all was said and done, Brandon Saine had 81 yards on 13 carries and fellow tailback Dan Herron added 75 yards on 14 carries. Both were beneficiaries of a new running approach that saw the Buckeyes gut the Illini defense right up the middle with zone runs and counters, including a new one in which Jake Ballard, lined up as an H-back, acted as a lead blocker with great success.

"I think it definitely opened up some holes for us," Herron said. "It helped the offensive line a little bit to move them around a little bit and get some space for the backs.

"The offensive line did a great job today. They've been working hard, and it was only a matter of time that a game like this was going to happen. Now we just have to get better and execute from what we did today."

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