The passing game just wasn’t working for Ohio State on Saturday at Illinois.
Thirty attempts, 13 completions and a modest 150 yards.
Maybe it was the wind, as quarterback Braxton Miller said. Maybe something else, because Illini quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase completed 33 passes for 288 yards.
Whatever the case, it gave the Buckeyes (10-0, 6-0 Big Ten) a chance to put the ball on the ground Big Ten style. And, in a bad sign for Indiana, Michigan and any other teams left in the Buckeyes’ path, it worked all too well.
Ohio State pounded the Illini for 441 yards on 42 carries in a 60-35 win.
“Yeah, we went back to basics,” Miller said. “We just handed the ball to Carlos [Hyde] or me and we’ve got the best offensive line in the Big Ten or the country.”
On Sunday, the Buckeyes dropped from third to fourth in the AP poll.
Hyde piled up 246 yards on 24 carries m along with four rushing touchdowns. Miller had 184 yards on the ground and a score.
The wind blew at a steady 18 to 20 mph for much of the game.
Miller, who two years ago threw just four times in a windy 17-7 win in Champaign, said he struggled with the weather.
“The wind was so tricky at times,” he said.
But when Illinois (3-7, 0-6) started coming back from a 28-0 deficit, the turn to the run game let Ohio State grind the Illini down.
Hyde blew through the tired Illinois defense for a 55-yard touchdown and another from 51 yards less than two minutes apart late in the fourth quarter.
“No question we wore down,” Illinois coach Tim Beckman said.
While the Buckeyes found out just how much they can rely on their running game, Hyde said the Buckeyes’ failure to put away a team they led by four touchdowns early shows they have work to do if they want to keep winning and stay in the hunt for Big Ten and national titles.
“A win is a win, but I’m not pleased with the way we performed today,” he said. “If we [want to] get to where we want to go this year, we have to get better.”
For his part, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said he’s finished talking about the big picture and those goals.
“We have to make sure that our focus is getting better each week instead of the national stuff,” he said. “I think I’m learning a lesson to shut my mouth and quit worrying about this and that.”
Beckman’s Illini, meanwhile, are left an end to their talk of bowl eligibility, a 20-game Big Ten losing streak and just two games left — at Purdue and against Northwestern — to end it.