The No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes are now just two wins away from running the regular-season table for the second straight year after routing the Illinois Fighting Illini 60-35 in Champaign behind a career day from running back Carlos Hyde.
Hyde rushed for a career-high 246 yards and scored five total touchdowns in the blowout victory.
Although the Buckeyes defense was exposed over the final three quarters, the opportunistic unit and Ohio State's vaunted rushing attack were more than enough to propel the Big Ten powerhouse to yet another 10-0 start.
With the loss, Illinois has now dropped 20 consecutive Big Ten games dating back to 2011.
|No. 3 Ohio State 60, Illinois 35|
|Ohio State (10-0, 6-0 Big Ten)||21||14||9||16||60|
|Illinois (3-7, 0-6 Big Ten)||0||14||7||14||35|
Saturday's lopsided Big Ten showdown unfolded just as many expected. The Buckeyes jumped out to an early lead, setting the tone from the outset as quarterback Braxton Miller scored the game's first points on a 70-yard touchdown run.
Ohio State's defense sent a message to the Illinois offense on the very next drive, picking off quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, who finished with two interceptions on the day.
The Buckeyes would squander the solid field position but more than make up for it on their next drive, covering 94 yards in 10 plays to take a 14-0 advantage. A pick-six from Ohio State's Bradley Roby just 85 seconds later increased the Buckeyes' lead to 21 points.
It wasn't until Ohio State took a 28-0 lead in the second quarter that Illinois finally woke up.
The Illini got a huge boost on special teams midway through the quarter when V'Angelo Bentley returned an Ohio State punt 67 yards to the house, finally getting Illinois on the scoreboard.
After Carlos Hyde's touchdown run extended the Buckeyes' dominance to four scores for the second time, Scheelhaase led an impressive 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive before halftime to make it respectable heading into the locker room.
The Illini's momentum carried over into the second half, as Scheelhaase and Co. forged another 75-yard touchdown drive that brought the massive underdogs within two scores.
But that's where Illinois' luck ran out, as Ohio State closed out the third quarter with nine straight points to put the game on ice. The spurt was sparked by a safety forced by the Ohio State defensive front.
Illinois continued to move the ball on the Buckeyes defense in the final quarter, but the Illini couldn't score fast enough or force enough defensive stops. Time ran out, and their comeback attempt fell flat.
Key Player Grades
Braxton Miller, Ohio State, QB: A-
Braxton Miller struggled at times when dropping back to pass on Saturday, but his 150-yard, two-touchdown effort through the air was stellar compared to his one-completion performance two years ago in his first visit to Champaign.
Miller was fantastic as a runner on Saturday, rushing for more than 180 yards and a touchdown on just 16 carries.
Nathan Scheelhaase, Illinois, QB: B
Despite committing a few costly errors, Illinois signal-caller Nathan Scheelhaase was solid on Saturday, finding success with his arm and legs after settling down in the second quarter. He racked up more than 330 total yards of offense and accounted for three touchdowns.
Not bad against the nation's eighth-ranked scoring defense.
Carlos Hyde, Ohio State, RB: A+
Unsurprisingly, Carlos Hyde was a beast again on Saturday, wreaking havoc on Illinois' defense on the ground and through the sky en route to a 272-yard, five-touchdown performance.
Although the Illinois defense ranked 117th against the run coming in, it's hard to take away from Hyde's superb effort.
Ohio State will head back to Columbus, where the Buckeyes will host Indiana next Saturday in their final home game this season. Meanwhile, Illinois will have a week to recover before gearing up for its final road game of the year at Purdue on Saturday.
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