COLUMBUS, Ohio - The Illinois loss to Ohio State Saturday ended the chance for a third straight bowl…
Three In, Three Out
COLUMBUS - Illinois lost it's 11th straight Big Ten game Saturday, falling to Ohio State 52-22 in front of 105,311 people in Ohio Stadium. The seventh loss on the season marked the end of a two year postseason streak, as Illinois is now officially out of the running to become bowl eligible. Let's take a look at three things that went right and three things that went wrong in the loss. Three In The first quarter as a whole. The opening period ended with Ohio State leading 7-6 and Illinois playing fairly well on both sides of the ball. The offense put together two long drives, but both ended with field goals instead of touchdowns. Defensively, Illinois held Ohio State to a three and out on it's first drive before giving up a 10-play touchdown drive. Illinois came ready to play: It won the battle for field position -- on average, Illinois began on it's own 36, OSU, it's own 26 -- and time of possession -- Illinois, 9:16, OSU, 5:44. Given the circumstances, the Big Ten losing streak and playing on the road, the start was about as good as Illinois could have hoped for. Terry Hawthorne's play. The senior corner entered this season with high expectations and plenty of hype. Injuries, a couple of personal fouls, no work on offense or special teams and the defense's poor play put the chill on positive talk about Hawthorne. Saturday, however, he showed why folks held so much hope for his play this season. He led the team with 10 tackles (nine solo and two for loss) and had a sack. He also had 158 yards on six kick returns (26.3 yard average), including a long of 45. Following the game, Hawthorne said he's finally feeling healthy. His play showed that. "The bye week actually did it to me, I got myself healthy on my own and now I feel good," he said. Jon Davis touched the football. A lingering injury is the reason given for Jon Davis' disappearance from the offense since he led the team in rushing in the season opener. Heading into Saturday's game, Davis had touched the ball only seven times (six catches, one rush) since Week One. That changed against the Buckeyes, but it happened too late in the game. The staff inserted Davis into the backfield late in the third quarter, rushing eight times for 27 yards and a touchdown. He also caught two passes for 14 yards. At one point, with the Illini driving for a score, Davis was given the ball three straight times, bullying into the end zone on a one-yard burst the final carry. "It definitely felt good," he said. "I felt like I gave us a spark." Three Out Couldn't stop Braxton. Maybe that should read, couldn't maintain early success against Braxton. The Illini stuffed Miller in the first quarter, holding the explosive dual threat to 33 yards on his first nine carries. The second quarter, however, offered a different feel. Miller led the Buckeyes on four scoring drives, opening up a 31-6 lead in what had previously been a contested game. "They made a couple plays and got some momentum and unfortunately we weren't able to weather the storm," defensive coordinator Tim Banks said. When all was said and done, Miller accounted for 299 yards of total offense and three touchdowns. What happened? What went wrong? It didn't appear that Ohio State made any wholesale adjustments -- the offense was patient with the game plan and waited for Braxton to do his thing. "He's a tremendous player," Banks said. "We obviously wanted to have a better showing, but we're also not under any illusions that he hasn't done that to a lot of people. At the same time we felt like we had a good game plan going in and obviously had a better showing." Michigan's Denard Robinson had similar success against Illinois -- but it was different. He gashed the defense with a few long runs, using his speed. Miller, on the other hand, wore down Illinois, running 18 times and averaging only 4.1 yards per carry. He made big plays in the passing game, completing passes of 24, 31, 32, 51 and 37 yards, among others. Jonathan Brown's injury. Linebacker Jonathan Brown began the game with an obvious intensity and purpose, recording four tackles, one for loss, on Ohio State's first two drives. Following a play mid-first quarter, Brown didn't get back up, laying face down and kicking his legs repeatedly up and down off the turf. He left the field and eventually was taken to the locker room. The team's leading tackler didn't return, knocked from the game with with coach Tim Beckman called a shoulder injury. "We'll see how that progresses," Beckman said. Mike Svetina took Brown's place. He finished with four tackles, but the freshman's play was not on the level of Brown's. Couldn't run the football. Last week the offense ran the ball well against Indiana, but anticipated a tougher challenge against Ohio State. That's exactly what Illinois got, averaging 2.3 yards per carry. Davis provided a burst in the third quarter, but Donovonn Young, who went for 124 yards against the Hoosiers, and quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase never got going. Those two combined for 53 yards on 21 carries. A frustrating theme all season, the offense hasn't been able to pass it's way out of long third down distances when the run isn't working. That's what happened again Saturday, as the team finished 2-of-14 on third down.
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