3:30 PM ET, November 5, 2005
Ohio Stadium, COLUMBUS, OH
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Ohio State coach Jim Tressel no longer has to rely so heavily on his defense and special teams.
"We're not opposed to scoring, contrary to popular opinion," Tressel said after the 12th-ranked Buckeyes rolled over Illinois 40-2 on Saturday.
It was the third game in a row in which Ohio State has scored at least 40 points, the first time that's happened since a four-game stretch in 1995.
Troy Smith threw three touchdown passes and Antonio Pittman ran for two scores to lead the Buckeyes (7-2, 5-1) to their fourth win in a row. They kept pace with first-place Penn State in the Big Ten with two league games left -- against Northwestern and at Michigan.
"Anytime we get out there as an offense, we have a goal to score 42 points," Smith said.
Illinois (2-7, 0-6) lost its seventh in a row.
Tressel, who frequently says he believes the punt is the most important play in football, takes an ultraconservative approach with Ohio State's offense. The Buckeyes' goal is to not make mistakes with the ball while attacking on defense and making breaks in the kicking game. Most of the time, that's enough to win.
But earlier in the season, the offense was all but sleep-inducing in losses to Texas (25-22) and Penn State (17-10).
Since a punchless performance in the loss in Happy Valley, however, the Buckeyes have been hitting on all cylinders. The Buckeyes piled up 526 yards while holding the Illini to 160.
"It feels good to put up points," Pittman said. "The offense is rolling."
Smith completed 13 of 21 passes for a career-high 298 yards, and ran for 55 yards on seven carries. His scoring passes covered 41 and 3 yards to Santonio Holmes, and 73 yards to Ted Ginn Jr., who totaled 138 yards on four catches.
Over the past month, Smith has completed 65 percent of his passes for over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns.
"It's me being more comfortable within the offense ... (and) the guys starting to be a little more comfortable with me," Smith said.
Pittman totaled 96 yards on 22 carries, scoring on runs of 16 and 8 yards. He hadn't scored a touchdown until getting into the end zone twice a week ago in a 45-31 win at Minnesota.
"I've got my total up to four now," he said with a wide grin. "So it feels good."
Ginn, who fumbled a punt earlier, returned the second-half kickoff 65 yards to help set up Smith's second scoring pass of the day to Holmes, a 3-yarder for a 19-0 lead.
On the extra point, the snap went through the hands of holder A.J. Trapasso and Illinois strong safety Kevin Mitchell picked up the loose ball and ran 75 yards for a defensive conversion and the Illini's only points.
"I just saw it on the ground and went for it," Mitchell said. "Usually they blow the whistle but when I looked back I didn't see any flags."
The Illini returned that gift on their next possession. On fourth-and-6 at the 24, punter Steve Weatherford faked the kick and rolled right. He was stopped short of the first down at the 29.
"I'd been waiting to call it the whole game but the situation wasn't right," Illinois coach Ron Zook said. "We had some momentum going. I thought if we get this now it's going to be a momentum thing."
It was, but not in the way he envisioned.
Four plays later, Smith faked a quick pitch to the right and then wheeled to flip the ball to Pittman, who swooped around left end, took a hit, and then fought his way across the goal line to complete the 16-yard run. This time the Buckeyes did convert the point-after kick for a 26-2 lead.
To that point, Illinois quarterback Tim Brasic had completed 10 of 11 passes -- but for 16 yards.
Brasic finished 18-of-24 for 92 yards without an interception. He was sacked five times for losses totaling 31 yards, with linebacker A.J. Hawk picking up two of the sacks.
"I don't think their front four is as good as Penn State's, but they did so many twists and stunts with their linebackers," Brasic said. "They just got a lot of pressure on us."
On Ohio State's next possession, Smith tossed a 50-yard pass to Ginn, who was all alone 5 yards clear of defender Sharriff Abdullah. Ginn waited on the pass, caught it and then easily coasted in to complete the 73-yard scoring play.
Ohio State led 13-0 at the half, scoring on field goals of 29 and 22 yards by Josh Huston before Smith tossed a pass into the left flat that Holmes turned into a 41-yard touchdown.
In the end, it was just another loss for the Illini in a long season.
"It's tough," Zook said. "I'm not lying to you."
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... After leading by a score of 13-0 at the half, the Buckeyes outscored Illinois 27-2 in the second half.
Gameball goes to... Troy Smith. The Buckeyes' QB passed for a career-best 298 yards. He also ran for 55 yards on seven carries.
Stat of the game... 160: The total yards allowed by the Ohio State defense against the Illinois offense.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||3-15||10-15|
|4th Down Conversions||1-2||1-1|
|FG||0:13||JOSH HUSTON 29 YD FG|
Drive info: 9 plays, 32 yards.
|FG||7:38||JOSH HUSTON 22 YD FG|
Drive info: 11 plays, 86 yards.
|TD||2:20||SANTONIO HOLMES 41 YD PASS FROM TROY SMITH (JOSH HUSTON KICK)|
Drive info: 9 plays, 80 yards.
|TD||11:14||SANTONIO HOLMES 3 YD PASS FROM TROY SMITH|
Drive info: 7 plays, 35 yards.
|TD||11:14||KEVIN MITCHELL MISSED EXTRA POINT RETURN||2||19|
|TD||7:22||ANTONIO PITTMAN 16 YD RUN (JOSH HUSTON KICK)|
Drive info: 4 plays, 28 yards.
|TD||4:00||TED GINN JR. 73 YD PASS FROM TROY SMITH (JOSH HUSTON KICK)|
Drive info: 4 plays, 85 yards.
|TD||12:10||ANTONIO PITTMAN 8 YD RUN (JOSH HUSTON KICK)|
Drive info: 5 plays, 80 yards.