Illinois Upsets #1 Ohio State 28-21 in the Horseshoe

Ohio State is number one no more as the Fighting Illini of Illinois came into Columbus and played a sound game of football. A number of streaks came to an end for the Buckeyes who had been dominating the Big 10 conference.

 A 28-game regular season winning streak and 20-game conference winning streak are no longer active, the latter of the two being a conference record.

 Illinois put the spread offense on display in the horseshoe and put the rest of the country on notice, they aren’t one-dimensional anymore.

Quarterback Isaiah “Juice” Williams threw four touchdown passes to four different receivers and ran for 70 yards. He only completed 12 of 22 but didn’t throw any interceptions and ran the offense with efficiency.

 The game started off looking like a rout.

 On the opening play OSU quarterback Todd Boeckman hit Brian Hartline for a 65 yard gain due to a blown coverage and on the very next play Chris Wells ran 11 yards for the first touchdown of the game.

 The next possession included the most important play of Ohio State’s potentially undefeated season.

 Illinois running back Daniel Dufrene ran 80 yards down to the Ohio State three-yard-line and appeared to fumble the ball into the endzone where it was recovered by Ohio State safety Anderson Russell. The fumble was ruled to have been caused by the ground and was not challenged or looked at by the replay booth despite the magnitude of the play. Even the ABC/ESPN announcing crew failed to bring this play up as the game progressed. It was as if the play went off without a hitch. Replay officials had more than enough opportunity to take a look at the play as Juice took a while to get the next snap off. Unfortunately justice was not served and Juice threw his first touchdown pass of the game to Mike Hoomanawanui to tie the game.

 Had the play been reversed it would have been Ohio State ball at their 20-yard line after the touchback. Instead the game was tied at seven with Illinois as confident as ever.

 Boeckman continued his solid play on the second OSU possession scrambling to pick up a first down instead of forcing the ball into coverage. His athleticism was noticeable for such a player of his size on several runs. But just when it looked like the Buckeyes would take over the game with the score 14-7, Boeckman threw the first of his three interceptions and Illinois marched down the field for their second score.

 The defenses began to step up led by their linebacking corps. James Laurinaitis and Marcus Freeman kept the Illini offense in check for much of the second quarter but defending the spread can be tough, just ask your friends at Ann Arbor.

 For Illinois, tackling machine J Leman impressed me with his sideline to sideline play.

 The Illini offense put on a clock management clinic in this game, most notably at the end of the first half where Juice threw his third touchdown pass and didn’t leave any time for OSU to do anything offensively before the break.

The second half was all Illinois.

 Led by running back Rashard Mendenhall, who ran the ball on five consecutive plays spanning the end of the third quarter and the start of the fourth, Illinois kept the ball out of Ohio State’s hands by running the ball consistently for first downs.

 OSU ran only three plays in the fourth quarter, a two yard run by Chris Wells, a 16-yard run by Todd Boeckman and an interception thrown by Boeckman.

 Illinois’ final drive began at the eight-minute mark of the fourth and didn’t stop until the final whistle blew.

 The blown fumble call in the fourth quarter gave Illinois an advantage but Ohio State had plenty of chances to continue their undefeated season. They couldn’t stop the Illini offense when it mattered most and the paid the price with a loss.  The Buckeyes can still go to the Rose Bowl with a victory over Michigan next week but they will need a fair bit of help from teams ranked ahead of them to get back into the top two for a chance at the national title.

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