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Beleaguered Bucks seek reversal

• OSU?to meet Illini Saturday in Illinois

October 14, 2011
dsp By RICH GIBSON - Buckeye Blitz (rgibson@timesleaderonline.com) , Times Leader

For a fleeting couple of hours, the Buckeyes were suddenly back last week in Lincoln.

Behind a confident-operating Braxton Miller, Ohio State had built a seemingly comfortable three-touchdown advantage, in essence silencing a Memorial Stadium throng of 85,000 plus.

Even when Miller was sidelined by a second half injury, surely OSU could find a way to hold on and secure a much-needed win.

The Nation, however, looked on in disbelief as Nebraska almost methodically rallied back, first gaining a 27-27 deadlock before finally completing a dramatic comeback and sending Luke Fickell and company staggering home at 0-2 in the Big Ten.

Though the Bucks' 2011 campaign figured to be challenging, an even worse case scenario is potentially looming.

Starting Saturday at Champaign, Ill. where Ohio State opposes Illinois in yet another venue christened Memorial Stadium.

On paper, a fourth overall loss appears imminent for the Scarlet & Gray who will welcome the return (as of this date) of 2010 rushing leader Boom Herron.

Additionally, Fickell has indicated Miller will be back under center for the 3:30 p.m. kickoff.

Illinois is off to a spotless 6-0 start under veteran Ron Zook. The No. 16 rated Illini own what may be considered one signature triumph - a week three home field 17-14 nod over PAC 12 opponent Arizona State.

The Orange & Blue's two conference wins include a 38-35 shootout victory against in-state rival Northwestern. Last week, Illinois was a 41-20 road winner vs. 1-5 Indiana.

Arguably, Ohio State is the Illini's toughest assignment to date despite the fact OSU has fallen against all three of its most formidable opponents (Miami, Michigan State, Nebraska).

The Buckeyes could badly use what many would deem an upset nod at Champaign prior to OSU's bye week (Oct. 22).

OSU must do so against an Illinois team averaging 34.7 points and 447 total yards per outing.

Directing Illinois is sophomore quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase (6-3, 195) who ranks third nationally in yards per pass attempt and is averaging an impressive 15.5 yards per completion.

Scheelhaase, a Kansas City native, has accounted for eight of the Illini's past 12 touchdowns (six passing, two rushing). He also has authored three TD passes for 65 yards or more. All three have been pulled in by 6-0, 190-pound senior Michael Jenkins.

Through six games, Scheelhaase is completing 66.7 percent of his passes (80-120) for 10 TDs and three interceptions.

Jenkins, meanwhile, appears to be a future Sunday player. The Biletnikoff Award candidate burned Northwestern for 268 receiving yards and is ranked fifth nationally, averaging 135.8 yards per outing.

Scheelhaase and Jenkins are the most prolific QB-WR combo in the Big Ten over the past two seasons. They've made connections 95 times, ranking ahead of Michigan State's Kirk Cousins and B.J. Cunningham.

Illinois' balanced run game is led by fifth-year senior Troy Pollard (5-8, 190) who has made the most of 37 carries, generating 361 yards, good for a 9.8 per-carry norm.

Scheelhaase doubles as a running threat based on 347 positive yards, good for four TDs. Senior Jason Ford (6-0, 235) is a short yardage specialist, totaling 279 yards and give scores via 85 attempts.

Behind Jenkins' team-leading 46 receptions, 6-3, 190-pound sophomore Spencer Harris has 13 receptions.

Tight end Evan Wilson, a 6-6, 250-pound sophomore, is primarily a blocker and has logged but five catches.

A pair of seniors anchor the offensive front in 6-6, 315-pound guard Jack Cornell and 6-5, 315-pound tackle Jeff Allen.

Junior guard Hugh Thornton (6-5, 310); junior center Graham Pocic (6-7, 305) and redshirt freshman tackle Michael Heitz (6-5, 295) also start up front.

Defensively, senior cornerback Tavon Wilson (6-0, 205) leads the Illini in tackles. Middle linebacker Ian Thomas, a fifth-year senior, ranks second with 34 stops.

Junior Whitney Mercilus (6-4, 265) has recorded a team-high eight quarterback sacks at defensive end. The Bucks will also get a heavy dose of 6-6, 240-pound junior linebacker Michael Buchanan who has 4.5 QB sacks.

Following last week's loss at Nebraska, Ohio State is averaging 24.3 (points) while yielding 17.8 per game.

Tailbacks Carlos Hyde (400) and Jordan Hall (277) will be joined by Herron this week. Miller has amassed an additional 209 ground stripes.

Through the air, Miller is 25-of-47 for 386 yards and four scores. Bauserman has totaled 492 aerial stripes via 40-of-86 accuracy.

Tight end Jake Stoneburner has made 11 receptions with five going for touchdowns. Freshman Devin Smith adds nine grabs, good for 187 yards and three scores.

BLITZKRIEGS

ILLINI placekicker Derek Dimke has made his last 10 field goals dating back to last season. This year, Dimke is a perfect 7-of-7 from three-point range and owns a sterling 36-of-41 career mark...Wilson is reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week following a superb road outing at Indiana where he returned a fumble 66 yards for a TD and also logged a team-high nine solo tackles, including a QB sack and pass break-up....

STONEBURNER is just four TD receptions short of becoming OSU's all-time leader for TD receptions by a tight end.

The current standard (10) belongs to John Lumpkin (1996-98). Tied for second with nine apiece are Ricky Dudley (1994-95) and Charles Bryant (1959-61).....

IN addition to Herron, right guard Marcus Hall returns this week after sitting out the Nebraska game via NCAA suspension. Hall, a redshirt sophomore, has started six times in his career....

FOLLOWING Ohio State's bye week (Oct. 22), the Bucks are back at Ohio Stadium where Wisconsin's Badgers invade for a Oct. 29 prime time kickoff (8:00) which will be nationally televised...

Gibson may be reached at rgibson@timesleaderonline.com

 
 

 

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