Miller completes one pass in Ohio State win over Illinois

Woody Hayes would be proud. Sort of.

The Ohio State Buckeyes partied like it was 1969 as they pounded Illinois into submission with a physical defense and a solid running game, winning 17-7. The Buckeyes spent most of the day in the power-I, and Dan Herron returned to the lineup to lead the running attack. Meanwhile, Braxton Miller completed only one pass in the game – a touchdown to tight end Jake Stoneburner. On this windy day, the formula worked well as Miller was more than happy to run out of the pocket. I don’t know who is on a bigger learning curve – freshman quarterback Miller or first-year head coach Luke Fickell. Fickell seems to figure things out, but he’s always about three quarters too late. Even with this win, the lack of imagination of the Ohio State coaches in the passing game is embarrassing.

Meanwhile, The Fighting Illini learned what it was like to face a real defense. Despite their collapse last week against Nebraska, the Ohio State defense is a solid unit that plays physical football. Illinois had built a 6-0 record against mediocre competition, but reality set in against Ohio State.

Then there’s the Ron Zook factor. He’s going to take some heat for a late-game decision to go for it on fourth down when he could have kicked a field goal to bring the Illini within one score of a tie.

The Buckeyes have been a mess all year, but it will be interesting to see if they can compete with Wisconsin in a huge home game in two weeks after their bye week. It also looks like the Michigan game will be competitive this year.

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Illinois is wasting Arrelious Benn

In junior Arrelious Benn, the Illinois Fighting Illini houses one of the most talented receivers in college football.

Of course, you wouldn’t know that based on the way Ron Zook and quarterback Juice Williams waste Benn’s talent every week.

Zook said this summer that the Illini needed to find more ways to get the ball into Benn’s hands, which included giving him touches on the ground and in the return game. But so far, Benn has only received one carry this season (he gained eight yards on the play), which came last week in a 30-0 loss to Ohio State.

Granted, Benn suffered an ankle injury against Missouri in the opening week of the season, which limited his production against Illinois State in Week 2. But his ankle was fine last week when he caught just four passes for 33 yards in the loss to the Buckeyes.

One factor that has affected Benn’s opportunities in the offense has been the play of Williams. Despite Zook and the Illini’s attempt to make Williams the face of the program this summer, the senior has struggled dramatically in the first three games and appears to have regressed as a passer.

In Columbus on Saturday, Williams struggled with his decision-making and accuracy, and even when he found open receivers he didn’t hit them in stride. Benn was given little opportunity to make plays after the catch, which is something that could benefit Illinois’ passing game immensely.

If Zook sticks with Williams and the quarterback continues to struggle, we may never see Benn reach his full potential. And for a receiver with NFL-caliber skills, that’s a major disappointment. Zook needs to find ways to get Benn more opportunities to showcase his talent in Illinois’ offense.

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