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September 26, 2009COLUMBUS - Ohio State's defense put together its second straight shutout, a feat that has not happened in Columbus since 1996, as it held Illinois (1-2, 0-1) to 170 yards en route to an easy 30-0 win for the Buckeyes (2-1, 1-0). The Bucks ran for 236 total yards and ran off 21 straight running plays to end the first half.
Intermittent downpours forced the teams to scale back offenses early and the Buckeyes locked things down in only attempting two Terrelle Pryor passes in the first 30 minutes for zero yards (0-2), a dubious stat that hasn't happened since the 2007 Michigan game (2nd half).
But the defensive effort that included five sacks, three interceptions and constant annoyance for Juice Williams was the story of the game and it was hard to hide smiles in the post game interview room.
"There's a lot of pride and legacy in being a Silver Bullet at Ohio State," head coach Jim Tressel said. "(That is) something that has been going on for many, many years and they take a lot of pride in making sure they can uphold the tradition. They play hard."
Kurt Coleman led the defense with nine tackles but linebacker Brian Rolle was a player who stole the show with eight of his own and half of a sack. Rolle put the brakes on Illinois in its first scoring drive when he picked off a pass and took it back for 39 yards. It was a critical play because the Illini had already penetrated deep into Ohio State territory and could have taken an early lead with any points.
"I thought that was a huge momentum change," Tressel said. "That set the tone for (Illinois) that it was going to be difficult to score on us."
But the Illini felt that the Ohio State defense was only part of the problem that they encountered on Saturday afternoon.'
"We were able to move the ball throughout the day," Illinois head coach Ron Zook said after the game. "They weren't letting Juice Williams run the ball, but they weren't the whole reason we played like we did today."
Even with such a dominating performance there were still some tense moments when the offense stalled and had to settle for field goals on the first two scoring drives.
"The defense made it easy on us the past couple of weeks," wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher said. "When you get shutouts, the pressure is off of the offense to make plays."
And the pressure being off did pay off with Ohio State knocking in three touchdowns, two from Dan Herron and one from Sanzenbacher. There was special interest in the one that went to Dane because of it happening in the final 1:18 of the game. Tressel told the post game media that it wasn't any sort of purpose score and that the Bucks were just playing to keep it from being a three possession game and eliminate the risk of a blocked field goal attempt.
The team will have Saturday night to celebrate the win before focusing on a road night game against Indiana. But for now things are feeling good and nobody is looking past the accomplishment of a large Big Ten victory.
"The defense is great," offensive center Michael Brewster said. "I feel like we make them better and they make us better. It feels great to get a win. Even in bad weather like this, it was fun."