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Published: Sunday, 11/6/2005

Buckeyes make statement

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

COLUMBUS - Illinois quarterback Tim Brasic running for his life towards his own end zone with Ohio State linebackers A.J. Hawk and Bobby Carpenter steamrolling up his front porch.

That's not fair.

Illinois defensive backs straining and trying to keep track of the Buckeyes' Ted Ginn Jr. on a deep pass routes.

That's not fair.

Ohio State kicker Josh Huston making every kickoff not returnable by pounding the ball to the back of the end zone, and beyond.

That's not fair.

The Buckeyes overwhelmed an outmatched and outmanned Illinois 40-2 yesterday, and once Ohio State got rolling, it hardly looked fair.

"We've got some big-play guys out there," Ohio State wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez said.

"And whenever you have players like that, things are going to happen. Once we settled down and started making plays, there didn't seem to be much they could do to stop it."

Leading just 6-0 near halftime, the Buckeyes scored on a 41-yard touchdown pass from Troy Smith to Santonio Holmes for a 13-0 advantage, and then poured it on. Ohio State scored 40 or more points for the third straight game.

"Obviously, we made a lot of big plays," said Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, whose team sacked Brasic five times. "Our defense controlled the tempo of the game by creating field position, and gave us a lot of opportunities."

After a pair of Huston field goals and Smith's hook-up with Holmes, Ginn returned the second-half kickoff 65 yards to the Illinois 35. Seven plays later Smith connected with Holmes from three yards out to make it 19-0.

"Santonio is a great athlete," Smith said. "You give him the ball, and he's going to make a play."

Illinois got its only score of the game on a bizarre play following Holmes' second touchdown.

The snap on the extra point went past holder A.J. Trapasso and was picked up by Illinois' Kevin Mitchell, who returned 75 yards for two points.

Later, Illinois tried a fake punt from its own 24-yard line on a fourth-and-six and came up short, setting Ohio State up at the 28.

Four plays later tailback Antonio Pittman took a pitch on a misdirection play, flattened one defender as he turned the corner, then plowed in for a 16-yard score and a 26-2 advantage.

Pittman finished with 96 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns, and was just four yards shy of a fourth straight 100-yard game. He needs just 22 yards to become the Buckeyes' 23rd rusher to surpass 1,000 yards in a season.

"I think Antonio is getting back to his form at Arkon Buchtel in high school when he was nicknamed 'the beast,' " Smith said. "He is a hard, tough runner, and the more carries he gets the more he grinds the defense down."

Before Pittman found the end zone a final time on an eight-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, the Buckeyes hit a home run as Smith hooked up with Ginn on a 73-yard scoring play.

Ginn was at least 15 yards behind the Illinois defense, which had closed on Holmes' shorter route, and had to slow down to catch the ball, but still scored easily to give Ohio State a 33-2 edge near the end of the third quarter.

"Once I saw that I beat my guy, I heard him say 'oh, man' and when I heard him say that, I looked up and saw the ball coming and I knew he bit on Santonio's route," Ginn said. "So the only thing left was catching the ball."

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said the offensive explosion was nothing out of character for the Buckeyes.

"We're not opposed to scoring, contrary to popular opinion," said Tressel, who cited a determination to just run the offense in the second half. "You can take a little bit of the edge off yourself by just standing there and waiting, so we decided to be a little more decisive, and I think that helped."

Illinois senior Steve Weatherford has a much simpler analysis of the outcome.

"We played our hearts out today, but we were overmatched," he said.

Contact Matt Markey at: mmarkey@theblade.com or 419-724-6510.



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