COLUMBUS - When Illinois faced a fourth-and-inches from its own 33-yard line with 6:53 left in yesterday's game against Ohio State, Illini coach Ron Zook sent his punting team onto the field.
But after OSU called timeout to get the right personnel on the field, Illinois quarterback Juice Williams lobbied hard to get the chance to go for the first down.
"Juice told me he would get it, and I said he better," Zook said. "We have a lot of trust and confidence in our guys, and felt confident Juice would get it for us." Williams gained two yards, and continued a 16-play Illinois drive that consumed the final eight minutes, and sealed the Illini 28-21victory.
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said he'd like to have that decision to do over again.
"Well, I wish I wouldn't have called timeout," Tressel said. "When they had their punt team out there, we still had 12 or 13 guys out on the field, which was a problem. But I guess in hindsight, I'd have liked to have not called that, because at least we would have had a chance with the ball back."
BOECKMAN STRUGGLES: Ohio State coach Jim Tressel had talked often about how the Buckeyes did not need quarterback Todd Boeckman to make a bunch of dynamic plays to win games. They just needed the junior and first-year starter to make good decisions - and not do anything to lose games.
There were a number of culprits in yesterday's loss that dropped the No. 1 Buckeyes from the national championship picture, and Boeckman was one of them. He threw three interceptions, and had no touchdown passes while completing 13 of 23 for a modest 156 yards.
Illinois manufactured TDs after two of those interceptions, and used the third one to set up a 16-play possession that ended the game.
Ohio State running back Maurice Wells said the Illinois defense made it a long day for Boeckman.
"Their front four played well, and they got pressure on Todd and plugged up the running lanes," Wells said. "They also covered our receivers pretty well, too. It was a complete defensive effort on their part."
Boeckman, who had thrown for 23 TDs with just eight interceptions through the first 10 games, said the last time he felt this low was following the 41-14 loss to Florida in last season's national championship game.
"These kinds of losses are hard to take," he said. "It's even tougher being a leader on this team and knowing you could have played better and helped out the team."
Tressel said Boeckman, who rushed for 68 yards and had a couple of long scrambles that turned potential sacks into first downs, might have been pushing too much.
"There were some moments when - the last one, for instance - he was trying so hard to make something good happen for us that maybe he shouldn't have tried to fit that one in there," Tressel said. "But he was competing, and he was going hard."
MENDOZA HONORED: Former Ohio State wrestler Ray Mendoza, who was killed in action in Iraq late in 2005, was honored during yesterday's game. Mendoza was a two-year letterman, and was the Big Ten runner-up at heavyweight in 1993.
Mendoza enlisted in the Marines following graduation, but continued to wrestle and made the 1996 Olympic Team as an alternate.
He moved up the ranks quickly in the Marines, and achieved the rank of major shortly before his death. Mendoza received the Purple Heart posthumously, with the honor being presented during an Ohio State home wrestling match in 2006.
MILITARY SALUTE: The U.S. armed forces were honored in a number of ways surrounding the game. Part of the salute included a pregame flyover by four F-16 fighter jets that are part of the 180th Fighter Wing, based in Toledo.
Representatives from military units joined the Ohio State marching band for the halftime show, and all veterans and active military in attendance were recognized.
MANY WITNESSES: Yesterday's game attracted an announced crowd of 105,453, fifth largest in Ohio Stadium history.39.96196 -83.00298