THE OHIO State Buckeyes and the Fighting Illini of the University of Illinois will be full speed ahead, not moving like a bunch of turtles, as they try to earn the Illibuck trophy Saturday afternoon at the 'Shoe.
In fact, they're focusing on being quick, having momentum and rushing rather than moving at a turtle's pace even though the wooden replica of that marine reptile is being sought by both teams. The tradition began in 1925 with a live turtle, and two honorary societies from OSU and Illinois will present the trophy of the turtle replica during the halftime of Saturday's game to the winner of the previous game between the two universities. It's the second oldest trophy exchanged in the Big Ten.
OSU quarterback Braxton Miller, one of 16 semifinalists for the 76th Maxwell Award for the Collegiate Player of the Year, definitely hasn't been styling his rushing after a turtle. Although a tortoise may have beaten the hare in one of Aesop's Fables, everyone knows that football players during a game don't take time for 40 winks like the hare.
Miller apparently is well aware of the importance of speed as he is first Ohio State quarterback and only the third quarterback in Big Ten history to top 1,000 yards rushing for a season. He needs one more rushing touchdown to tie the Buckeye record for rushing TDs by a quarterback in a single season.
Miller leads the Big Ten Conference and ranks 11th nationally with 121.4 rushing yards per game. That's only part of his outstanding record.
Buckeye head football coach Urban Meyer emphasized the importance of momentum when asked about his first year in establishing himself at a school and establishing the program at OSU.
Mentioning "momentum in recruiting, momentum in development of your players," Meyer went to say, "You're dealing with 18, 19, 20-year-olds so momentum is everything. You don't look past this week. You never look beyond like let's play for next year. We're not playing for next year. We're trying to get as many wins as we can. The whole thing is about getting win number 10."
Illini head football coach Tim Beckman, when summarizing last week's game when Indiana defeated Illinois, said that the team didn't get better at protecting QB Nathan Scheelhaase and that's very, very important.
As to what can be done Saturday to try to protect Scheelhaase and try to get the passing game going, Beckman replied, "We've probably got to get off the ball a little bit quicker and do some more movement-type passing. With protection-wise, we've kept backs in, we've kept tight ends in to chip and help protect, but we've got to continue to strive to do better. It still comes down to a one-on-one battle when they're blitzing, so you've got to win."
Scheelhaase is among Illinois career leaders in several categories, including being fourth in passing efficiency, sixth in total offense, eighth in TD passes and ninth in passing yardage, completions and attempts as well as 20th in rushing yardage.
Jonathan Brown, junior linebacker for the Illini, is one of 12 semifinalistists for the Butkus Award, which goes annually to the nation's top linebacker.
Saturday's game will be the 99th match-up between the two teams in a series that began in 1902. The Buckeyes have the lead, 64-30-4 with the 2010 win vacated, and also lead in Columbus, 37-18-4. Seven of the last 11 games at the 'Shoe have been won by the Illini.
Ohio State has advanced to a No. 6 ranking, but the Buckeyes were No. 1 when the Illini's last win over OSU occurred in Columbus during 2007. That was when QB Isiah John "Juice" Williams led Illinois to a 28-21 win over OSU.
Not only is OSU currently one of only six unbeaten FBS teams, but the Buckeyes also are the only team that is 9-0 (5-0 in the Big Ten). OSU now has its longest winning streak in five years or since the 2007 team opened 10-0.
OSU SOPHOMORE linebacker Ryan Shazier has been selected at the Big Ten Conference's co-defensive player of the week for his efforts in the OSU's win over Penn State...
ILLINOIS' record is 2-6 overall and 0-4 in the Big Ten. The Illini defeated Western Michigan, 24-7, and Charleston Southern, 44-0, and lost to Arizona State by a 45-14 score; Louisiana Tech, 52-24; Penn State, 35-7; Wisconsin, 31-14; Michigan, 45-0; and Indiana, 31-17...
AMONG the players praised by Meyer at Monday's press conference was sophomore wide receiver Evan Spencer, son of Tim and Gilda Spencer. His father, a St. Clairsville High School and OSU graduate as well as former running backs coach for the Buckeyes, now is running backs coach for the Chicago Bears. Meyer said Evan "played very good, his three for three opportunities, made plays all three times." ...
SATURDAY'S game, which will begin at 3:30 p.m., will be televised by ESPN with former Bellaire High and OSU product Joey Galloway along with Beth Mowins in the booth.
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