Buckeyes keep the scoreboard lit up

THE GIGANTIC, high-tech scoreboard at the ‘Shoe was dark during Saturday’s pregame show, but the Buckeyes were able to keep it lit up as they scored 52 points to the Fighting Illini’s 22 during the 99th meeting between the two schools.

The problem was solved in time for the game so highlights related to the game and the pageantry of the halftime show were spotlighted on the board, which was among the stadium’s modernization projects this year.

The scoreboard and the score, however, weren’t the only bright notes at Saturday’s game. The Illibuck trophy, a large carved replica of a turtle, had a polished appearance when held by a player as the team along with OSU head football coach Urban Meyer and his wife, Shelley, sang “Carmen Ohio” at the game’s conclusion.

Illibuck also will remain in Columbus next year as he’s awarded to the previous year’s winner of the Ohio State-Illinois game.

It wasn’t unexpected but The Associated Press poll, updated Sunday, showed that OSU advanced from No. 6 to No. 5. OSU is tied with Georgia for the No. 5 ranking, and that Southern school had been No. 7.

The top four teams remain the same led by Alabama, ahead of No. 2 Oregon, No. 3 Kansas State and No. 4 Notre Dame.

Louisiana State University last week had been No. 5, but it was defeated Saturday by Alabama, 21-17 and dropped to No. 9.

Meyer regarded Saturday’s performance as “a top-5,” but noted, “You’d like to end it a little better instead of a fumble return for a touchdown.”

This is a bye week for the Buckeyes, and Meyer said he was giving the guys that played a lot, Sunday off except for treatments, but he plans to keep them busy later. The coach added, “And I told them, the bye weeks, there’s no rights around here; that’s earned time.

“If we didn’t play well, we would have been in tomorrow (Sunday) working, and going all week like a normal work week. But those guys earned it. I’m proud of them. And two big ones left.

“We’re still working and grinding and pushing because at some point, we have to be a balanced team. We’re not there yet.”

Part of his dissatisfaction is with the passing game.

An area where they’re not efficient enough, according to the coach, is the dropback pass, adding that while quarterback Braxton Miller is “not a dropback passer, you have to be. It’s not acceptable. And the guys around him, we have to continue to get better.”

After noting work is under way on that problem, Meyer said, “But I love his effort, and he played well.”

Recognizing the team’s weaknesses, he indicated efforts to correct these problems will be done or the weaknesses will be exposed when OSU faces the two good teams at season’s end.

OSU will face Wisconsin Nov. 17, and the game with Michigan will be Nov. 24. Both opponents currently have 6-3 records, and the Wolverines are three spots out of the top 25 ranking.

Wisconsin has defeated Northern Iowa, Utah State, UTEP, Illinois, Purdue and Minnesota but has lost to Oregon State, Nebraska and Michigan State.

Michigan’s wins have been over the Air Force, Massachusetts, Purdue, Illinois, Michigan State and Minnesota, but the Wolverines have been defeated by Alabama, Notre Dame and Nebraska.

When the possibility of being a top-5 team was mentioned Saturday, junior running back Carlos Hyde said, “I think we are pretty good, but I know we can do better. There are a lot of things we need to work on. … I believe we are headed in the right direction though.”

Hyde himself did well Saturday when he rushed for three touchdowns, and he now has 13 rushing touchdowns this season. With the three TDs against the Fighting Illini, he is tied with QB Miller and Wisconsin’s Montee Ball with 13 rushing TDs this year and leads the league with 14 touchdowns overall. Hyde also leads the league in scoring with 10.5 points per game.

Miller’s rushing TD in the third quarter passed former Buckeye Cornelius Greene (12, 1973) for sole possession of second place on the OSU single-season rushing TD list by a quarterback.

Sophomore linebacker Ryan Shazier had a team-high 14 tackles, including two tackles for loss (ties career-high) in Saturday’s game. He has had five double-digit tackle performances this season.

Shazier indicated the bye week will be helpful as players who have been injured will have a chance to rest.

As to the 10-0 record, Buckeye cornerback Bradley Roby said, “It’s a great feeling, knowing you haven’t lost a game all season. A lot of teams can’t say that. Just to be 10-0 is a huge accomplishment for us. We’re very close (to 12-0). We just want to finish strong.”

Pokas can be reached at bettypokas@yahoo.com.