- Austin Ward, ESPN Staff Writer
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A few things Ohio State will feel good about and some issues it will need to correct after tacking on yet another win with an easy 52-22 romp over Illinois at home on Saturday afternoon:
1. Airtime: A few minor fundamental tweaks evidently produced major results for Braxton Miller through the air. The Buckeyes went to work cleaning up the sophomore quarterback's footwork, and aside from perhaps one wild throw in the first half, Miller was largely right on target from start to finish against the Illini. Miller didn't even have to toss it around much to carve up Illinois, racking up 226 yards and 2 touchdowns on just 20 attempts to power one more explosive offensive outing.
2. Lock it up: A shift to a more aggressive approach on defense is still suiting the Buckeyes just fine. The added pressure the coaching staff has dialed up regularly forced the Illini to rush throws and look for escape routes, and the tight coverage in the secondary rarely allowed many chances to even attempt a pass down the field. In all, Illinois quarterback completed 19 passes against the Buckeyes -- but they only accounted for a paltry 96 yards and came with a costly interception.
3. Money man: Miller makes the flashy plays, but when it comes time to finish things off, Carlos Hyde has become automatic near the goal line as the closer. The junior running back added to his staggering scoring numbers with three more touchdowns against the Illini, giving him 14 trips to the end zone through eight games after missing a couple weeks with a knee sprain. Hyde certainly contributed more than tough running in short-yardage situations though, gashing Illinois for 137 yards to keep a late push for 1,000 this season in play heading into the final two games.
1. Protect the rock: Everything was in place for Rod Smith to head into the bye week on a high note. The talented running back had made a huge play in the passing game by hauling in a 51-yard toss from Miller on a wheel route for a touchdown, and he'd flashed his ability with 32 yards that seemed to come easily on his 5 rushing attempts. But his tendency to be a little loose with the football again popped up with a lost fumble that will continue to give the Buckeyes a reason to be cautious with its use of the sophomore.
2. Hands of Stone: The midseason resurgence of Jake Stoneburner hit a bit of a snag despite another explosive play provided by the senior, the latest a 24-yard reception to help set up the opening touchdown for the Buckeyes. The veteran wide receiver contributes in more ways than as a target for Miller, but the quarterback was relying on Stoneburner's typically sure hands to start the second half -- and twice in three plays he let the ball hit the turf. Those drops didn't cost Ohio State anything against the Illini, but the margin for error will surely be smaller at Wisconsin and in the finale against Michigan.
3. Keep it clean: Struggling to generate much of anything on offense, the Illini needed some help from the Buckeyes. They got it at least three times thanks to costly penalties, and that didn't go unnoticed by coach Urban Meyer. Ohio State only had six penalties accepted against it for the game, but they accounted for a significant amount of field position with 79 yards stepped off. And more important, the Buckeyes also handed a relatively toothless attack three first downs for free, generosity that can come back to haunt a team looking for perfection.