On Ron Turner's checklist of things to do at Illinois, the third-year coach puts progress ahead of warm climates.
The Fighting Illini qualified for their first bowl in five years by bowling over No. 25 Ohio State 46-20 behind Kurt Kittner's four touchdown passes Saturday.
But Turner is still thinking more about where his team has been than about where it might be in the postseason.
"Last year, it was 41-0 against the same football team," Turner said of one of the blackest days in the young Illini's dreary 3-8 season. "They had about 500-some yards and I don't know if we got a first down. So we're continuing to make progress, but we're not done yet."
"We wanted to bury them," Illinois defensive tackle Mike McGee said. "Not bury them in a bad way, but like a wounded animal we didn't want them having any last gasp."
Ohio State (6-5, 3-4 Big Ten) must win at Michigan next week for a winning season to meet the minimum requirement to play in a bowl.
Coach John Cooper was left to wonder if his team is already looking ahead to being home for the holidays.
"I hope they haven't packed it in," he said. "The way we played today at times makes you wonder."
Cooper said he isn't worried about bowls.
"It doesn't matter how I feel about that," he said. "If we don't win another game, we're not going to a bowl game."
Illinois (6-4, 3-4), which has won three of its last four, beat Ohio State and Michigan on the road for the first time ever.
So lopsided was the game that one of the biggest cheers of the game came when a middle-aged man ran onto the field midway through the fourth quarter with Illinois ahead 43-20. He was handcuffed and led away while the crowd aplauded and screamed.
Most of a crowd of 93,429 had left by that time.
It was a meltdown of epic proportions for an Ohio State team that finished last season ranked No. 2, was ninth in the preseason poll and hadn't fallen out of the top 25 since the middle of the 1994 season.
After a punt on their first possession, the Illini scored the next four times they got the ball and six of the next seven. The only time they didn't score, they had four cracks at the end zone from the Ohio State 1 but the Buckeyes held.
Kittner completed 17-of-31 passes for 221 yards, most on short flips that the Illini turned into big gains. Jameel Cook had seven receptions for 100 yards, including a short toss that he turned into a 25-yard touchdown.
"We're playing great," Kittner said. "The guys are competing their butts off and it shows on the field."
Kittner hit Josh Whitman on scoring passes of 2 and 5 yards, the latter tipped by Ohio State cornerback Ahmed Plummer away from intended receiver Michael Dean and into the hands of Whitman.
Kittner, who has 22 touchdown passes and only two interceptions, also found Brandon Lloyd on a 30-yard score.
The Illini also rushed for 266 yards, led by Steve Havard's 104 yards on 28 carries, including a 7-yard run.
"They just moved the ball right downfield on us," Ohio State defensive ends coach Shawn Simms said. "It was flat-out ugly out there."
Meanwhile, Ohio State's offense had three turnovers, resulting in two Illinois touchdowns and a field goal.
Steve Bellisari was 9-of-24 for 133 yards with one interception for Ohio State. He has completed more than half of his passes in only one of his last eight games.
Michael Wiley was one of the few bright spots for the Buckeyes, scoring twice and gaining 128 yards on 19 carries including a 35-yard TD run that got Ohio State as close as 19-7 in the second quarter.
The Illini put the game out of reach with a 10-point burst in the final 34 seconds of the half.
Neil Rackers, who also converted field goals of 24, 47 and 38 yards, boomed a 50-yarder with 34 seconds left in the half.
On the ensuing kickoff, Ken-Yon Rambo took the ball from five yards deep in the end zone and was trying to avoid a tackle when Antoineo Harris punched the ball loose and recovered at the Ohio State 1.
Three plays later, Kittner hit Whitman over the middle for a 29-7 lead.
"That fumble just before halftime for all intents and purposes took us out of the ballgame," Cooper said after Illinois' fifth victory in the last seven meetings at Columbus.
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