Motivation? No problem for top-ranked Ohio State.
"We threw a big goose egg on the board," linebacker Na'il Diggs said after he returned a fumble for a touchdown in Ohio State's 41-0 victory over Illinois. "We can stay motivated against any team, hard or easy, ranked or unranked."
Ohio State (5-0, 2-0) faces Big Ten also-rans Minnesota, Northwestern and Indiana in the next three weeks. It will wrap up its regular season against Michigan at home.
"This was a game to test our maturity. If we're mature, then we're not going to treat anybody lightly. We're not going to want to win by just a little," safety Damon Moore said.
Ohio State (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten) looked very mature against the young and inexperienced Illini, who just broke a 15-game Big Ten losing streak last week.
Joe Germaine threw for 307 yards and three touchdowns, completing 17-of-28 passes.
| Ohio State running back Michael Wiley dives for a first down. (AP) |
"They're the best team I've played against all year. Germaine put the ball right on the money today," lllinois defensive tackle Garrett Johnson said.
The Buckeyes racked up 24 points and 326 yards in the first half as Germaine spread his passes among Dee Miller, David Boston, Reggie Germany and John Lumpkin -- with the latter three each scoring touchdowns.
The defense scored a touchdown thanks to Diggs, kept constant pressure on Illinois quarterback Kurt Kittner and his receivers, and limited Illinois to just 69 yards in the first half and 57 yards rushing for the game.
"They have weapon everywhere," Illinois coach Ron Turner said.
Ohio State got the only points it needed on its first possession of the game, a 40-yard field goal by Dan Stultz at the end of a nine-play, 59-yard drive.
With 8:31 left in the first quarter, the Buckeyes began a 79-yard march capped by Germaine's 1-yard pass to Lumpkin. Germaine completed passes of 15 yards to Boston and 19 to Lumpkin and Michael Wiley contributed runs of 13 and 9 yards to the drive.
Four minutes into the second quarter, Germaine threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Boston to finish a five-play scoring drive that also included a 40-yard pass to Miller.
Germany caught a 37-yard touchdown pass from Germaine just at the goal line to make it 24-0 with 6:19 left in the half.
"I'm thankful we have a quarterback who can throw it and three or four receivers who can get open and catch it," Ohio State coach John Cooper said. "(It's good) any time you can shut out a football team. I don't care how young they are."
With about 11 minutes left in the game, James Cotton sacked Kittner on first-and-10 at the Buckeyes 47 and Diggs returned the fumble to the end zone to make it 34-0.
A 2-yard run by Jonathan Wells capped an eight-play, 84-yard drive to the last Ohio State touchdown.
Kittner, who was 19-of-36 for 156 yards, had a number of passes batted down or tipped. Rocky Harvey, third in the Big Ten with 99 rushing yards a game, was limited to 29.
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