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Illini stay with Buckeyes before three-TD burst blows them away

Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde eludes Illini defenders his way 137-yard three-touchdown day. | Kirk Irwin~Getty Images

Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde eludes Illini defenders on his way to a 137-yard, three-touchdown day. | Kirk Irwin~Getty Images

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Updated: December 5, 2012 6:45AM



COLUMBUS, Ohio — Before the game, a couple of guys on a Columbus radio station were ridiculing Urban Meyer’s claims that Illinois was a talented team.

The Ohio State coach, they concluded, needed his unbeaten Buckeyes to pretend the Illini were a good team to motivate them to play well.

For the first 20 minutes, Ohio State didn’t have to pretend. ­Illinois held up its end of the deal, trailing only 10-6.

Then reality set in. The sixth-ranked Buckeyes scored three touchdowns in the final nine minutes of the first half and went on to a 52-22 victory over the struggling Illini.

Chalk it up to a little too much Braxton Miller. Ohio State’s dual-threat quarterback passed for 226 yards and two touchdowns, ran for 73 yards and one touchdown and created room for running back Carlos Hyde to rush for 137 yards and three touchdowns.

‘‘A guy named Braxton Miller,’’ Illinois coach Tim Beckman said when asked how the Illini got whipped 24-0 in the second quarter. ‘‘He’s a fantastic player. He can break you. He does a fabulous job.’’

Even though Illinois wound up being overwhelmed, there were glimmers.

‘‘I was proud of the way our kids continued to compete,’’ said Beckman, who seemed to be more at ease after this loss. ‘‘Nobody wants to be in this situation, but they’re trying to do whatever they can to get out of this situation.’’

Illinois (2-7, 0-5) is the first Big Ten team to be mathematically eliminated from postseason play. It joins fellow Leaders Ohio State (10-0, 6-0) and Penn State, who were punitively eliminated by the NCAA before the season began.

That won’t change Illinois’ resolve in its final three games, Beckman said.

‘‘We’ve got to get better; that’s the most important thing,’’ he said. ‘‘I like to say, ‘The door’s locked in December in my house. I won’t be at home because my wife likes to go to bowl games.’ We just have to learn how to get our team better.’’

It was the sixth consecutive loss for the Illini, who have an 11-game Big Ten losing streak.

Even in the dark days when Ron Zook first arrived, the Illini didn’t know this kind of frustration. This is their longest Big Ten losing streak since 2003-04, when Ron Turner’s last two teams lost 14 consecutive conference games.

But the Illini seem ready to tee it up against their final three opponents.

‘‘We keep telling everybody, ‘We’re going to fight. We’re not going to sit there and give nobody no easy game,’ ’’ said cornerback Terry Hawthorne, a senior leader. ‘‘We [seniors] sat there in the locker room after the game and said, ‘If y’all aren’t going to keep fighting for us, then you can just get off the squad.’ ’’

That’ll have to do for now.



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