Updated: December 5, 2012 6:45AM
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Their bowl hopes are officially gone, but the Illini’s hopes of salvaging some victories in their final three games remain intact.
That’s especially true because they believe they didn’t back down against No. 6 Ohio State, the Big Ten’s best team.
‘‘We know we have it,’’ safety Supo Sanni said. ‘‘The talent is here. We have the same players from last year. What we have to do is play 60 minutes. Our best football is ahead of us.’’
Coach Tim Beckman was pleased with the solid performance delivered by senior cornerback Terry Hawthorne, who led the defense with 10 tackles, including a sack, and piled up 158 yards on six kickoff returns.
Hawthorne, who missed the Michigan game after suffering a concussion at Wisconsin, also has been a vocal leader.
‘‘I can’t say enough about Terry Hawthorne, and not just for his football play,’’ Beckman said. ‘‘He’s tough on some of these guys. He’s tough on all of us. He does a good job of leading. It’s good to get him back.’’
Brown out again
Linebacker Jonathan Brown, who had been hobbled by a sprained ankle, went down in the first quarter with a shoulder injury. The All-Big Ten candidate did not return.
‘‘We’ll see how that progresses through the week,’’ Beckman said. ‘‘Jonathan did a great job of leading on the sidelines, but we need him on the field.’’
Ferguson out, too
Josh Ferguson didn’t make the trip. The undersized but explosive rushing and receiving threat was sidelined by a hip pointer. He also has been hindered by a hamstring injury and a concussion this season.