ON THIS DAY: Boom Herron Returns, Unranked Ohio State Beats No. 16 Illinois
Sit back and imagine a time when the Ohio State Buckeyes did not dominate the Big Ten in football. Believe it or not, it happened... and while you are in that alternate universe, imagine Illinois being nationally-ranked in the Top 25 poll.
Illinois just recently made a Bowl Game for the first time since 2014 but, nine years ago on October 15, 2011, the Fighting Illini were home favorites against a Buckeye team dealing with NCAA sanctions and future head coaching uncertainty as interim taskmaster Luke Fickell assumed the reins.
Fickell, now coaching a top-10 ranked Cincinnati Bearcats program, entered Memorial Stadium with Ohio State holding a 3-3 overall record and standing 0-2 in Big Ten play.
The undefeated Illini, led by Ron Zook, were unblemished on the season and held a No. 16 national ranking. OSU was just looking to bounce back from a pair of narrow losses to Michigan State (10-7) and Nebraska (34-27) the previous week.
The Buckeyes utilized one of the most rush-heavy game plans in school history to take control and ultimately grab their first conference victory by a 17-7 final score.
Fresh off a pair of NCAA suspensions, Ohio State running back Daniel “Boom” Herron made his first appearance in 10 months (since the Sugar Bowl) a memorable one. The Warren, Ohio native rushed 23 times for 114 yards and a touchdown.
In the upset effort, the Buckeyes did not throw their first pass until midway through the second quarter... and did not complete a pass until Braxton Miller found tight end Jake Stoneburner for a 17-yard score early in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach.
Miller threw a total of four passes across the entire game. The defense forced three turnovers, and Herron’s rushing performance stole the show that handed the Illini (falling to 6-1) their first blemish of the season.
Ohio State unfortunately went on to finish that 2011 season below .500 for the first time since 1988, when they finished 4-6-1.
After a trip down memory lane, Buckeye fans can now snap back to present day. Since that time in 2011, Ohio State has defeated Illinois by scores of 52-22, 60-35, 55-14, 28-3 and 52-14. The only tight game, in fact, occurred in a video game simulation.