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Ohio State Is One Victory Away From the Rose Bowl

November 10, 1996|From Associated Press

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — It was just minutes after No. 2 Ohio State's 48-0 manhandling of Illinois Saturday, and coach John Cooper's grin was a mile wide.

Not only because of the convincing victory, but also because he had just heard about Purdue's 9-3 upset of No. 9 Michigan. That left Buckeyes, 9-0 overall and 6-0 in the Big Ten, one victory away from a Rose Bowl berth with games remaining at Indiana and against Michigan in Columbus.

The Buckeyes were quick to downplay their near-lock trip to Pasadena.

"We've been on the verge before," linebacker Greg Bellisari said, referring to last season's loss to Michigan that sent Northwestern to the Rose Bowl.

It will be difficult to deny Ohio State this time, however. The Buckeyes had 546 yards of total offense and limited Illinois to 130 in recording back-to-back shutouts for the first time since 1979.

Tailbacks Pepe Pearson and Jermon Jackson scored two touchdowns each, and Pearson surpassed 1,000 yards for the season with 165 in 21 carries. Pearson's early 76-yard scamper that he followed two plays later with a two-yard touchdown seemed to demoralize Illinois (2-7, 1-5).

"Maybe they gave up, I don't know," Ohio State offensive tackle Orlando Pace said. "We just poured it on."

Ohio State scored touchdowns on seven consecutive possessions in the second and third quarters.

The only disappointment was starting quarterback Stanley Jackson, who was one of seven passing for 20 yards. Backup quarterback Joe Germaine was 11 of 14 for 180 yards and three touchdowns, but Cooper indicated that Jackson would start next week. "I really don't care if I start next week, or even play at all," Jackson said. "If we go to the Rose Bowl this year, I'll be the happiest man in Columbus."

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