YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

College Football

Ohio State Survives Yet Another Scare

Buckeyes need overtime to defeat Illinois, 23-16, and keep BCS title-game hopes alive. Michigan is the final obstacle.

November 17, 2002|From Associated Press

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Battered but still unbeaten after another scare on the road, Ohio State is one victory away from playing for its first national title since 1968.

And like always, Michigan is standing in the way.

"It's the biggest game of the year. It's our archrival, and if we win, we go to the Fiesta Bowl," linebacker Cie Grant said after Saturday's 23-16 overtime victory over Illinois.

The second-ranked Buckeyes, 12-0 overall and 7-0 in the Big Ten Conference, nearly lost that rare opportunity against the Illini, whose chance to spoil Ohio State's perfect season fell short when Illinois quarterback Jon Beutjer had his final pass batted down at the line of scrimmage in overtime.

Ohio State won the game on an eight-yard touchdown run by Maurice Hall, one of two backs who filled in for injured freshman Maurice Clarett.

The Buckeyes improved to 12-0 for the first time in school history, but to get into the national championship game on Jan. 3, they'll have to defeat Michigan in Columbus next week. A Buckeye victory would leave Ohio State and Iowa unbeaten in conference games. They don't play each other this season.

"Nobody said winning the Big Ten championship would be easy," said receiver Michael Jenkins, who had six catches for 147 yards and a touchdown.

Especially against Michigan. The Wolverines ended Ohio State's bid for perfect seasons in 1995 and 1996.

"We're going to get focused on Michigan, because we know if we lose that, none of this means anything," Jenkins said.

It was the second straight week the Buckeyes had struggled against a team with a losing record. Ohio State trailed Purdue last week but won, 10-6, when Jenkins caught a 37-yard touchdown pass with 1:36 left.

Illinois (4-7, 3-4) came close to sending Saturday's game to a second overtime, but Beutjer's third-down pass to Walter Young in the end zone was ruled incomplete when the officials said that Young was bobbling the ball when he went out of bounds.

Replays appeared to confirm that the officials made the right call. Of course, Ohio State agreed.

"The one on our sideline, he was bobbling it. It's a good call," Buckeye Coach Jim Tressel said.

Illinois sent the game to overtime tied at 16-16 when John Gockman kicked a 48-yard field goal on the last play of regulation.

Los Angeles Times Articles