Illinois fell behind fast and by a bunch to No. 3 Ohio State on Saturday, the kind of hole a team riding a long conference losing streak finds it almost impossible to dig itself out of.
The Illini fought back, closing the gap to two touchdowns before seeing the bigger and faster Buckeyes shut them down on a momentum-shifting safety and then pull away to a 60-35 win on two long late Carlos Hyde touchdowns.
The loss puts the Big Ten losing streak at 20 for Illinois (3-7, 0-6 Big Ten), dating all the way back to October 2011.
And the comeback, even against the unbeaten Buckeyes (10-0, 6-0) didn't provide much of a lift.
"An L is an L," Illini head coach Tim Beckman said. "These kids fought, they know they fought. ... I'm proud of them for doing that, but they're just like everybody else is, they want a W."
Much of the difference for the Buckeyes (10-0, 6-0) was Hyde. The running back finished with 248 yards rushing with four touchdowns on the ground and another through the air. His late fourth quarter scores came on runs of 55 and 51 yards.
"He's been great for us and did get great in the end for us," Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. "It did get tight. Offensively, we did need the help."
Quarterback Braxton Miller wasn't far behind Hyde with 184 yards rushing and two more touchdowns.
Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase had 288 yards passing and two touchdowns. But the Buckeyes defense kept him under pressure all day, sacking him five times and hitting him more than that.
Illinois had the momentum when the Buckeyes' Ryan Shazier sacked backup quarterback Reilly O'Toole in the end zone. Illinois recovered his fumble but the safety gave the Buckeyes a 37-21 edge and the ball. Minutes later, a Hyde touchdown put them up 44-21.
It was one of the hits on Scheelhaase that kept Ohio State in control when Illinois was getting back into the game.
After Illinois closed to within two scores at 35-21, Scheelhaase had his helmet ripped off at his own goal line. Under the rules, he had to leave the game for a play, bringing O'Toole on.
The Buckeyes teed off on the backup quarterback, with Shazier hitting him from behind and knocking the ball loose. Tight end Matt LaCosse recovered the ball for Illinois to limit the damage to the safety.
The momentum swung swiftly back to the Buckeyes.
Beckman and offensive coordinator Bill Cubit agued on the sideline after the play, but Cubit downplayed the incident.
"It just happens, and you get caught up," Cubit said. "It's one of those things."
On the following drive, Ohio State moved quickly to the Illini 8-yard line.
Miller rolled left and threw an incomplete pass before taking a big hit from linebacker Jonathan Brown. The quarterback stayed on the turf for a time before briefly leaving the game.
Hyde quickly punched into the end zone for the 1-yard touchdown that put the game firmly back in the Buckeyes' grip at 44-21.
Miller's minute or so on the turf was a long one for the nervous Buckeyes, but he returned during the next series and finished the game. He finished with 150 yards and two touchdowns.
Fast doesn't adequately describe how quickly the Buckeyes came out Saturday.
Thirty-six seconds into the game, Miller ran up the middle of the Illinois defense for a 69-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead. He slowed at about the Illinois 5-yard line, jogging the last couple of steps.
Over the next 15 minutes, it looked like it might be just that easy for a Buckeyes team in search of big wins that might convince voters that they belong in the national title picture.
Hyde put the Buckeyes up 14-0 with just under five minutes left in the opening quarter on an 18-yard touchdown pass from Miller.
Less than two minutes later, corner Bradley Roby added another touchdown, pulling down a tipped Scheelhaase pass and returning it 63 yards.
In those first 15 minutes, the Illini offense consisted of 88 yards and a pair of Scheelhaase interceptions.
But the Illini just wouldn't go away.
Down 28-0, V'Angelo Bentley returned a punt 67 yards for a touchdown with 7:29 left in the half to get the Illini on the board.
Then, down 35-7, Scheelhaase engineered two scoring drives that got Illinois back in the game
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