COLUMBUS (AP) Kurt Kittner led No. 12 Illinois to a comeback victory for the fourth game in a row as the Illini beat No. 25 Ohio State
34-22 to remain in the hunt for their first Big Ten title since 1990.
Illinois (6-1 Big Ten, 9-1 overall), which won its sixth in a row since losing to Michigan, can clinch at least a share of the conference title with a victory at home next week against Northwestern.
Ohio State (4-3, 6-4), which needed to win its last two games to do no worse than tie for the title, lost in its first game in almost three seasons without Steve Bellisari at quarterback. Bellisari was suspended indefinitely Friday after his arrest on two counts of drunken driving.
Kittner completed 18 of 28 passes for 274 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. He had led the Illini back from early deficits in victories over Wisconsin, Purdue and Penn State in their last three games.
Kittner was 4-of-6 for 51 yards in an 80-yard drive that ended with Carey Davis” one-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter that gave Illinois the lead for good at 27-22.
It wasn”t all Kittner, however. The Illini picked up important points on defense and special teams.
They opened the scoring just one minute into the game when Dwayne Smith blocked Andy Groom”s punt and Jamaal Clark picked it up for a two-yard touchdown return.
Ohio State, with Scott McMullen and Craig Krenzel combining to go 15-of-36 passing for 206 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions, still trailed 27-22 after taking over on a downed punt at its own two-yard line with 5:23 left.
On first down, however, Krenzel had his view blocked by leaping defensive tackle Jeff Ruffin. Krenzel”s pass into the right flat for Michael Jenkins was picked off by linebacker Ty Myers, who returned it five yards and dived into the end zone for the insurance touchdown.
Bellisari was arrested early Friday morning on two counts of drunken driving and two minor traffic violations. As the Buckeyes” starting quarterback the last 31 games, Ohio State was 19-12. He had completed 70 percent of his passes the past two weeks as the Buckeyes won both games to draw within a game of first place Illinois and Michigan in the Big Ten.
Ohio State athletics director Andy Geiger said Friday that Bellisari would not attend the game. Prior to the kickoff, the team”s seniors were introduced to the Ohio Stadium-record crowd of 104,407. Bellisari, a two-year captain, did not have his name announced.