COLUMBUS - Illinois took a major step to legitimacy by knocking off Ohio State, the No. 1 team in the nation Saturday, but the Illini picked the wrong place to celebrate.
As time ran out on its 28-21 victory, Illinois players met at midfield to start the party, hopping up and down on the Buckeyes` "O" logo at the 50-yard line of Ohio Stadium.
OSU players took exception, converging on the midfield celebration to create a brief skirmish that was broken up by players and coaches from both schools, including Buckeye co-captain Kirk Barton, a senior offensive lineman.
"You don`t want an ugly incident like that," said Barton, who admitted players from both teams threw punches.
Though Barton wasn`t in the mood for a fight, he did offer some advice to the budding program from Champaign, Ill.
"We`ve been around for a while," Barton said. "We`ve beaten a lot of teams and we don`t ever whoop it up and jump on the team`s logo. You look like a punk. You look like you have no class. If you`re trying to be a big time program, you can`t jump on a logo every time you beat a good team."
Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel rarely utilizes instant replay, but he should have employed it early on.
On Illinois` second play of the game, Daniel Dufrene got loose on an 80-yard run that set up the Illini`s first touchdown. As he got near the goal line, Dufrene lost the ball in and out of the end zone.
Though referees ruled he was down, television replays showed that Dufrene did fumble the ball out of the end zone.
Had Tressel asked for a review and the call was reversed, Ohio State would have taken possession on its 20-yard line with a 7-0 lead.
"I heard that afterwards," said Tressel of the fumble. "We don`t have monitors in our coaching boxes, so we can`t get any feedback."
With their biggest game of the season awaiting them in Ann Arbor, Mich., were the Buckeyes guilty of looking past Illinois?
"We weren`t looking toward Michigan," Barton said. "I`m sure a lot of people are going to write that, but Illinois gave us all we wanted last year. If you look at it that way, it takes credit away from Illinois. They played a good game."
The grand man
Junior Brian Robiskie is going to need a big game against Michigan to become the fifth Ohio State receiver to reach the 1,000-yard plateau in a single season.
Robiskie, who has caught a pass in 23 consecutive games, has 864 receiving yards after catching four passes for 31 yards against Illinois.
Robiskie has 48 receptions and 10 touchdowns and would join a list that includes Michael Jenkins (2002), David Boston (1998), Terry Glenn (1995) and Cris Carter (1986).
It was Senior Day at Ohio State, with the Buckeyes recognizing their 15-member senior class, which included Elyria`s Brett Daly, prior to the upperclassmen`s final game at Ohio Stadium.
All 15 players were announced prior to the loss to Illinois, running to shake hands with head coach Jim Tressel and meeting family members positioned on the Ohio Stadium field. Daly, a 6-foot-6, 250-pound defensive lineman, was greeted by his parents.
A walk-on who earned a scholarship for his final season, Daly has been relegated to special teams for much of his career. He entered Saturday playing in eight career games, recording his first tackle in a victory over Northwestern earlier this year.
Though Ohio State will not play for the national championship, there is still a chance the Buckeyes could be traveling to New Orleans, the site of the BCS National Championship Game and the Sugar Bowl.
If OSU beats Michigan, the Buckeyes will wrap up their third straight Big Ten title and play a PAC-10 opponent in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. But if Ohio State loses, the Wolverines win the Big Ten and the Buckeyes could wind up in the Sugar Bowl against an SEC opponent, possibly Florida, which would set up a rematch of last year`s national title game.
Ohio State`s school record regular season winning streak came to an end at 28 games, while their conference winning streak was snapped at a Big Ten record 20 games.
* OSU players wore a No. 23 sticker on their helmets in recognition of Ron Springs, a former Buckeye running back (1976-78) who is in a coma in a Dallas hospital after unsuccessful surgery.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7137 or email@example.com.