CHAMPAIGN, Illinois (Ticker) -- Ohio State's charmed season remains alive, but just barely.
Maurice Hall scored on an eight-yard run in overtime and the second-ranked Buckeyes withstood a pair of close calls in the end zone to escape with a 23-16 Big Ten Conference win over Illinois.
The Buckeyes (12-0, 7-0 Big Ten) remained in control of their postseason destiny and will play for the national title in the Fiesta Bowl if they defeat archrival Michigan next week in Columbus.
"Today's win says a lot about this team," quarterback Craig Krenzel said. "We know every team is going to be giving us their best. When it counts, guys step up to make plays, whether it be offense, defense or special teams."
Ohio State's hopes of its first national title since 1968 were in serious jeopardy after John Gockman sent the game into overtime with a 48-yard field goal on the final play of regulation.
Krenzel, who threw a game-winning touchdown pass in the final minutes to give the Buckeyes a win at Purdue last week, again remained poised under pressure. Krenzel scrambled 14 yards for a first down on 3rd-and-10 from the 25, setting up the TD run by Hall two plays later.
"With the formation their defense was playing, they were looking pass," Hall said. "We felt the play would work and we caught them off guard."
Illinois had its chance, moving to the Ohio State 9 with the help of an 18-yard pass from Jon Beutjer to Walter Young.
Beutjer threw a second-down pass to Aaron Moorehead in the right corner of the end zone that was ruled out of bounds. On the next play, Young bobbled a pass from Beutjer in the left corner of the end zone and was ruled out of bounds before gaining control.
"It's a crying shame for those kids if the game was decided by the officials," said Illinois coach Ron Turner, calling for the institution of instant replay. "Anyone who is against instant replay should walk into that locker room and see the look in those player's eyes."
A fourth-down pass from Beutjer was batted down at the line of scrimmage, clinching Ohio State's first 12-win season in school history.
"We don't have to tell our tell our players to keep fighting," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. "It's just their nature."
Mike Nugent kicked field goals of 33, 47 and 37 yards, but missed his first two attempts of the season to keep the Illini in the game.
Krenzel completed 10-of-21 passes for 176 yards, including a 50-yard TD pass to Jenkins, who caught six passes for 147 yards.
The Buckeyes played without freshman tailback Maurice Clarett, who continues to be plagued by a shoulder injury. Hall carried 17 times for 69 yards in his place.
Beutjer completed 27-of-47 passes for 305 yards for the Illini (4-7, 3-4), the defending Big Ten Conference champions who did not go down without a fight.
"We have come a long way and that's what is so frustrating about it," said Beutjer, remembering the team's 1-5 start. "We're not going to give up."
Illinois took its first lead early in the third quarter with the help of a 52-yard punt return by Eugene Wilson to the Buckeye 23. Beutjer soon capitalized with a 18-yard touchdown pass to Young that gave the Illini a 10-6 lead.
Young caught 10 passes for 144 yards.
Ohio State responded quickly as Krenzel lofted a 50-yard touchdown pass up the left sideline to Jenkins, who outleaped cornerback Michael Hall for the ball and danced into the end zone. Jenkins caught a similar pass from Krenzel last week to beat Purdue.
"Craig just put it up there but I couldn't see it until the very end," Jenkins said. "The lights were in my eyes, but it just fell into my hands and I was able to walk right in."
The game appeared to be turning in Ohio State's favor when Antoineo Harris fumbled the ball away on Illinois' next possession. But Ohio State was unable to capitalize and soon punted the ball away. Minutes later, Illinois tied it at 13-13 on a 47-yard field goal by Gockman.
Nugent's third field goal early in the fourth quarter gave the Buckeyes a 16-13 lead.
The Buckeyes appeared to have a touchdown midway through the opening quarter when Krenzel scrambled to the right side and dove toward the goal line, extending the ball into the end zone. But the officials ruled that his knee was down, and the Buckeyes' settled for Nugent's first field goal.
Krenzel competed a 14-yard pass to Chris Gamble, setting up the 47-yarder by Nugent. But the reliable kicker missed for the first time in 24 attempts this season when he was wide left on a 37-yard attempt early in the second quarter.
Gockman put Illinois on the board with 31 seconds left in the first half, converting on a 40-yard field goal.