For Hawkeyes, no glory, no shame ... no upset
Buckeyes' skill-position skill was sublime Saturday
COLUMBUS, Ohio – I heard Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer, his two coordinators, and his two stars of the game speak after the Buckeyes’ 34-24 win here Saturday, and none used the word “Iowa” while I was within earshot.
In just a season-and-a-half here, Ohio State football under Meyer measures itself in the Big Ten against, well, Ohio State football under Meyer. Just like the other 11 teams in the league, and soon to be 13, measure themselves against Ohio State football under Meyer.
Iowa came to Ohio Stadium full of purpose and preparation, and unleashed a lot of very good offensive execution on the fourth-ranked Buckeyes Saturday afternoon. It was a better performance than probably 98 percent of the football-following nation expected from the Hawkeyes, but the result was what probably 99.9 percent anticipated.
Class will tell, as they say, and neither Iowa nor any other team in the Meyer-owned Big Ten has a quarterback/tailback combo like Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde.
It was the Hawkeyes’ bad luck not to catch Miller while he wasn’t most of the way back from a knee injury suffered early this season, and to not catch OSU while Hyde was serving a 3-game suspension.
What the duo did on back-to-back plays shortly after Iowa rallied to tie the game at 24 late in the third quarter was little short of unfair, and borderline unreal.
With a 3rd-and-7 at the Iowa 28, Miller went on a scramble that seemed to unfold over minutes instead of moments, going from one side of the field to the other. He turned chicken feathers into chicken salad, and ended up with a 9-yard gain to move the chains.
On the next play, Hyde eluded two would-be tacklers before he was grabbed by falling safety Tanner Miller at the 7. Hyde staggered backwards for three yards, off-balance. He somehow maintained his equilibrium and didn’t fall, redirected himself, and watched OSU receiver Corey “Philly” Brown take down Iowa linebacker James Morris with a blast of a block.
Hyde then leaped across a pile of Brown-created humanity at the 3, and fell into the end zone with the score and the moment that permanently turned this game Ohio State’s way. Even the Buckeyes’ defensive coordinator watched it intently.
“I don’t get to see a whole lot,” Luke Fickell said, “but I actually looked up and saw that. What an amazing run. If that doesn’t get you excited … that to me is what electrifies us. That’s what brought us back. That’s what helped us finish that game off.”
Now, it’s not that Meyer or Fickell didn’t credit Iowa for giving the Buckeyes a lot to chew on at halftime when they trailed 17-10.
“That was a heck of a team,” Meyer said. “I knew going in it it was going to be a physical team. Their defensive line is outstanding.
“That was a very, very good rush defense.”
Iowa’s offensive line had its way in the first half. Going with formations featuring three tight ends flummoxed Fickell and his defenders for quite a while.
“We had not seen that on (Iowa’s) film all year,” Fickell said. “It’s something you’ve got to adjust to. It took us a little bit of a time.”
It took until, oh, the fourth quarter. Late in the third, tight end Jake Duzey outleaped OSU cornerback Armani Reeves for a catch and outran a collection of Buckeyes the final 50 yards of his 85-yard touchdown play.
Fear didn’t grip the Horseshoe, but wincing and head-shaking did. That was soon forgotten when Miller and Hyde opened the fourth quarter with their virtuoso efforts to get that TD back. Everything then settled down the way people here have come to know and expect decade after decade.
That’s 19-0 for OSU under Meyer, and it was his 20th-straight win. Ridiculously, this is his third streak of 20-plus wins, the first of which began in 2003 at Utah. It helps to have good players, and he inherited two beauties at skill positions in Miller and Hyde.
Hyde described Miller’s aforementioned scramble as the product of “Crazy talent. He can make something from nothing.”
Miller said Hyde’s fourth-quarter TD run was the product of talent “I think that’s God-given, to be tackled like that and keep moving forward. That’s sweet.”
Buckeyes offensive coordinator Tom Herman did some nice things for Paul Rhoads in his three seasons at Iowa State. But having Hyde and Miller makes an offensive super-genius out of a mere mastermind. Hyde rushed 149 yards. Miller rushed for 102, and completed 22 of 27 passes for 222 yards and two TDs.
Of Hyde, Herman said “Wow. Wow. Everybody gives him much-deserved credit for being a big, bruising back. But that kid’s got tremendous balance and tremendous fortitude. He just really, really, really refuses to get tackled.”
So, Iowa got a decent portion of the highlights in the TV packages from this game, and did nothing to be discouraged about considering the opposition and venue. If you were a Hawkeye fan and you’d have been assured the score would have been 24-24 going into the fourth quarter, you’d have happily taken that and taken your chances.
But unlike the last three times Iowa met and beat Top Five teams since 2008 (Penn State in ’08 and ’09, Michigan State in ’10), this opponent played to its ranking in the final period.
Had Iowa played on the same level and won, it could have told the Buckeyes “Say my name.” Instead, the Hawkeyes remained just another of the 11 other teams in the Big Ten world Meyer’s men currently own.