Big Ten: Hawkeyes-Buckeyes 111409
Jim Tressel is the face of Ohio State football. Ohio State has dominated the Big Ten under his watch.
Therefore, Jim Tressel is the face of Big Ten football.
But Tressel didn't lose. He almost never loses, especially in November and when the Big Ten title is at stake. But he has struggled in bowl games and marquee nonconference matchups in recent years. Does conservative coaching work outside the Big Ten footprint? We'll find out in January.
You and [Iowa's Kirk Ferentz] are kindred spirits. Good coaches. Successful coaches. Yet your combined management of the end of this game is why the rest of the nation rolls its eyes at the bland Big Ten.
But do you care? No. You don't care. Because here in this tunnel-visioned, tradition-addicted conference, going to the Rose Bowl is just about as joyful a result as playing for the national title.
And you don't care because even after the fans voiced their dismay, hyper-conservatism triumphed in the end. Your painful-to-watch pragmatism was rewarded. The Vest knew best.
Your tight end, Jake Ballard, said this: "Tressel's way usually works out. He's our leader and we'll follow him everywhere."
To Pasadena now.But how Tressel and the Buckeyes fare in Pasadena will ultimately determine how the Big Ten is viewed nationally.
"This week, he prepared around the clock," Johnson-Koulianos said of Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg. "There was not a moment that went by that he wasn't thinking about how to help us. He sent me text messages all week, 'What am I doing on this play?' He was in the [football] building late all night. His moped was the last moped there.
Vandenberg's tireless efforts nearly paid major dividends for Iowa, as the redshirt freshman exceeded all outside expectations in his first career start. Facing the Big Ten's most dominant defense, Vandenberg completed 20 of 33 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns to go along with three interceptions, one of which was a Hail Mary in overtime.
Like it had done all season behind regular starter Ricky Stanzi, Iowa mounted another fourth-quarter comeback, rallying from 14 points down to tie the game. But the rally fell short as No. 11 Ohio State locked down in overtime to prevail 27-24, sending No. 10 Iowa to its first road loss of the season.
At preseason media day, Ferentz talked about how Iowa would need great stories to emerge for the team to do special things. Several of those plotlines turned up Saturday at Ohio Stadium.
Running back Adam Robinson, just three weeks removed from a high-ankle sprain, replaced the injured Brandon Wegher and rushed for 74 yards on 20 carries as the team's featured back. Wide receiver Marvin McNutt, a former quarterback, caught two touchdown passes. Johnson-Koulianos, rumored to have fallen out of favor with the coaches this spring, continued his stellar Big Ten season with 71 receiving yards and a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
But the best story, the one that would have been told for decades, was Vandenberg. The magnitude of the moment wasn't lost on the freshman during game week.
"I don't sleep in very much, so I'm in there early," Vandenberg said. "I'm calling guys, I'm calling [Stanzi, saying], 'Wake up.' They did a great job with me all week, preparing me. ... All these snaps are good. When you get all of them, it changes. There's a lot more pressure, people are counting on you, and you've got to do your job."
Whether Ferentz let Vandenberg do his job at the end of regulation will be debated for some time in Hawkeye Nation.
Iowa had regained momentum and the football, taking possession at its own 33-yard line with 53 seconds left and one timeout in the bank. Kicker Daniel Murray had made four field goals of longer than 40 yards.
But after a Robinson rush up the middle netted nothing, Ferentz decided to run out the clock.
"I've done enough stupid things this year, so why do something stupid at that point?" Ferentz explained. "Had we gotten a [punt] return, had there been a shanked punt where we had better field position, or had we popped that first play, then we would have pressed forward.
"At second-and-10, second-and-9, the percentages weren't with us at that point."
Vandenberg had just capped a 70-yard touchdown drive with a scoring strike to McNutt. Ferentz said the freshman's presence didn't affect his decision-making at the end.
"If we had Joe Namath in there, I think we would have done the same thing," Ferentz said.
Vandenberg has watched Stanzi work his late-game magic from the sideline. He nearly pulled off a copy-cat act.
"The heart in our guys is just incredible," Vandenberg said. "To be able to fight back like that with all those guys, it's an experience."
Iowa won't be going to Pasadena and has dropped consecutive games, but the team's performance Saturday certainly helped its cause for a BCS at-large berth. The Hawkeyes came in as 17-point underdogs but took Ohio State to the brink.
With USC falling out of the at-large mix, Iowa will have the strongest résumé of the Big Ten hopefuls if it beats Minnesota next week. The Fiesta Bowl could be very interested in the Hawkeyes if it loses Texas to the BCS title game.
"Nobody wants to play us," Johnson-Koulianos said. "We'll play anybody in the nation right now. We're not afraid of anybody, and we can beat anybody.
"We're worthy, and we've proved this year that when you give us the opportunity to play the best opponent, and we'll make it a hell of a ballgame."
How the game was won: Ohio State's defense clamped down in overtime, pushing Iowa out of field goal range with a Doug Worthington sack and a tackle for loss. The offense didn't need to do much and really didn't, but backup kicker Devin Barclay drilled a 39-yard field goal to win it.
What it means: Ohio State will almost certainly be going to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1997. The Buckeyes also clinched at least a share of their fifth consecutive Big Ten championship. Iowa might have played its way into a BCS at-large berth with an impressive performance under very tough circumstances.
Player of the game: Ohio State junior running back Brandon Saine stepped up big with his second 100-yard rushing performance of the season. Saine's 49-yard scoring burst gave the Buckeyes a 14-point, fourth-quarter cushion.
Second guessing: Both head coaches played it extremely conservative in the closing minutes, and it cost Iowa's Kirk Ferentz. Iowa had possession at its own 33-yard line with 52 seconds left in regulation and one timeout. Quarterback James Vandenberg had thrown the ball well, but Iowa didn't attempt one pass and ran out the clock. Ferentz played not to lose, and he lost.
What Iowa learned: Its backup quarterback is pretty darn good. Vandenberg made only one major mistake in his first career start and showed tremendous poise. He didn't get a ton of help from the wide receivers until the second half. Iowa also learned that when you have a chance to win on the road, you have to play it bold.
What Ohio State learned: When the game is on the line, the defense will step up. The Silver Bullets did just that in overtime and allowed the offense to play conservatively. The Buckeyes also learned that the offensive line can have a dominant performance and Saine and Dan Herron aren't too shabby.
Both teams went very conservative on offense in the final few minutes, and so they'll decide this in an extra session (or two, or three).
Rolle and Chewka collided on what looked like a certain interception for the Buckeyes, who might have sealed the win. Instead, the ball flew up in the air and Iowa tight end Tony Moeaki grabbed it for one of the strangest catches you'll ever see. Good fortune has been on Iowa's side for much of the season, and it was again there.
But give the Hawkeyes credit for taking advantage, as James Vandenberg found Marvin McNutt for his second touchdown, tying the score at 24-24.
Iowa has rallied from 14 points down in the fourth quarter. The way these Hawkeyes step up late in games, I wouldn't bet against them.
Ohio State linebacker Ross Homan continued his tremendous season with his team-high fourth interception of the season. Homan read Vandenberg's eyes, dropped back in coverage and leaped for the ball. Just textbook coverage by the Buckeyes' linebacker.
The offense wasted no time in converting, as Brandon Saine scooted down the sideline for a 50-yard touchdown on the first play to put Ohio State ahead 23-10.
But these Hawkeyes just won't go away, as Derrell Johnson-Koulianos returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards to the end zone after dropping the ball. You don't see Ohio State's special teams break down too often, and DJK is having himself a heck of a game.
His return marked the fourth longest in Iowa history.
Buckeyes lead 24-17 with 10:56 left.
I understand ball control. I understand not trying to make mistakes. But Ohio State had been so predictable on offense until just now.
On third-and-10 from the Iowa 30, Pryor made the play of the game on a designed quarterback run, gaining 19 yards right through the heart of the Hawkeyes defense. Jim Tressel then stayed creative on the next play, going with the Wildcat as Dan Herron scored from 11 yards out to give Ohio State a 16-10 lead.
Iowa's defense has allowed too many sustained drives, and if Ohio State continues to run Pryor, I don't think the Hawkeyes can stop him. Ohio State's offensive line deserves a lot of credit for today's performance.
But after a quiet first half, the Hawkeyes sophomore wide receiver showed up big time on Iowa's game-tying scoring drive. Redshirt freshman quarterback James Vandenberg continued his very impressive outing, finding McNutt on a 33-yard gain and once again for a 9-yard touchdown. Vandenberg's arm strength, which I can say is superior to Ricky Stanzi's, was obvious on the touchdown pass to McNutt.
Ohio State has been way too conservative on offense, trying not to lose rather than taking some calculated risks. Of the Buckeyes' last 17 plays before the Iowa score, 16 were runs. If the Buckeyes aren't careful, they'll lose this game and Vandenberg will be a hero in Iowa.
Daniel Murray's miss on a 22-yard field-goal attempt certainly could come back to haunt Iowa, which marched downfield but couldn't convert a first-and-goal situation. Quarterback James Vandenberg needs to start taking some heat off of his passes. Arm strength is great, but Vandenberg needs to show more touch in the red zone. He did execute the play-action to perfection and hit Derrell Johnson-Koulianos for a 55-yard gain.
Iowa can't squander many more chances in Ohio State's end of the field.
Turning point: After generating only 30 yards and one first down in the first quarter, Ohio State mounted a 17-play, 73-yard scoring drive early in the second. The Buckeyes' offensive line began to impose their will as running backs Brandon Saine and Dan Herron took advantage. Ohio State followed with another run-heavy scoring march, this time to the end zone, to take its first lead.
Stat of the half: Ohio State finished the first quarter with one first down and 30 total yards. The Buckeyes piled up nine first downs and 129 yards (81 rushing) in the second quarter and held the ball for nearly 13 minutes.
What Iowa must do: Help out James Vandenberg. The redshirt freshman quarterback has looked very poised so far, but he's getting no help from his targets. Wide receiver Trey Stross dropped a touchdown and another pass that would have resulted in a first down. Tight end Tony Moeaki also had a drop. The defense also needs to stop Ohio State's run and force Terrelle Pryor to win this game through the air. Iowa's offensive line has protected Vandenberg very well.
What Ohio State must do: Keep pounding away with the run game until Iowa stops it. If Ohio State wins the battle at the line of scrimmage, it will win this game. The Buckeyes need to start pressuring Vandenberg, who has had time to survey the defense. They also might want to start running Pryor more and make Iowa stop him around the edges.
The Buckeyes have recruited offensive linemen better than almost any team in the country, but they haven't received consistent results.
But Ohio State's line came to play today. The Buckeyes are generating excellent push against Iowa's front four, and running backs Brandon Saine and Dan Herron are capitalizing. Saine capped an 8-play drive with a dynamic 22-yard touchdown run, though it was questionable whether he got in the end zone. After doing nothing offensively in the first quarter, Ohio State has dominated time of possession to take a 10-3 lead.
James Vandenberg has been fine at quarterback for Iowa, but he's not getting enough help from his wide receivers or the Hawkeyes defensive linemen, two areas of strength for this team.
Ohio State's offensive line really stepped up on the drive, imposing their will against the Iowa defensive front. Running back Dan "Boom" Herron got into a nice little rhythm and had a 9-yard run as Ohio State pushed the pile downfield. But once again, the red zone proved to be the Buckeyes' downfall as they couldn't get in the end zone.
I'm continually puzzled why Ohio State doesn't call more designed runs for Terrelle Pryor. Bad ankle or not, the guy is dynamic when he runs the ball to the outside, and Iowa has never faced him before.
This game is flying by, and every possession will count today at The Shoe.
And he should have completed the eighth.
Vandenberg made a great throw to the end zone on third-and-10 from the Ohio State 15-yard line. The ball hit Trey Stross right in the hands and should have been an Iowa touchdown. Interesting that Stross said this week that the experienced receivers would need to help out the young QB. Didn't happen there.
Vandenberg looks very poised so far, and his arm strength is obvious. He also has the ability to move in the pocket like Ricky Stanzi.
Iowa leads 3-0 and Ohio State's offense has done absolutely nothing so far. Why the Buckeyes don't run Terrelle Pryor once every three plays is beyond me.
Vandenberg went 4-for-4 on the Hawkeyes' first possession, including a 12-yard post pass to Derrell Johnson-Koulianos. He showed decent mobility in the pocket and received good protection from the offensive line. Iowa was able to pin Ohio State deep.
The bad news is Iowa's run game is going nowhere, despite Adam Robinson's return to the starting lineup. I can't believe Robinson is playing running back just three weeks after a high ankle sprain.