The Buckeyes pulled off a nerve-wracking overtime win over Iowa yesterday to clinch a share of the Big Ten championship and a trip to the Rose Bowl. For those of us in the stands, it was a roller coaster ride of delight and deep concern as Ohio State made big plays and then Iowa answered. You could argue that the biggest play of the game from Ohio State’s standpoint was winning the coin flip in overtime, so the Buckeye defense could set the tone for the overtime — and they did.
It was a perfect day for a football game; warm when the sun was higher in the sky, then cooling off after it dipped below the western side of Ohio Stadium. The teams were evenly matched, but with different offensive styles. Iowa decided they were going to play a more wide-open game and they did so, effectively. Cornerback Chimdi Chekwa probably had his worst day as a Buckeye. Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg went after him repeatedly, with great success. The Buckeyes, on the other hand, for the most part eschewed the pass in favor of an effective ground game that saw them break two long touchdown runs, a third, shorter burst around end for a score, and rack up more than 200 yards on the ground. And when it looked like Ohio State had put Iowa away, Iowa answered with game-changing plays like a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and a 70-yard drive for the tying score.
In the end, though, it was the Ohio State defense that made four big plays in overtime — forcing a hurried incompletion by Vandenberg, a tackle for loss on a running play, a huge, crushing sack of Vandenberg, and then an interception in the end zone that turned Iowa away without any points. That performance allowed the Ohio State offense to play conservatively on its possession. Three running plays later, the ball was positioned squarely in front of the goalposts, Ohio State’s backup kicked booted it through, the Rose Bowl bid was assured, and excited fans flooded the field.
Some other thoughts about the game:
* Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg looks like he has a real future in the Big Ten. He has a good arm, the Iowa coaches had a good game plan, and when the Iowa line gave him time — which was most of the time — he threw accurately and well.
* I think Terrelle Pryor is more banged up than the coaches have let on. The Ohio State offensive game plan clearly focused on running backs Brandon Saine and Boom Herron, and they both played well. Pryor did not look to be nearly as maneuverable when he went back to pass.
* Ohio State’s two-minute drill needs a lot of work.
* If you can keep the Ohio State defensive front from getting penetration — and that is a big “if” for most teams — you can throw the ball on the Buckeyes.
* For all of the complaints about Ohio State’s conservative style, it has produced the team’s fifth straight Big Ten championship.
Now it’s on to the traditional rivalry game with the Michigan Wolverines, at the Big House in Ann Arbor.