The Buckeyes had to earn their trip to Pasadena. Ohio State blew a 14-point fourth quarter lead before the OSU defense stood tall in overtime and kicker Devin Barclay became the most celebrated player on campus for a night. The former walk-on made a 39-yard field goal to set off big celebration on the field that included fans that stormed the field.
"This team has handled adversity and worked hard to get better … and we're very proud of these seniors," OSU head coach Jim Tressel said after accepting the Rose Bowl's formal invitation. "None of our kids have gone to the Rose Bowl. I haven't been there for 25 years. There's nothing like it."
The Hawkeyes forced the Buckeyes to play their first overtime game in Ohio Stadium since a 16-13 win over Purdue in 2003 with a pair of fourth-quarter scores. Buckeye fans were probably already making preparations for Pasadena early in the final period when tailbacks Dan "Boom" Herron and Brandon Saine added touchdown runs of 11 and 49 yards to give Ohio State a 24-10 lead with 11:11 left in regulation.
Yet Iowa did not quit. After Saine's long touchdown run, the Hawkeyes answered quickly. Junior speedster Derrell Johnson-Koulianos returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown, and with less than three minutes remaining redshirt freshman quarterback James Vandenberg tossed a 10-yard touchdown pass to Marvin McNutt to tie the game and eventually sent the contest to overtime.
In overtime, the Buckeye defense came through. Three seniors made big plays when Iowa started on offense. Vandenberg was forced to throw the ball away on first down, and senior linebacker Austin Spitler put the Hawkeyes in a third-and-long situation when he stuffed running back Adam Robinson for a 6-yard loss on second down. The Buckeyes then recorded their only sack of the game when senior lineman Doug Worthington broke through and dropped Vandenberg for a 10-yard loss. That forced Iowa out of field goal range, and Vandenberg's desperation throw on fourth down as picked off by senior safety Anderson Russell in the end zone.
With the Buckeyes needing only a field goal to win the game, Ohio State went conservative on offense. Herron was stopped for a 2-yard loss on first down, and gained 3 back on second down. Instead of running a third-down play, Tressel elected to send Barclay on the field for a field-goal attempt. The former Major League Soccer player's boot was true, sending many of the 105,455 fan in attendance to the Ohio Stadium turf.
"We did it, baby!" senior offensive lineman Jim Cordle shouted following the game as he poured a bottle of water over his own head. "We got five (Big Ten championship) rings and we did it! We're going to the Rose Bowl! I can't stop saying it!"
Defenses ruled the day in the first half. Both teams managed only a field goal apiece before Saine capped an eight-play, 74-yard drive with a 22-yard touchdown run to give the Buckeyes a 10-7 lead at halftime.
Iowa answered in the third quarter on a Vandenberg 9-yard touchdown pass to McNutt to tie the game 10-10 and set up the dramatic fourth quarter.
Saine finished with a game-high 103 yards to lead Ohio State. The Buckeyes finished with 322 yards of total offense, including 229 on the ground. That last figure represented the highest total given up by Iowa in 2009.
OSU quarterback Terrelle Pryor was an efficient 14 for 17 in the passing department for 93 yards, completing passes to seven different receivers. Senior tight end Jake Ballard had three catches for 25 yards while Saine also had three receptions for 15 yards.
Vandenberg, who made his first career start in place of injured starter Ricky Stanzi, completed 20 of 33 attempts for 233 yards with two TDs and three interceptions. McNutt made six receptions for 78 yards. Robinson rushed for 74 yards on 20 carries.
Defensively, junior linebacker Ross Homan led the Buckeyes with eight tackles, including one for loss, and an interception. Russell had the other two picks.