What were the keys to the 20-17 victory for Ohio State, and did this game play out as expected? The five keys listed last week were 1- The coaching matchup. 2- The Buckeye offensive line vs. Iowa's defensive line. 3- The Buckeye defense. 4- The intangibles. 5- Terrelle Pryor.
ONE: Jim Tressel was at his best for this one, and this game demonstrated his knack for winning the close games, something he's done all his career. Rolled the dice with his kicker, and Devin Barclay nails a bomb. Doesn't punt on fourth down, places the game in his quarterback's hands, and BINGO, another win. What if he had gone for it on fourth down early in the game and missed? Tressel had his finger on the pulse of that football game, and controlled it like a master chess player. And he had to, because his counterpart, Kirk Ferentz, predictably had his team playing well and at the top of their game. RESULT: Advantage Tressel.
TWO: The Ohio State offensive line played a great Iowa front-four to a standstill, which is a win in the overall scheme of things. Neither unit dominated the other, and had that occurred, the game could have been a blowout. We witnessed several future NFL players in this battle, and all of them played well. RESULT: Getting a stalemate against Adrian Clayborn and Karl Klug is a plus.
THREE: Now, THAT was Jim Heacock at his finest, and he shut down a nice offensive unit, holding them to only 17 points on a day when that unit played well. Props to everyone who suited up on defense for Ohio State. Travis Howard was able to play and his "shut-down" coverage was huge. You ALWAYS worry about the Iowa tight ends hurting you, but Orhian Johnson excelled in coverage and shut them down. Johnny Simon, Cam Heyward, Dexter Larimore, Nathan Williams, Johnathan Hankins and Soloman Thomas battled all day long. Ross Homan and Brian Rolle were once again all Big Ten players. Devon Torrence and Chimdi Chekwa never gave up the big play to the Iowa receivers. RESULT: Major props to this unit. That was what Ohio State fans expected to see all year long.
FOUR: The intangible was Ohio State going on the road, facing adversity, but gutting out a tough win. Mission accomplished. Ohio State took Iowa's best shot, lost the turnover battle, fought through injuries, and won a bruising game. These are the wins you talk about all winter, and the games you remember. This was the best game of the year from a fan's perspective, and an enjoyable win to savor. RESULT: Total team effort, and really, the type of game Ohio State is famous for under Jim Tressel. Playing close to the "vest" and still pulling one out late in the game. Exactly the way Ohio State needs to play, and a game that builds character down the line. You learn nothing from whacking under-manned opponents 45-0.
FIVE: Terrelle Pryor won this game for his team. Period. He had a few errant throws. He had a few poor reads. He made a few bad decisions. But when it was "Winning Time", Terrelle Pryor put on the cape and took the game away from Iowa. A horrible drop by DeVier Posey? No problem: Just give me the ball and get out of my way. The stats will never resemble Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, but what do they have to do on fourth and ten? Brady or Manning could not run for ten inches, so they MUST have great protection, must have receivers run great routes, must throw a great ball, and there must be a catch, or it's over. With Pryor, you don't get great accuracy, but you get a playmaker that can do things others can't. Pryor must be judged on his TOTAL skill-set, not just his throwing ability. Pryor moves the chains, scores touchdowns, and wins games. Period. He will never be appreciated by fans until he's gone, and they are hating his successor. Which WILL happen. RESULT: One of the top quarterbacks in the game won a game for his team. A game they needed to win. With little help from his wide receivers. Add in the five drops by his boys, and the stat line looks like this: 23-33, 301 yards. Gee, almost like Brady or Manning?