Ground Game Needs Traction Vs. Iowa

The Ohio State football team returns to the field this weekend for a home contest vs. Iowa. The 4-2 Hawkeyes have been stout against the run, boasting the third-best rushing defense in the Big Ten. Iowa has also yet to allow a rushing touchdown.

Ohio State has always been a football school known for its rushing abilities. The program produced several Heisman Trophy-winning running backs, including two-time winner Archie Griffin.

Heck, when one hears "three yards and a cloud of dust," one thinks about the Buckeyes.

That rushing pedigree will face a challenge Saturday afternoon when No. 4 Ohio State hosts Iowa. The Hawkeyes boast the third-best rushing defense in the Big Ten, holding their first six opponents to 88.5 yards per game. Better yet, the Kirk Ferentz-led squad has yet to allow a rushing touchdown this season – the only Football Bowl Subdivision yet to do so.

Urban Meyer and his coaching staff know it will be difficult to find success on the ground this weekend.

"We've got to find a way to win this Saturday, and it's not easy," Meyer said. "We've been in there for two weeks trying to find a way to run the ball against this defense."

The Hawkeyes, who bring in a 4-2 record (1-1 Big Ten) to Ohio Stadium, are also tied for 12th in scoring defense with 16.8 points permitted per game. Despite facing Iowa for the first time as Ohio State's head coach, Meyer is familiar with Iowa thanks to his Florida team's 2006 Outback Bowl victory over the Hawkeyes.

On Monday, Meyer said Iowa is "the same as they've always been on defense."

While Iowa has had success stopping the run, the Hawkeyes have yet to face a team that can run the ball as well as Ohio State. The Buckeyes average 280.7 yards per game on the ground, good for 11th best nationally.

Ohio State is coming off back-to-back tough night games vs. Wisconsin and at Northwestern. In the latter, the Buckeyes used the ground game to emerge with a victory. OSU rushed for 248 yards, including a career-high 168 by Carlos Hyde, in a 40-30 win over the Wildcats.

The Buckeyes have rushed for 17 touchdowns. They have won the last three meetings against the Hawkeyes and 11 of the last 12. If that trend is to continue, Ohio State will have to run the ball.

"To sit there and say that we are going to go into this football game and not run the ball because Iowa is pretty good at (stopping the run) is not real," Drayton said. "We are going to run the football, and we are going to trust our offensive line to get engaged. We are going to trust our running backs to play through contact.

"We'll win some and we'll lose some. We just have to maintain patience in that phase of the offensive scheme."

Ohio State should have fifth-year senior tailback Jordan Hall back in the lineup this weekend. Hall was out against Northwestern with what Meyer termed a "tweaked knee" and was scheduled to practice this week and play against Iowa.

Hall carried the rushing load for Ohio State with Hyde serving a three-game suspension to start the season. He still leads the Buckeyes with 427 yards this season, an average of 6.2 yards per carry. Hyde has averaged 6.1 yards per carry in his three games.


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