Bucks look to stop Russell, Hawkeye rush

Want to stop Iowa's offense? That starts with stopping the rush and RB Fred Russell... if you can find him.

Iowa is tenth in the Big Ten in total offense with an average of 318.8 yards per game. Only Ohio State is worse (293.8).

The Hawkeyes aren't as balanced as they were a year ago, but they own a very good running game – led by senior tailback Fred Russell. They are currently ranked fifth in the conference with 175.8 rushing yards per game.

But, Iowa is last in the conference in passing with an average of 143 yards.

Slowing down the talented Russell will obviously be one of the big keys of the game for the Buckeyes.

"They are a lot like Wisconsin," OSU linebacker Bobby Carpenter said. "They run the ball; they'll throw it deep; they've got some good players. Obviously their tailback (Russell) is a really good player. They have some tight ends and their linemen are good as well. They are just going to try and run on us and we have to stop them."

Russell is third in the Big Ten in rushing with 726 yards (5.3 yards per carry) and has scored three touchdowns. He was a first-team, All-Big Ten selection last year when he rushed for 1,264 yards (5.7 ypc). At 5-8, 190-pounds, he will be the smallest back the Bucks face this year, but he might also be the quickest and fastest. Russell is reported to have 4.2 speed and he looked very good in the Hawkeyes' 30-27 win over Michigan two weeks ago.

According to Carpenter, Russell's size and quickness presents a "Barry Sanders-like" problem for OSU's defense.

"That's part of the problem that you have with Russell. They have such a big offensive line and he's kind of short. He runs hard, but you can't always see him. You might get him lost a little bit and before you know it, he's already by you and running down the field," Carpenter said.

The Buckeyes are expecting a steady dose of Russell and the rest of Iowa's backs. Junior tailback Jermelle "Skills" Lewis (5-11, 212), who rushed for 709 yards last year, has finally been cleared to play by his doctors. Lewis suffered a torn ACL in the spring. If he does play, he likely won't be 100 percent, but it gives the Hawkeyes another option.

Iowa's fullback is returning starter Edgar Cervantas (6-3, 243, Sr.). He has just 42 rushing yards (3.8 ypc), but has added nine catches for 96 yards.

"They'll run the ball 50-60 times a game," Carpenter said. "They'll just keep running, running, running. They'll try to keep everybody in and then throw it deep when you're not expecting it."

First-year starting quarterback Nathan Chandler (6-7, 250, Sr.) is not having a very good year for the Hawks. He looked shaky at best in the win over Michigan, missing open receivers and looking uncomfortable in the pocket.

So far this year, Chandler is 70-of-124 (56.5 percent) for 821 yards. He also has 11 touchdowns and three interceptions. The impressive TD-INT ratio is by far the best aspect of his game right now.

Chandler – a former JUCO transfer – is not on Brad Banks' skill level. But just how much different is Iowa's offense with Chandler at the controls?

"I asked our defensive coaches the same question, from the standpoint of how different are they as their quarterback has changed," Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said. "And they don't think there's much schematic and strategic difference. Like any first-year starter, there's going to be an evolution. I think Iowa, you can just tell by watching film, does an excellent job teaching, and there's a teaching progression. And they've been moving forward as they go. I think as every day goes, I'm sure Chandler is going to be more and more comfortable."

Iowa' leading receiver, Maurice Brown (6-2, 216, Sr.), might miss the OSU game with an injury. It would be a big loss for the Hawkeyes. Brown has 14 receptions for 212 yards and three touchdowns this season and led the team with 48 catches for 963 yards last year.

"I think they've had some receivers injured," Tressel said. "I don't know this for sure, but they will be back, is what I hear. And obviously that will enhance who they are and what they do."

If Brown can't go, Iowa will start Calvin Davis (6-1, 187, Fr.) in his place. He has 11 receptions for 122 yards and one TD this year.

The other starting receiver is Ramon Ochoa (5-10, 189, Sr.). He has caught 10 balls for 152 yards and three TDs.

Iowa's offensive line was expected to take a step back this year, but we should have known better. Head coach Kirk Ferentz is an O-line guru, and despite the fact that he lost four linemen due to graduation (three of which are playing in the NFL), the guys up front have been getting the job done and then some for the Hawkeyes.

The group is led by arguably the top offensive lineman in the Big Ten, LT Robert Gallery (6-7, 317, Sr.). He is a four-year starter and was a first-team All-Big Ten selection last year.

The rest of the line is composed of first-year starters and the unit includes: LG Eric Rothwell (6-3, 290, Sr.), C Brian Ferentz (6-2, 275, So.), RG Pete McMahon (6-7, 323, Jr.) and RT Sam Aiello (6-5, 305, Sr.).

The tight end is Erik Jensen (6-3, 259, Sr.). He has 10 catches for 118 yards and one score this year.

Ohio State safety Brandon Mitchell has been impressed with what he has seen from Iowa's offense as a whole, but especially Russell and the O-line.

"They have a good offense," Mitchell said. "They play with a lot of toughness and a lot of effort. They have a really good offense. They have a quick running back and a big offensive line. We've just got to come to play because it's going to be a physical game."


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