If you thought things couldn't get worse for Ohio State, you were dead wrong.
In what was likely the worst overall Buckeye performance since the 2001 Outback Bowl, Ohio State got destroyed by the Iowa Hawkeyes today in Iowa City, 33-7. The game was the first win for Iowa over Ohio State in Kinnick Stadium since 1983 and the worst loss Iowa has ever given to Ohio State.
Iowa sophomore quarterback Drew Tate had an outstanding performance, throwing for 331 yards on 26 of 39 passing and 3 touchdowns (zero interceptions) with one touchdown rushing. Iowa produced 448 yards of total offense to just 177 for Ohio State (29 rushes for 27 yards, 150 passing).
The first half was largely a dismal one for the Buckeyes. Iowa and Ohio State opened up the game by exchanging punts, and Iowa began to march down the field on their second drive on the arm of Drew Tate. The drive ended, however, when Iowa receiver Ed Hinkel fumbled inside the Ohio State 20-yard line after getting hit by Donte Whitner, and even though the play was very close as to whether or not Hinkel had hit the ground before fumbling, the play was not reviewed and Ohio State took over at their own 16.
The Buckeyes offense sputtered from there, going three-and-out and being forced to punt back to Iowa. The Hawkeyes took over on their own 37-yard line and drove 63 yards on 10 plays, taking a 7-0 lead on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Drew Tate to Clinton Solomon.
Ohio State went three-and-out once again on the following drive, and Iowa took over on their own 34-yard line. After a delay for an instant replay on a short pass incompletion, Iowa drove once again on the passing of Tate and a couple solid runs by walk-on Sam Brownlee, who had entered the game after starting tailback Marques Simmons left with an ankle sprain. The Hawkeyes moved inside the Buckeye 30-yard line and went up 10-0 on a 45-yard field goal by Kyle Schlicher.
On the following kickoff, Ohio State's Maurice Hall appeared to provide the special teams spark Ohio State needed as he returned the kick deep inside Iowa territory. But an illegal block on Ryan Hamby negated the return. Ohio State had to start on their own 23 instead of near the Iowa 20, and the Buckeyes once again went three-and-out.
Ohio State's defense stiffened on the following drive, forcing Iowa to punt after five plays. The Buckeyes started on their own 18-yard line but showed signs of life on offense on the following drive, moving 68 yards on 13 plays, down inside the Iowa 20. However, Justin Zwick was intercepted in the end zone by Iowa's Marcus Paschal to end the Buckeye scoring threat.
Iowa took the 10-0 lead into halftime, out-gaining Ohio State 220 yards (159 pass, 61 rush) to 88 (74 pass, 14 rush) in the first half.
The second half began about as bad as it possibly could for the Buckeyes. OSU began on their own 29, and on the second play of the drive, Zwick fumbled after getting hit by Iowa's Derrick Robinson, giving the ball back to the Hawkeyes. Shortly after, Tate hit Scott Chandler for an 8-yard touchdown strike to give Iowa the 17-0 lead.
After getting hit, Zwick left holding his arm, an injury that appeared to be bothering him all day. Troy Smith entered the game at quarterback, but Ohio State went three-and-out, punting the ball back to Iowa.
Iowa's Walter Belleus turned in a 26-yard return to the OSU 35, but Iowa could not capitalize and was forced to punt. The Buckeyes responded with another three-and-out and punt, giving the ball back to Iowa on the OSU 46. The Hawkeyes struck on the second play of the drive as Tate hit Clinton Solomon again, this time from 36 yards out to give Iowa the 24-0 lead.
After the following OSU possession resulted in another punt, Iowa took over at their own 17-yard line and put the final nail in the Buckeyes' coffin, driving 83 yards in 12 plays, 40 of them on a short Tate-to-Solomon pass that was turned into a big gain after a missed tackle by Ashton Youboty. Iowa continued to move downfield and capped the drive on a 2-yard run by Drew Tate. Ohio State blocked the extra point, making the Iowa lead 30-0.
OSU began the next possession on their own 29, and on a fourth down situation, a botched exchange between Troy Smith and Lydell Ross resulted in another fumble, giving Iowa the ball back at the OSU 37-yard line. The Hawkeyes kept the ball within field goal range despite penalties and a sack, and Kyle Schlicher hit from 41 yards out to make the lead 33-0.
Late in the game, Ohio State got on the scoreboard as the Buckeyes drove 73 yards in four plays and Troy Smith hit Rory Nicol for a 23-yard touchdown reception. Iowa recovered the ensuing onsides kick and ran out the clock, sealing the win and sending Ohio State to 3-3 on the season (0-3 in the Big Ten).
Ohio State fumbled the ball four times today, losing two to go with the Zwick interception. Ohio State's turnover margin fell to minus-7 on the year.
Troy Smith had 76 yards on 8 of 12 passing, while Zwick had 74 yards on 6 of 14 passing and 1 interception. Santonio Holmes had 4 catches for 56 yards, while Antonio Pittman had 16 yards on 7 carries while The unofficial line on Lydell Ross is minus-1 yard on 11 carries. For Iowa, Clinton Solomon led the way with 7 catches for 131 yards and 2 touchdowns, while Ed Hinkel had 6 catches for 76 yards.
After the game, Tressel said he has been particularly disappointed in the OSU running game so far.
"I think when you don't run the football well, it affects everything," Tressel said. "That's why we always say that we would like to be a team that would run the ball as well as throw it.
"I'm probably most disappointed a football team can sometimes hang in there if they can count on the fact that they can run the ball... Usually, if you can do that... you can be in there playing for a win in every game... The thing that's most disappointing to me is that we haven't, and we have to."
Tressel was asked if Iowa dominated the game, and he didn't mince words in his reply.
"They obviously did better than we did," he said. "I don't know if I'd go as far as dominate, but they kicked our butts."
Tressel cited turnovers as major turning points in the game as OSU followed their first-half interception with an early second-half fumble.
"We start the game in the second half with the chance to move the ball again and we turn it over on the second play and give them the ball on the 20 yard-line," Tressel said. "You're not going to beat a good team playing well at their place with those things happening."
As previously noted, Zwick left the game holding his arm, and it was unclear at the time whether or not Zwick was injured or had been pulled due to performance. Tressel stated it was a combination of both.
"We were told that his shoulder was banged, and at the same time, we felt like we needed to look for other ways to get the ball moved," Tressel said.
Tressel commented a bit on Smith's play.
"I thought he did in and did some pretty fair things," Tressel said. "That was a good thing that we saw that out of him."
Tressel also left things uncertain as far as who would be the quarterback in the near future and that much of it depends on Zwick's injury situation.
"We evaluate it constantly," he said. "There's a lot of factors involved in that. One would be Justin's health. One will be what do you think we need to do to head in the right direction. Obviously one will be what we do early in the week and how people respond to the reality of where we are."
The offensive line once again had a rough game for Ohio State. Tressel was asked about the line's performance.
"I don't know that I would say that we're doing anything well," he said. "You don't have any statistics to point to that or even gut feeling to point to that. We're not protecting it as well as we should and we're not knocking them off the ball."
Tressel was also impressed with the performance of Drew Tate, who had one of his finest performances of his career.
"He's a fighter," Tressel said. "He's a winner. He's a tough kid. He made plays. We had people on him and made them miss. I had to appreciate his performance because he did some excellent things."
Tressel said effort has not been a problem for Ohio State.
"I don't think it was an effort thing," he said. "I've never felt that about this group. Most people when they go out in the field of battle, they're going to give effort. I wouldn't question the effort of this group."
The next challenge for Ohio State is moving on from this performance. Tressel discussed where the Buckeyes need to go from here.
"You stop it by getting better and going out and deserving to win a game," Tressel said. "We haven't deserved to win any of our Big Ten games, and that's a fact. We've done some good things in all of the games and not enough good things in any of the games.
"It's like life. You just have to keep grinding and keep believing in each other and learn what it takes to win games. Perhaps we cognitively know it, but we haven't demonstrated it."
* This was OSU's worst loss in 59 meetings with Iowa.
* This was OSU's worst loss since a 46-20 defeat at the hands of Illinois in 1999.
* OSU avoided being shut out for the first time since the 28-0 loss to Michigan in 1993.
* Ohio State is 0-3 in Big Ten play for the first time since 1988 and for just the second time since 1943.
* The Buckeyes host Indiana (2-4, 0-3) next Saturday (noon, ESPN-Plus). OSU needs three wins in its final five games to get to 6-5 and be eligible for postseason play.
* Iowa snapped an eight-game losing streak to Ohio State, dating to a 1991 win in Columbus.
* OSU kicker Mike Nugent did not attempt or make a field goal for the first time this season. He is still 46 points shy of Pete Johnson's career record of 348 points.