Buckeyes Down Iowa 31-6 In Big Ten Opener

Troy Smith and Antonio Pittman each had over 100 yards rushing and Anthony Gonzalez caught a pair of touchdown passes as the eighth-ranked Buckeyes avenged a loss at Iowa last year with a 31-6 win in Saturday's Big Ten opener. Click here for more. (NOTE: This story was updated at 5:30 p.m. with more notes and quotes.)

The signs had been placed everywhere at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. Even the practice scoreboard read 33-7.

Of course, that was the final score of last year's Ohio State-Iowa game at Kinnick Stadium as the Hawkeyes and plucky quarterback Drew Tate had their way against the Buckeyes.

But Saturday's 2005 Big Ten opener at Ohio Stadium between the same two teams showed this is definitely a new year. The eighth-ranked Buckeyes avenged that loss from a year ago and blasted the 21st-ranked Hawkeyes 31-6 before a sellout crowd of 105,225 Saturday.

"I wasn't thinking about (revenge)," said OSU quarterback Troy Smith, who keyed the win with two touchdowns passing and two more rushing. "I guess it was in the back of my mind about how bad they beat us last year. I wasn't thinking about trying to get even. I was thinking about trying to capitalize on the situation we were facing.

"I think this makes a pretty good statement, coming out in the Big Ten like this with a bang."

After a lackluster 27-6 win over San Diego State last week, the Buckeyes (3-1, 1-0) outgained Iowa 530-137 in total offense and had 26 first downs to the Hawkeyes' 12. The rout could have been much worse, though, as the Buckeyes twice fumbled inside the 10 and had a 54-yard Ted Ginn Jr. punt return for a touchdown negated by a block in the back penalty.

"We were obviously very proud of how physical our guys played," said OSU coach Jim Tressel. "Both sides of the ball. They did a great job. You have to be physical in the Big Ten. I thought our guys did a great job with that and made plays. Our defense made it very difficult to move the football, and our offense came up and it seemed like we were better on third down and that type of thing.

"I'm just real proud of the way that our coaches coached and our players played and it's a great way to start the Big Ten season."

Smith had one of those two fumbles inside the 10, but otherwise had a stellar game. He completed 13 of 19 passes for 191 yards and two touchdowns. He also had 18 carries for 127 yards and two touchdowns.

"I thought he made good decisions," Tressel said. "For the most part, I thought we were throwing to our primary read side. He may have been using his eyes to trick the defense, but he was going to the read side for the most part, he didn't come off and go away a whole bunch."

He was joined over the century mark by tailback Antonio Pittman, who ended up with a career-high 171 yards on 28 carries. This marked the first time in 29 years that an OSU quarterback and running back eclipsed the 100-yard mark in the same game.

The Buckeyes held the ball for nearly 39-1/2 minutes and piled up 314 yards rushing on 60 attempts.

"Well, you know, we've said for years since we've been here that if you can run well, you'll be able to do a lot of things well," Tressel said. "If Iowa had a tough time establishing their run against our defense, well, it's going to be a long day. And I think that's pretty simple about the game of football. And I thought we did a much better job in the run game and then that opened up opportunities to throw it well, and then you've got a chance."

Santonio Holmes had five catches for 95 yards, while Anthony Gonzalez had six grabs for 90 yards and two touchdowns. Ginn added three catches for 31 yards.

"That is exactly what we wanted to do," Gonzalez said. "That is what this offense is supposed to look like and what this defense is supposed to look like."

Iowa quarterback Drew Tate, who victimized OSU for 331 yards passing and three touchdowns a year ago, was 22 of 39 passing for 146 yards with an interception for the Hawkeyes (2-2, 0-1). He was sacked five times.

"They really played well," said Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz. "They controlled both lines. Whatever they had wrong on offense, they definitely fixed it. Our kicking game was good, but that was about it for us. We continued to compete and we have a lot of work to do."

A frustrated Tate even spiked the ball after one sack, drawing a 5-yard delay of game penalty.

"They did a great job catching our routes," Tate said. "They're a great team and very fast. I couldn't step up in the pocket because they closed in really fast."

It was a second straight command performance for the OSU defense, which held SDSU to just three first downs in the entire game a week ago.

"I don't think we changed our game plan much from what we have been doing all year," said OSU linebacker A.J. Hawk, who tallied a team-high 11 tackles and 1-1/2 sacks. "We came out and, like we always say, we want to affect the quarterback. The biggest thing today was our D-linemen did a great job of getting pressure on them.

"That made our job a lot easier. When you don't have to send five or six guys to get pressure, that helps us out a lot."

"After how we came out and played last year we wanted to make a statement," said safety Nate Salley, who had a pair of key pass break-ups. "We focused really well all week and played well today. Now we have a bye week and we want to work on some things and get better. If we play well we feel like we can hold our own against anybody in the country."

The Buckeyes outgained Iowa 331-13 in the first half, but held just a 17-0 lead because of the various mistakes.

OSU forced an Iowa punt on the game's possession, then drove 81 yards in a workmanlike 12 plays to the game's first touchdown. Pittman carried seven times for 45 yards on that drive. Smith also found Holmes for a 20-yard gain and also called his own number on a 14-yard keeper. Finally, on third-and-goal from the 8, OSU lined up with two receivers left and three split wide right. Smith took a shotgun snap and threw a perfect slant pass to the diving Gonzalez for the 8-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead with 7:43 left in the first.

"Coming out and asserting yourself offensively like that -- after the defense had stopped them -- that was huge," Smith said. "Iowa doesn't like to sub. They'll leave your 'backers in there and guard your number two or number three receiver. Gonzalez just made a great move on the linebacker he was matched up against. I just tried to get it where no one else could get it and he made a play."

The Buckeyes pushed the lead to 14-0 early in the second quarter with a strong six-play, 79-yard scoring march. The key play was Smith's 46-yard completion to a dazzling Holmes. He hit Holmes in the left flat with a square-in route. Holmes made Iowa's Antwan Allen miss, then moved down the sideline behind blocks by Gonzalez and Roy Hall and rolled down to the Iowa 31. Runs by Smith of 8 yards and Pittman for 7 gave the Buckeyes a first down at the 16. On first down there, Smith went right on the option keeper. OSU tackle Kirk Barton walled off linebacker Abdul Hodge, allowing Smith to weave through traffic and complete the 16-yard touchdown that put the Buckeyes up 14-0 with 14:30 left in the first half.

"Kirk came off the way he is supposed to, the way the play is designed," Smith said. "He moved his feet. Kirk is a great athlete. Get him in a situation like that and I think he's going to make a play. I just tried to follow Kirk into the end zone."

OSU missed a pair of golden scoring chances on each of its next two possessions. A 28-yard run by Smith gave OSU a first down at the Iowa 7. But on first down there, Brandon Schnittker was wriggling for extra yardage inside the 5. Hodge knocked the ball loose and Iowa's Marcus Paschal recovered with 10:14 left in the half. Then, OSU again moved into scoring possession, but lost possession when Smith had a first down at the 4 but the ball was knocked out by Iowa's Mitch King. Jovon Johnson recovered the fumble at the 4 with 2:53 left in the half.

The OSU defense then forced its fourth straight three-and-out. This is where Ginn appeared to get loose on the punt return for a 54-yard touchdown, but Jamario O'Neal was flagged for shoving Charles Godfrey in the back just as Ginn received the punt. OSU instead got the ball on its own 39-yard line with 1:47 left in the half. Smith found Ginn for a 17-yard gain down to the Iowa 31. Three plays later, Schnittker gave the Buckeyes a first down at the Iowa 30 with 20 seconds left. OSU wound the clock down to 4 seconds before calling timeout. Josh Huston's 47-yard field as time expired gave the Buckeyes a 17-0 halftime lead.

OSU then got the ball to open the second half and moved 78 yards in 10 plays. Pittman started it with runs of 12 and 29 yards. He added a 20-yard gain down to the Iowa 26 on a Statue of Liberty play where he got a handoff after Smith faked a pass. Finally, on second-and-goal from the 4, Smith kept the ball on the option right and scored standing up to give the Buckeyes a 24-0 lead with 9:59 left in the third quarter.

Iowa crept back into the game with a pair of field goals by Kyle Schlicher. The Hawkeyes drove down to the OSU 16 late in the third quarter, but a sack by Bobby Carpenter on Tate ended the touchdown threat. Schlicher's 52-yard field goal cut the OSU lead to 24-3 with 2:48 left in the third.

Then, after OSU punter A.J. Trapasso dropped a snap, Iowa got possession at the OSU 31. A pass interference penalty on OSU's Malcolm Jenkins moved the ball down to the 11. But OSU's Mike Kudla made a huge sack on second down and the Hawkeyes had to settle for Schlicher's 37-yard field goal to cut it to 24-6 with 11:48 left in the game.

Tate then saw a pass go off receiver Calvin Davis' hands for an interception by OSU safety Donte Whitner at the Iowa 40-yard line with 8:40 left.

"They tried to run a skinny post," Whitner said of the key third-down play. "The quarterback threw it a little farther than the receiver could reach. It tipped off his hands and I was right there and the ball came right to me."

The Buckeyes cashed that mistake in with a four-play scoring drive, capped by Smith's 29-yard touchdown pass on another slant to Gonzalez. That put OSU up 31-6 with 6:36 left.

"I kind of knew what defense they were going to run because they had done it previously," Gonzalez said. "I mentioned it to Troy. I said, '(Linebacker Chad) Greenway will be on me in the flat. I'll be wide open.' He looked him off nicely, got it to me and that was that."

Smith added, "That was pretty much like the first touchdown he had. Tony is a great receiver. If we can get him more touches, we'll see how good he really is."

Also Notable

* The last time OSU had a quarterback and tailback reach the 100-yard mark in rushing was on Sept. 11, 1976, in a game against Michigan State when quarterback Rod Gerald had 104 yards and halfback Jeff Logan had 112.

* The game opened OSU's 93rd Big Ten football season.

* Tressel's OSU teams are now 17-6 against top-25 teams, including 5-2 against top-10 teams.

* OSU is now 4-1 in Big Ten openers under Tressel. The loss came last year at Northwestern, when the Buckeyes opened conference play 0-3.

* The Buckeyes are 61-29-3 all-time in Big Ten openers.

* OSU has won 24 of its last 26 home games. Tressel's teams are a combined 28-4 in the Horseshoe.

* With Tressel at the helm, OSU is 32-3 with a halftime lead and 34-3 with a lead after three quarters.

* OSU has scored a touchdown in 105 consecutive games. The last time they didn't? The 13-9 loss to Michigan in 1996.

* OSU holds a 43-14-3 all-time lead in the Iowa series, including a lofty 30-4-1 edge in the last 34 games in the series.

* Iowa's seven-game Big Ten winning streak was snapped. Iowa is now 2-5 in Big Ten openers under Ferentz. It should be noted, though, that this is the sixth time in seven years that a Ferentz Iowa team had to open conference play on the road.

* Ohio State's opening drive Saturday resulted in a touchdown and covered 81 yards on 12 plays. The drive marked the longest drive of the season and was the third of the season for the Buckeyes of 80 yards or more. The touchdown served as the second this season for Ohio State on its opening drive of the game. The Buckeyes last scored on their opening drive of the game against Miami in the season opener.

* For the game, the Buckeyes totaled 530 yards of offense, marking the first time the Buckeyes put up 500 yards of offense since they had 631 in a 2003 win at Indiana.

* Holmes gained 46 yards on his second reception at the end of the first quarter to set a season-long catch. The grab also upped his current streak to 22 consecutive games with at least two catches. Holmes' previous long for the season was a 36-yard touchdown grab against Texas.

For his career, Holmes now has 105 receptions for 1,602 yards. He ranks 11th in career catches and 12th in receiving yards.

* OSU will be off next Saturday before resuming Big Ten play Oct. 8 at Penn State. The Nittany Lions improved to 4-0 overall with a 34-29 win at Northwestern in their Big Ten opener. PSU hosts Purdue next Saturday.

The start time for the OSU-PSU game will either be 7 p.m. (ESPN2) or 7:45 p.m. (ESPN).


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