Iowa had just 13 total yards in the first half and the stingy Buckeye defense forced four consecutive three-and-outs to close the second quarter.
Tate was the star of Iowa's 33-7 win over OSU last year in Iowa City. But this time, he was taken out of his game early by the fired-up "Silver Bullets." Tate finished 22 of 39 for 146 yards and one interception. He also rushed seven times for minus-34 yards – including five sacks from OSU's swarming defense.
As things began to unravel for Iowa, Tate became more and more frustrated. He was seen chewing out his offensive linemen and receivers and eventually was flagged for "delay of game" for angrily spiking the ball following a sack. (It should have been a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty, but who's counting?)
"It kind of surprised me to see him lose his cool like that," OSU safety Nate Salley said. "But sometimes it happens. He's a competitor and he wants to do great and they weren't doing that."
Defensive end Jay Richardson said the Buckeyes became even more motivated once they saw that Tate was frustrated.
"Yeah, it gets you fired up because now you know you've got him on the ropes," he said. "When you see someone – especially a quarterback whose job is to keep his composure – slamming the ball and spiking it and screaming at his O-line, you know you are doing something right."
Linebacker Anthony Schegel felt it was a compliment to OSU's defense to have a player like Tate lose his cool.
"It's gratifying because you're going out there trying to hit people and affect the quarterback," Schlegel said. "When you see those signs happening, you're like, ‘All right, we've got them on their heels. Next series when we go out there, let's slam the door.' It was a fun day to be an OSU Buckeye."
Overall, it can't get much better for a very good Ohio State defense. Say what you want about Iowa – sure the Hawkeyes were overrated coming in this season – but to hold an offense like that to 13 yards in the first half and just 124 more in the second half (most of those coming at garbage time) was something special.
"The way we came out and played last year, we wanted to show the exact opposite this year and I believe we went out and did it," Salley said. "We were very focused all week and we came out and played hard."
Salley thinks the Buckeyes' defense can match up with some of the best offenses in the country.
"We've seen some good guys already up to this point as far as (Texas QB) Vince Young and now we've had Tate," he said. "I believe that we can hold our own pretty much against anybody if we go out there and execute."
Against Iowa, OSU's defense seemed to be at its best following turnovers. Twice the Buckeyes fumbled the ball away inside Iowa's 5-yard line. Iowa also got a short field following a fumble from A.J. Trapasso on a punt attempt. But each time, the defense rose to the occasion and got the ball back for the offense.
"It's huge," Salley said. "(Defensive coordinator Jim Heacock) always talks about ‘sudden change' and being put in those situations and we always have to be ready. Especially having a lot of seniors out there, we've got to keep everybody up. We try and look at sudden change as something we can have fun with. We kind of look at it as another opportunity to go out there and make another play. So, anytime something like that happens, we just go out there like, ‘Hey, we want to be out here. Let's go. Let's go. We're happy to be on the field again.' That's how we try and look at is – try and make it a positive."
Salley had at least two big hits on the day, including a key breakup on a tipped pass early in the game.
"We want to be known as a physical defense out there and I believe today we were physical with them," Salley said. "That's the main thing we want to concentrate on is being physical and playing smart."
Salley was asked to reveal OSU's defensive game plan against the Hawkeyes.
"I don't think there was one major thing," he said. "We knew they had good receivers and we knew that Tate was a huge part of their offense and we couldn't let him run around like crazy like last year. Last year, the thing that killed us a lot was that it would be second or third-and-long and he would scramble all over the place and then throw the ball downfield. That's what hurt us last year, as opposed to this year when we kept him under control and he couldn't just run around free like he wanted to. And I think that took away from the way that they like to play ball."
It was another solid game for junior cornerback Ashton Youboty. He had five tackles, one pass breakup and was active all over the field.
"I'm extremely happy with the way the defense played," Youboty said. "Of course we have work to do – they had a couple plays here and there – but overall I think we did a great job. The only thing better would have been 31-0, but you can't have everything. But it was just fun being out there and being on the other side of the table."
Youboty said the Buckeyes had a one track mind: stop Tate.
"We didn't want Drew Tate to sprint out," he said. "We wanted to keep him in the pocket and the D-line did a great job with that and it helps us with our coverage."
Senior outside linebacker A.J. Hawk led the Buckeyes with 11 tackles and also had 1.5 sacks – tying Mike Kudla for the team lead. Hawk was flying around making plays all over the field. But like Youboty, he credited the strong play of OSU's defensive line.
"Our D-line did a great job of getting pressure which opened it up for us linebackers to come in and make some plays," Hawk said.
Hawk knows how Iowa's players are feeling right now. He felt the same way leaving Iowa City last year.
"It's a good feeling to come out here and beat a good team like that," Hawk said. "Obviously last year was tough to go out there and lose like that. It's a long plane ride home when something like that happens. It was nice. It's a pretty similar score to what happened last year and I was just happy with the way our defense came out and fought the whole game and played well and made sure we contained the quarterback."
Ohio State's defensive line clearly won the battle against a solid Iowa offensive line. Led by Kudla (who seems to get better each week) and stalwart tackle Quinn Pitcock, the Buckeyes controlled the line of scrimmage for most of the afternoon.
"I think the key was just to control their offensive line up front and stop Drew Tate," Richardson said. "We took away all his quick and made him have to make decisions on the run and by that time we were getting so much pressure that he didn't have time to get rid of the ball.
"We were focused a lot this week on stopping the boot. Last year, the boot hurt us a lot. We've had drill set up all year for the D-linemen called the Iowa drill. It's all about stopping the boot, stopping the boot. And then come game time, they only booted twice all game. So, I don't know what that was all about, but that was our focus: stop the run, stop the boot and affect the quarterback. And I think we did that."
Schlegel also heaped praise on the big guys up front. He can't say enough about the way the defensive line played.
"I tell you what, it makes it a lot easier to be a linebacker when you've got front guys like those guys," he said. "Quinn always does a great job. Marcus (Green), Joel (Penton), David (Patterson), Jay, Mike Kudla coming off the edge and getting some big sacks. That just makes our jobs so much easier. Hats off to them. They were definitely more physical and won the line of scrimmage and that's what you've got to do in Big Ten games."
Head coach Jim Tressel was obviously pleased with the performance of his defense. It might have been the best defensive performance of the Tressel era at OSU.
"Confident, very well prepared," Tressel said. "Their coaches have them in the things that they know and they know when someone tries to do this or that, they know what they're going to go to next. So, I would say confident, prepared, obviously physical. And you can't leave out the word ‘quickness' when you talk about our defense because our defense has got quickness."
Heacock is going to be the toast of Columbus if he keeps calling games like he did on Saturday. The few times he called blitzes, they worked to perfection, including a safety blitz following an OSU turnover in which Tyler Everett recorded a sack.
Junior safety Donte Whitner also had a solid game in the secondary with seven tackles and OSU's lone interception.
"I think the evidence today was a team effort," Heacock said. "If you look at it, I think you'll see the back end did great job, the secondary did a great job, and I'm not taking away from the linebackers, but I thought it was a great team effort. I thought our front played well, secondary played well, and our linebackers played equally as well. I think the success goes to all of them, goes to the players and the way they performed. But we're very fortunate to have three outstanding linebackers and they're playing unselfish and they're leading out there and they're very intelligent, which really helps. I think that helps a lot. They're intelligent and they can understand what the offense is trying to do to them."
Once the Hawkeyes became one-dimensional offensively, the game was basically over. Ohio State knew what was coming – a lot of passes – and was able to contain Tate for the majority of the game.
"I think the key was when they started out trying to run the ball and we were able to stop them in playing some coverage at the back end," Heacock said. "So, I think our front seven did a good job stopping the run. Once that happens, then it gives you a little bit of flexibility that you can kind of turn loose a little bit and cut those guys loose. And obviously our offense did a great job of controlling the football today. I don't know what the time of possession was, but I would imagine it was pretty good. We were able to stay rested and I just think we put our ears back, we've got some guys that can go, and you're allowed to put your ears back when they have to throw the ball and try to get it down the field. So I think stopping the run was probably the key."