In the biggest game of his career to date as an Ohio State Buckeye, most of Anthony Gonzalez's family wasn't there to celebrate it with him. The third-year sophomore from Cleveland St. Ignatius High School had six catches for 90 yards and scored two touchdowns on passes thrown from Troy Smith.
"It's funny how that works. Nobody could come today because my family has a wedding which I'm going to right now," Gonzalez said. "At least nobody on my mother's side of the family, my father's side had people here. But yeah it was nice to have a game like that. And a lot of that goes back to people spending so much time worrying about Ted (Ginn) and Santonio (Holmes), and sometimes I get left alone out there."
Gonzalez has no problem being recognized as the third option among the talented corps of Buckeye wide receivers.
"I'm the third guy, absolutely. No doubt about it," he said. "And when teams worry so much about that, like if you saw in the red zone, they double both of them. As soon as the ball was snapped, the guy who was over top of me turned and looked at Santonio or Ted and it was a straight-up double-team. And that's why you saw that little route in the first quarter work because they literally had two people bracketing both of them. So if teams are going to do that, I guess it is my job to kind of work in the middle a little bit."
The 8-yard touchdown pass on a crossing route to Gonzalez on the opening possession for the Buckeyes capped a strong 12-play, 81-yard drive.
"It's always refreshing when you get into the end zone no matter who got the ball in there," Gonzalez said. "That's exactly how you want to start the game off really, offensively anyway. Our defense got out there first and stopped them real well and then we kind of took it from there in terms of the first drive."
Individually Gonzalez had the best game of his brief career against the Hawkeyes. He first burst upon the scene in the week-10 game at Purdue last year and has practically been an integral member of the offense ever since. In his first eligible season as an Ohio State Buckeye last year, Gonzalez had eight catches for 179 yards and two touchdowns. The Iowa game, where he doubled his career touchdown production in just one game, is just an indication of how much of a threat the speedy Gonzalez can be if an opposing team doesn't properly defend him.
"Well it was nice to kind of get off a little bit today but like I said, if you watch the film, they were doubling Santonio and Ted, especially in the red zone," Gonzalez said. "And that's where you saw in the first touchdown where it was open because it was me on (Chad) Greenway and (Abdul) Hodge was on the other side. And so, as a receiver, if a linebacker is going to cover you, you better win. So that's kind of how that happened."
On that first touchdown to Gonzalez, there was barely enough room for Smith to rifle the ball in to him between two defenders before Gonzalez did the rest.
"I knew there was going to be some space in there and I knew where I was roughly on the field," Gonzalez said. "It's about a 5-yard route and I think we were on the eight-yard line so it was just kind of catch it and fall forward I guess."
And on the second touchdown to Gonzalez, the 29-yard strike that he caught in stride and raced into the end zone, Ohio State ran that same play with a different result earlier in the game.
Gonzalez races for a score on this 29-yard reception.
"We had run that play previously and Troy had thrown it to Ted on the sideline. It was same play but it didn't look the same," Gonzalez said. "And I had noticed that when I was running my route that Greenway was flying into the flat and leaving me open so I told Troy it. And when they called the play, he said ‘now what were saying on the last one,' and I told him that Greenway is going to buzz to the flat so just look at Ted and throw it to me and it will be open. It was just a beautiful throw by him and the protection was sound as it was all game, so it was catch and run I guess."
Gonzalez had nothing but praise for his quarterback who was responsible for getting him the ball on both of his touchdown receptions.
"He's an extremely talented athlete and I have confidence, complete confidence, every time that we step on the field that he's going to make the necessary plays," Gonzalez said. "Last week people criticized him but I think he made the necessary plays and you saw it again today and it was maybe a little more crisp which may or not be the result of getting some experience under his belt again. I was really please with his performance as I'm sure everybody was. It was very Michiganesque."
Behind a strong performance on both sides of the ball, Ohio State avenged the 33-7 in Iowa last year with a similar score in front of the home crowd this year in Ohio Stadium.
"We tried all week to say we weren't looking for revenge but there was no doubt about it, we couldn't let them do what they did last year to us again and we wanted to put one on them," Gonzalez said. "And they're a great football team, it's not like they are a bad football team, it's just that we happened to play probably our best game, with the exception of turnovers, that we've had all year."
It was total team effort according to Gonzalez who credited the guys up front for their part in the offense's success.
"Our offensive line played a great game and there's no getting around that," he said. "We had all of those yards and it all starts up front. And that's cliche but that's 100 percent true. You can't do anything without the big guys up front and they did a great job today. I think they had an excellent game as did everybody. We were clicking today and the defense was outstanding, they held them to negative rushing yards, that's incredible."
Clearly the running game helped to open things up for Gonzalez and the passing game. Antonio Pittman, who had his best game of his young career with 171 yards rushing, got off to a fast start and Iowa had to make an early adjustment to slow the ground game down.
"I think you saw in this game, in particular, that they started moving linebackers back into the front," Gonzalez said. "Earlier in the game, when we spread out, they would spread out. And as we started racking up the yardage in the running game they started moving them back into the front. So it certainly opened things up for us."
The impressive win over Iowa was an important start to the beginning of the Big Ten season for Ohio State.
"That's exactly what we wanted to do. That is what this offense is suppose to look like and that's what this defense is suppose to look like. So yeah it's nice to get this one under our belt and kind of get off on the right foot," Gonzalez said," Gonzalez said. "We've been spreading people out and, for whatever reason, hadn't been clicking but today we put it all together. Five Hundred yards, 300 on the ground...that's Ohio State football right there. So all in all it was a great day for us."
And it was certainly a great day for Gonzalez even though half of his family wasn't there to see it.