Top-ranked Ohio State stared down the raucous crowd, feasted on four Iowa turnovers and rolled to a decisive 38-17 win over the 13th-ranked Hawkeyes in what was billed as one of the biggest home games in Iowa history.
"Iowa is a heck of a football team," said OSU coach Jim Tressel, whose team successfully returned to the scene of a 33-7 loss in 2004. "They're physical. They're so well schooled in everything they do. It was a tough scenario to play in. There was a whole lot of gold out there. We're usually spoiled with mostly Scarlet and Gray. Our kids just kept fighting and made plays.
"What can you say when you get four takeaways in a game. We always say you can't turn it over on the road if you expect to win, and that was exactly what the story of the game was. If you play as hard as our kids did, you're going to have a chance."
The Buckeyes (5-0, 2-0) shrugged off back-to-back slow starts by driving for a touchdown on their first possession of the game. An interception by senior safety Brandon Mitchell set up another score and OSU capped the first half with an 89-yard scoring march to go up 21-10 at halftime.
But nothing topped OSU's backbreaking 11-play, 80-yard scoring march to open the second half. That drive was capped as Troy Smith hit Anthony Gonzalez for an amazing 30-yard touchdown and a commanding 28-10 lead.
OSU completed a dynamic first month of the season which included three wins over ranked teams, including road wins over then-No. 2 Texas and this game with Iowa.
"One of the great challenges we talked about a lot was how brutal that September schedule was," Tressel said. "We've played against some tough teams. People have brought all they could against us. But all that does is make October more important. We'll start tomorrow when October begins and we'll go back to work. We just have to try and get better one day at a time."
The Buckeyes rolled up 400 yards total offense and held the ball for 40-1/2 minutes.
"This was everything I expected and more," said OSU center Doug Datish. "This was some of the most fun I've had playing in the Big Ten. It was a great environment. I thought offensively we did a good job of holding the ball and scoring when we had to."
Smith rebounded from a subpar performance a week earlier against Penn State, completing 16 of 25 passes for 186 yards and a career-high four touchdowns.
"He's got a great grasp of what we're trying to do and also of what they're doing," Tressel said of his quarterback, who improved to 18-2 as the starter at OSU. "That's when you have a chance to be pretty good. He was in command the whole game."
Gonzalez finished with five catches for 77 yards and two touchdowns, while Ted Ginn Jr. had seven catches for 69 yards.
Tailback Antonio Pittman had a big night with 25 carries for 117 yards. Freshman Chris Wells had a career-high 78 yards on 14 carries
"It's huge for you to have multiple people at that very important position," Tressel said.
Quarterback Drew Tate endured an up-and-down night for Iowa (4-1, 1-1). Tate was victimized by a handful of drops, with one touchdown and three interceptions.
"Obviously, we gave up 17 points and we gave up a rushing touchdown," said Mitchell, who also recovered a late Iowa fumble. "But we are happy about our defense and the fact we got the win."
Iowa won the toss and Ferentz opted for the Hawkeyes to take the ball. But when OSU forced a three-and-out to start the game – keyed by a pressure by linebacker Curtis Terry and a tackle-for-loss by defensive tackle David Patterson – the Buckeyes were in business after Ted Ginn Jr. returned the Iowa punt to the OSU 46.
The Buckeyes needed seven plays to move 54 yards and score the game's first points. Smith opened it with an 11-yard pass to Ginn, who recovered his own fumble at the end of the play. Pittman then ripped off a 20-yard run over the left side, giving OSU a first down at the Iowa 23. Smith got 6 yards on a quarterback draw and Pittman picked up a first down at the 13 after a 4-yard run.
After Smith's second-down pass to Gonzalez on a slant went incomplete, those two hooked up on third down. Gonzalez made the snag the second time and rolled into the end zone in front of Iowa's Marcus Paschal for the 12-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead with 11:34 left in the first quarter.
"On the play before, I was supposed to run a slant and I didn't," Gonzalez said. "I thought we were signaling it if we checked and we weren't. That was my mistake. The very next play, they gave us the exact same thing and we went with it without the signal and cleared it up and got the touchdown."
Iowa answered with a 14-play, 66-yard march. The first key play was Tate's 31-yard heave under heavy pressure that Herb Grigsby pulled down for a first down at the OSU 48. Then, the drive was prolonged when OSU's Donald Washington was flagged for pass interference on a third-down incompletion. But Tate misfired on a pair of passes from the OSU 14 and Iowa settled for Kyle Schlicher's 31-yard field goal, cutting the OSU lead to 7-3 with 5:14 left in the first quarter.
Ohio State added to its lead after Mitchell picked off a Tate pass down the middle. He returned it to the Iowa 30 with 14:52 left in the first half.
"We know Drew Tate likes to go to the tight end," Mitchell said. "We knew we would be challenged vertically because that's what he did to us two years ago here. I read his eyes and the D-line got good pressure and I was able to get it."
"Anytime you get a takeaway like that, it's hard to quantify how big that is," Tressel added.
The Buckeyes needed just three plays to find the end zone and convert that miscue into points. Pittman carried on all three plays, gaining 3 yards on an option play, going again over the left side for a 23-yard gain down to the 4 and going left again on the 4-yard touchdown run that put Ohio State ahead 14-3 with 13:41 left in the half.
"The whole line was instrumental on that touchdown," Pittman said. "They were instrumental the whole game. (Iowa) did a lot of slanting and we were able to bounce it outside."
Iowa did not fold its tent. The Hawkeyes inserted scat back Damian Sims at tailback and the change-up served them well as he gashed the OSU defense for gains of 21 and 12 yards. Tate then threw down the seam to 6-7 tight end Scott Chandler for a 21-yard gain down to the 15. Young, who finished with 48 yards on 11 carries, returned and he bulled his way in from 15 yards out for the touchdown that cut the OSU lead to 14-10 with 11:10 left in the half. That was the first rushing touchdown the Buckeyes have allowed this year.
Ohio State fired the final shot of the first half, moving 89 yards in a workmanlike 11 plays. OSU answered the Sims move by inserting 230-pound freshman Chris Wells at tailback. Wells ripped off runs of 19 and 11 yards and also made a bobbling catch of a Smith screen for a 6-yard gain. Smith then went to work with Ginn, connecting with him on a pair of 11-yard gains. Pittman added carries of 5 and 10 yards, giving OSU a first down at the Iowa 10.
Pittman got 4 yards on first down. Facing second-and-goal the 6, Smith dropped and threw to Roy Hall in the right side of the end zone. Hall, who has missed much of the year with a high ankle sprain, made his first big play of the season by hauling in the pass as Iowa's Adam Shada blasted him. He held on for the 6-yard touchdown that pushed the lead to 21-10 with 2:19 left in the half.
"It was a huge play," Hall said. "It reminded me of the situation at Texas, where Teddy caught that touchdown pass right before halftime. Sometimes, that kills a team's spirits when you score right before halftime like that. That meant a lot to the team and it meant a lot to me to get my first touchdown of the year."
Tressel was glad to see his team extend the lead just before the half.
"The real long drive before halftime, I thought, was a big confidence builder," Tressel said.
Iowa moved to midfield late in the half, but two more Tate incompletions – both drops by his receivers – ended the threat and OSU went into the intermission with an 11-point lead.
Iowa's decision to take the ball to open the game was magnified as the Buckeyes got the ball to open the second half and rolled 80 yards in 11 plays. Smith was 5 of 6 for 61 yards on this precision drive. He hit Ginn for three catches for 21 yards and capped it with the 30-yard touchdown to Gonzalez.
On the touchdown, OSU went with five receivers and an empty backfield. Smith located Gonzalez on a mismatch with Iowa linebacker Mike Klinkenborg. Gonzalez baited Klinkenborg with a stop-and-go route. He made the snag over the middle, then ran backwards to outflank Iowa's Mike Humpal, nearly went down before regaining his balance, picked up a block from teammate Brian Hartline and went airborne over Iowa's Marcus Wilson to complete the miraculous touchdown that gave the Buckeyes a 28-10 lead with 9:35 left in the third quarter.
"That was a play we had worked on all week," Gonzalez said. "That play was a total team effort. Hartline comes out and gets his block there at the end. Ted said he knocked down two guys. I can't wait to see it on the film for all the blocks. That's how you play as a team right there."
Smith added his take on the game breaking touchdown.
"Any guy with phenomenal speed, they learn early in their career that sometimes you have to give ground to get ground," Smith said. "With a guy like Anthony Gonzalez, he can do that and turn the boosters on or turn on the jets and speed around the outside."
OSU used power running with Wells and more effective screens to Ginn to drive to a 36-yard Aaron Pettrey field goal that pushed the lead to 31-10 with 14:51 left in the game.
Iowa rallied and cut the lead to 31-17 after Tate hit Andy Brodell with a 4-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-2 with 13:08 left in the game.
But OSU linebacker Marcus Freeman intercepted a Tate pass with 6:25 left, giving the Buckeyes possession at the Iowa 14. Smith converted that miscue into points as he hit Brian Robiskie on a sliding 12-yard touchdown pass with 4:23 left.
OSU linebacker James Laurinaitis then picked off a Tate pass with 3:35 left.
"We ran the same defense two times in a row," said Laurinaitis, who has four interceptions in five games this year. "Drew kind of stared down the one side. They tried to run the same play again and the ball came right to me. The D-line got great pressure."
The Buckeyes were able to run out the remaining time and enjoy a brief postgame celebration with the roughly 8,000 OSU fans in attendance.
* OSU lost redshirt freshman safety Anderson Russell to a season-ending leg injury during the first half. Jamario O'Neal filled in for Russell for the balance of the game.
"You have to be happy with the way Jamario O'Neal went in," Tressel said. "Yes, Anderson did get injured and, from what I gather, it is a season ending injury. That's a shame because he's a great kid and a great player. He was doing a fine job as a safety. He'll be back. That's the great thing about today's world, but it won't be this year."
* Pittman reached the 100-yard mark for the fourth time in five games this year and for the 12th time in his career.
* Ohio State now leads the all-time series 44-14-3, including 17-6-2 in Iowa City. OSU has now won 10 of the last 11 in the series dating to a 1991 home loss.
* This was just the second ever night game at Kinnick Stadium. Then-No. 1 Miami (Fla.) defeated Iowa 24-7 in the first night game there in 1992.
* ESPN's College Game Day, featuring former OSU quarterback Kirk Herbstreit, made just its second-ever appearance in Iowa City. It was also there for the 1996 Ohio State game.
* This game also marked the first-ever prime time network broadcast of a game matching two Big Ten teams. It was televised nationally as part of ABC's "Saturday Night Football" series.
* Iowa fell to 0-8-1 all-time against No. 1-ranked teams.
* Iowa rotates off OSU's schedule for the next two years. This marks the last time the schools will meet until Nov. 14, 2009, in Columbus.
* With TCU's loss on Thursday, the Buckeyes now boast the nation's longest winning streak at 12 straight games. Ohio State's last defeat came at Penn State (17-10) on Oct. 8, 2005.
* OSU is now 56-8-1 all-time in games it enters as the nation's No. 1 team.
* In the records department under Tressel, Ohio State is now 55-13 overall, 16-8 on the road, 32-10 in Big Ten games, 24-7 against ranked teams and 3-1 against Iowa. OSU is also now 22-2 all-time in September under Tressel. The losses were to UCLA in 2001 and Texas in 2005.
* Ohio State will play its final nonconference game of the season next Saturday when it hosts Bowling Green (2-2). That game, set for a 3:30 p.m. start, will be televised primarily across Ohio by the ESPN-Plus local syndication package and locally in Columbus on WBNS-TV (Ch. 10).