Smith Steps Up With Four TDs Against Iowa

If Troy Smith wasn't already the Heisman front-runner, he sure is now. Ohio State's senior quarterback threw for 186 yards and four touchdowns in top-ranked OSU's 38-17 drubbing of host Iowa on Saturday. We caught up with Smith after the game for his thoughts on the big win and more.

Coming off his lone shaky performance of the season, Troy Smith responded in a big way in Ohio State's 38-17 romp over Iowa on Saturday with 186 passing yards and four touchdowns.

Smith threw his only two interceptions of the season last week against Penn State, but in front of a hostile crowd at Kinnick Stadium, Smith proved why many consider him the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy.

"Well, Troy has a great grasp of what we would like to do, and also what they're doing," OSU head coach Jim Tressel said. "That's what it is about. That's how you get good is understanding your own system and how people try and stop you. I thought he was in command the whole game. And I thought he was one of the elite ones before this game. And if he will keep getting better, we have a chance."

But don't tell Smith about any Heisman hype. He is only concerned about winning the Big Ten and the national championship.

"I try not to talk about individual awards because I think you take care of everything first as a team," he said. "You put that first and then you'll be taken care of. I've always been a team-oriented guy and understand that with one play it can all be taken away from you."

Against Iowa, Smith threw two touchdowns to Anthony Gonzalez, and one each to Roy Hall and Brian Robiskie.

Gonzalez scored the first touchdown of the game on OSU's opening drive, but it was his 30-yarder in the third quarter that really broke the game open and gave OSU a commanding 28-10 lead. On the play, Gonzalez was in the slot covered by a linebacker. He ran a stop-and-go route, caught the ball over the middle, and actually ran backwards before speeding around the outside and into the end zone for the spectacular score.

"I think with any guy with phenomenal speed, obviously they learn early in their career to give ground to get ground," Smith said. "Sometimes that can come back to haunt you. And Anthony Gonzalez, he can do that, put on the jets or whatever you want to call it and speed around the outside. Gonzo just made a great play."

Smith was also happy to see his good friend Hall get on the board. Hall was nursing a sprained ankle during the early part of the season, but stepped up with two catches for 22 yards, including the 6-yard touchdown.

"Seeing Roy Hall get in the end zone was very dearful to me because he's come a long way," Smith said. "He had a minor setback early on and he's come back strong. He's a true warrior."

Iowa ran a very basic defense all night according to Smith. The Hawkeyes didn't key on the run or pass. They played it straight-up most of the game.

"I think they ran a balanced defense against us," Smith said. "Iowa does a great job of stopping either the run or pass with their interior seven guys. They keep their seven on the field at all times and they don't do a lot of nickel subbing – they keep their three linebackers in there and they live by it."

It was a raucous crowd at Kinnick Stadium, but the cool and collected Smith was never rattled.

"No, I really don't buy into that," he said. "There are always going to be hecklers and people who want to take you out of the game. Obviously you know you're doing something right when they have to resort to something like that."

The Buckeyes amassed 400 total yards – 214 rushing and 186 passing. It's that versatility and balance that makes them one of the best offensive units in the country.

"I think through the course of a season you do have to have that delicate balance," Smith said. "You can't be known as a top-heavy team, either crazy running, or too much passing. You have to find that happy medium there and our staff does a great job with leveling that out. And that way, you can do some grinding on them with the run and that can set up some passes here and there."

Smith was asked if he is happy with where OSU is as an offense.

"I think so, but you can always get better," he said. "You never want to get into a time where you say, ‘OK, now we're fine. We don't have to do anything more.' We have to get better day in and day out. We can still get better."

A national reporter also asked Smith if he feels like the Buckeyes are the best team in the country.

"I think if there was a guy in the locker room who said we weren't the number one team in the nation, he'd have a problem with me," Smith said. "Of course. You have to have that kind of attitude, that kind of swag. We have to bring that back to Ohio State – that kind of punishing attitude. Every team we face is going to give us their best, but we're going to do the same for them."

It was nearly two years ago at Iowa when Smith took over as OSU's full-time quarterback after Justin Zwick was injured against the Hawkeyes. Smith tried to reflect on the strides he's made as a quarterback since then.

"Man, I don't think I'd be able to do it in one conversation, because it's been such a uphill curve," he said. "There's been a lot of growth, a lot of maturity. I owe it to my staff who has put me in this situation to grow as a player."

Smith prides himself on being a tough quarterback. Yes, he can make all the throws, and is adept as a runner. But his toughness might be his best attribute.

"Well, it's huge because I think that is one of the keys to a great quarterback," Smith said. "Anytime you look back through time of guys that have won national championships or Super Bowls, they were tough quarterbacks. Everything about them was tough. They were mentally tough, physically tough, emotionally, the whole way around."

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