Sunday Morning QB: Any More Questions?

We are back with our column recapping the big showdown between No. 1 Ohio State and No. 13 Iowa in Iowa City. We have a timeline of events from an incredible evening in and around Kinnick Stadium. Plus, we answer the Ten Pressing Questions surrounding this match-up.

Welcome to Sunday Morning Quarterback, a column I intend to stand each week as a quick read on the news, notes and opinion on Ohio State's weekly game as well as the Big Ten and the college football nation at large.

We start with a look at OSU's win over Iowa:

* I will answer the Ten Pressing Questions in just a moment.

First, though, I want to share my timeline from what was a remarkable evening in and around Kinnick Stadium. Here's how the day went from my perspective:

Noon (Central time) -- Arrived in Cedar Rapids, went to BW3's to wait for our hotel room to become available. Marveled at how Illinois was beating Michigan State.

2:30 p.m. -- Illinois has done it. The Illini have beaten Michigan State. Amazing. Who would have ever thought that?

4 p.m. -- Arrived in Iowa City and can only marvel at the revelry. Nothing but gold and black for as far as the eye can see and everybody – at least the adults – seems to have a drink in their hand. These people are serious and they don't seem to be heeding Kirk Ferentz's admonition to pace themselves.

6:30 p.m. -- Kinnick Stadium is already near capacity a half hour before the game. I'm across the street sharing some wisdom – yeah, right – with Clay Hall and Rob Harley on Channel 6's Buckeye Football Fever show. My main nugget: Iowa is soft against the run.

7 p.m. -- The Iowa band clears the field and the public address system blares rock music in an effort to get the fans truly into it. (Yes, they played Zombie Nation.) The best was when they used the hallway cam to show the team coming out of the locker room and they played ACDC's Back In Black.

7:09 p.m. -- The Hawkeyes take the feel to a gigantic roar. Ohio State comes next to rousing boos. Iowa won the coin toss and elected to receive.

7:13 p.m. -- Aaron Pettrey booms the opening kickoff into the end zone for a touchback.

7:15 p.m. -- Drew Tate is pressured by OSU's Curtis Terry – getting the start in place or Marcus Freeman -- into an incompletion on the very first play.

7:22 p.m. -- OSU draws first blood as Troy Smith hits Anthony Gonzalez for a 12-yard touchdown one play after the two failed to hook up on the same exact slant play.

7:35 p.m. -- You wonder what's up when OSU's Donald Washington is flagged for pass interference on a third-down pass play that Dominique Douglas had no idea was even coming his way. The penalty prolonged an Iowa possession, which led to a field goal.

7:56 p.m. -- The first play of the second quarter goes Ohio State's way as deep safety Brandon Mitchell intercepts an errant Tate throw. As it turns out, there were a lot of those.

8:02 p.m. -- OSU converts the turnover into points as Antonio Pittman, following a great block by fullback Stan White Jr., slammed into the end zone from 4 yards out for a 14-3 lead.

8:10 p.m. -- Iowa gets off the mat with a nice seven-play, 80-yard march, keyed by the fancy running of scat back Damian Sims. Bruiser Albert Young returned and crashed over two or three OSU defenders on his way to a 15-yard touchdown that cuts the lead to 14-10.

8:13 p.m. -- Iowa gets a coverage sack on Smith and you start to wonder if momentum is swinging toward the Hawkeyes.

8:20 p.m. -- OSU is backed up on its own 11 after an Iowa punt. Not to worry, though, as the Buckeyes had Chris Wells on their side. He barrels his way down the left sideline for a 19-yard gain. Moments later, he gets 11 yards on a perfectly timed option pitch by Smith.

8:27 p.m. -- Roy Hall, the forgotten Buckeye in some circles, is pointing straight up in the sky. It seems that Hall, missing in action much of the year due to ankle problems, just caught a bullet from Smith for a 6-yard touchdown and a 21-10 lead with just 2:19 left in the first half.

8:38 p.m. -- Mercifully for Iowa, the game reaches halftime.

9 p.m. -- The second half starts with Iowa kicking off for a touchback. OSU embarks on an 11-play, 80-yard drive that looks like it is straight out of the preseason jersey scrimmage. It was like one of those sequences in a scrimmage where Tressel seems to say, "OK, now we're going to work on the spread." Smith was at his precise best, completing 5 of 6 passes for 61 yards on the drive.

9:09 p.m. -- Smith and Gonzalez hook up on one of those sick touchdowns they specialize in. OSU lined up with five receivers, creating a match-up with Gonzalez in the slot against Iowa LB Mike Klinkenborg. Dave Biddle, standing next to me, said, "Uh oh, they have a linebacker on Gonzalez."

I want to tell you: I followed Gonzalez's every move on that play. If there is a better route runner in college football, I want to see him. Gonzalez came to a quick stop that made Klinkenborg also stop. He then ran around the befuddled linebacker to make the catch. He then stopped almost on a dime (you could even see a little dirt kick up). He nearly lost his balance and put a hand on the ground before righting the ship, running backwards to avoid an Iowa defender and then rolling down the sideline. His teammates were burying Hawkeyes at every turn to spring him and Gonzalez went airborne from the 2 to get what could only be termed as a backbreaking touchdown. OSU led 28-10 early in the third.

9:14 p.m. -- On second-and-10 from the Iowa 20, OSU stops Young for a 3-yard gain. You can start to hear some murmurs from the suddenly very quiet Iowa faithful.

9:17 p.m. -- Iowa gets near midfield but either eighth or ninth dropped pass causes the Hawkeyes to punt the ball and the spastic Tate to go into near hysterics.

9:30 p.m. -- This is Ohio State football the way Woody Hayes liked it. The Buckeyes are slamming Chris Wells right down Iowa's throat, playing keep away. When OSU got tired of that ploy, Smith kept the chains humming with easy pitch-and-catch screens to Ted Ginn Jr., who was drawing the softest of zone coverages.

9:35 p.m. -- The drives comes to an end when an apparent Ginn reception is overruled by replay as being incomplete. Boy, it sure looked like a catch to me. Not to nitpick, but that play ended with 15 seconds left in the third quarter. The officials, ruling it a catch, let the clock run down. When the ruling came down that it was incomplete, they didn't bother putting the 15 seconds back on the clock. Iowa, lulled to sleep by this point, did not seem to care.

9:45 p.m. -- The plucky Tate gives Iowa a bit of life as he converts a fourth down with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Andy Brodell, trimming the OSU lead to 31-17 (Where did I hear that score last Tuesday? Hmmm.)

10 p.m. -- Things are unraveling for Iowa as tight end Scott Chandler coughs the ball up and Mitchell recovers it.

10:08 p.m. -- Tate throws his second pick, this one right to Freeman at the Iowa 14. OSU quickly converts it with Smith's laser-like 12-yard TD pass to Brian Robiskie pushing the lead to 38-17.

10:15 p.m. -- James Laurinaitis – all he does is catch interceptions – puts the final nail in Tate's coffin with another interception. OSU runs out the final 3:35 of clock time in short order and, at 10:20 p.m., that was that – the Buckeyes had come into Kinnick Stadium, stared down all of that gold and pulled out a huge win.

* Now on to the Ten Pressing Questions, which I posed Friday night:

1. How tough will the environment be for the Buckeyes at Kinnick Stadium? -- As we all know, road night games have not been Ohio State's forte in recent years. But this team moved to 2-0 in such games with this decisive victory. Ohio State jumped on Iowa early and kept the heat on throughout in dominating the game. OSU held the ball for exactly 40-1/2 minutes in what turned out to be a much easier win than anybody expected.

2. Will the Buckeyes play better in the first half than they have the last two weeks? -- This was an emphatic yes. OSU slammed the door with a three-and-out to open the game defensively and then drove 54 yards in seven plays to the game's first points. It marked the first time since the opener against Northern Illinois that OSU scored on its first possession.

"We really put an emphasis on that," said center Doug Datish. "Coach (Jim) Bollman said all week that we can't wait and let their crowd get into it. We knew we had to come out early and take the crowd out of the game. We were happy we were able to do that."

3. Will Troy Smith bounce back after a tough game last week? -- Smith threw a pair of interceptions in the win over Penn State. He directed the first scoring drive, hitting Gonzalez for the score and just picked up steam as the game went on. The result? His first four-touchdown game as the OSU quarterback and his 18th win in 20 starts, including an 11-1 mark against ranked teams.

4. How will Iowa's first-year cornerbacks do against Ted Ginn Jr., Anthony Gonzalez and Brian Robiskie? -- Iowa was very determined that OSU's receivers would not burn new corners Adam Shada and Charles Godfrey deep for touchdowns. So, the Hawkeyes played a lot of zone, giving Smith plenty of cushion to get throws in to his key guys.

Shada had no chance on the bullet touchdown to Hall. The Iowa DBs got a lesson in how an efficient offense can cut you to shreds.

5. Can the Buckeyes establish Antonio Pittman on the ground? -- This was my big tip of the week. Iowa's undersized front four and inexperienced linebackers were soft against the run against Iowa State. Pittman and Smith each abused Iowa for 100 yards a year ago, so I figured we would see more of the same.

Pittman got his with 117 yards on 25 carries and a touchdown. But who thought Chris Wells, who bulled his way to 78 yards on 14 totes, would play that big a role?

You can't qualify what that means for this team going forward.

6. Can the Ohio State front seven contain Iowa quarterback Drew Tate? -- OSU only sacked Tate twice, but they confounded him plenty and forced him into three picks. He had his moments at times, but OSU's defense kept him in check.

7. How will OSU do against Iowa tailback Albert Young? -- Young had a nice touchdown run, but never seemed to get into a groove. He finished with just 48 yards on just 11 carries. Once Iowa fell behind, there weren't many opportunities for him.

8. Can the OSU defense be as opportunistic this week? -- This was an emphatic yes with four more takeaways. The Buckeyes now have 11 interceptions in five games, nearly double their total of six from all of last year.

"We had a great defense last year, but we did not have a lot of takeaways," OSU coach Jim Tressel said. "This year, we're doing it differently. We are giving up a few more yards, but we are getting more of those takeaways."

All three of Tate's picks could be qualified as "bad," just as we told you the one he threw the week before against Illinois was questionable.

9. What role will special teams play in this game? -- OSU was so dominant offensively and defensively they never needed to lean on the special teams. Aaron Pettrey did drill a field goal to extend OSU's lead to 31-10 in the fourth quarter and he had his usual collection of touchbacks.

10. Is Ohio State a Big Ten and/or national championship contender? -- With Michigan State losing at home to Illinois, some believe the Buckeyes have "clear sailing" to the season finale with Michigan.

Below, you can peruse the records of OSU's remaining opponents. Other than the unbeaten Wolverines, the shaky Spartans are OSU's only remaining Big Ten opponent with a winning overall record.

It never goes as easily as you think it will, though. Defensive tackle David Patterson said the Buckeyes intend to keep clearing their weekly hurdles one at a time.

"We just know we have to take them one game at a time," he said. "Like we say, the next play is always the most important, so the next game is most important. We want to give every team we play our best shot."

Because of the travel involved with coming back from Iowa, there will not be an exhaustive Big Ten or national recap this week.

* Heisman Watch: This race is becoming pretty exciting. I think OSU's Troy Smith remains the front runner. However, Northern Illinois' Garrett Wolfe after going for 353 yards against Ball State, has thrown his helmet into the ring. Others in the hunt are Notre Dame's Brady Quinn (316 yards, two TDs vs. Purdue), LSU's JaMarcus Russell (330 yards vs. Mississippi State), Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson, Florida's Chris Leak and Michigan's Mario Manningham are also in the hunt.

* My new top 15: Here's my new list: Ohio State, USC, Michigan, West Virginia, Auburn, Louisville, Florida, Oregon, Texas, LSU, Oklahoma, Georgia, Notre Dame, Iowa, Tennessee.

* Games To Watch: Central Florida-Marshall (Wed.), Florida State-N.C. State (Thursday), Arkansas-Auburn, Purdue-Iowa, West Virginia-Mississippi State, Stanford-Notre Dame, LSU-Florida, Washington-USC, Texas-Oklahoma (at Dallas), Michigan State-Michigan, Tennessee-Georgia, Oregon-California, Nebraska-Iowa State.

We will wrap up each week with a look at how OSU's opponents fared and check out who they face next week.

Date (Time, TV), Opponent (Record), This Week's Result, Next Week's Game

Sept. 2, Northern Illinois (3-2), beat Ball State 40-28, Sept. 30; at Miami (Ohio), Oct. 8.

Sept. 9, at Texas (4-1), beat Sam Houston State 56-3, Sept. 30; vs. Oklahoma (at Dallas), Oct. 7.

Sept. 16, Cincinnati (2-3), beat Miami (Ohio) 24-10, Sept. 30; vs. Akron, Oct. 7.

Sept. 23, Penn State (3-2), beat Northwestern 33-7, Sept. 30; at Minnesota, Oct. 7.

Sept. 30, at Iowa (4-1), lost to Ohio State 38-17, Sept. 30; vs. Purdue, Oct. 7.

Oct. 7, (3:30 p.m., ESPN-Plus) Bowling Green (3-2), beat Ohio U. 21-9, Sept. 30; at Ohio State, Oct. 7.

Oct. 14, at Michigan State (3-2), lost to Illinois 23-20, Sept. 30; at Michigan, Oct. 7.

Oct. 21, (noon, TV TBA) Indiana (2-3), lost to Wisconsin 52-17, Sept. 30; at Illinois, Oct. 7.

Oct. 28, (3:30 p.m., ABC or ESPN) Minnesota (2-3), lost to Michigan 28-14, Sept. 30; vs. Minnesota, Oct. 7.

Nov. 4, at Illinois (2-3), beat Michigan State 23-20, Sept. 30; vs. Illinois, Oct. 7.

Nov. 11, at Northwestern (2-3), lost to Penn State 33-7, Sept. 30; at Wisconsin, Oct. 7.

Nov. 18, (3:30 p.m., ABC) Michigan (5-0), beat Minnesota 28-14, Sept. 30; vs. Michigan State, Oct. 7.

Big Ten Standings

Team (Overall, Big Ten)

Michigan (5-0, 2-0)

Ohio State (5-0, 2-0)

Purdue (4-1, 1-0)

Iowa (4-1, 1-1)

Wisconsin (4-1, 1-1)

Penn State (3-2, 1-1)

Illinois (2-3, 1-1)

Michigan State (3-2, 0-1)

Minnesota (2-3, 0-2)

Indiana (2-3, 0-2)

Northwestern (2-3, 0-2)

Sept. 30 Results

Wisconsin 52, Indiana 17

Illinois 23, Michigan State 20

Notre Dame 35, Purdue 21

Penn State 33, Northwestern 7

Michigan 28, Minnesota 14

Ohio State 38, Iowa 17

Oct. 7 Games

NOTE: Schedule pending baseball playoff assignments

Indiana at Illinois, noon

Purdue at Iowa, noon (ESPNU)

Penn State at Minnesota, noon

Northwestern at Wisconsin, noon

Bowling Green at Ohio State, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN-Plus Local)

Michigan State at Michigan, 4:30 p.m. (ESPN)

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