Defense Took Advantage Of Second Chance

The scene Saturday night was not unfamiliar to the Ohio State football team or its fans. The Buckeyes held a late lead, but their opponent was threatening to steal a victory. Against Iowa, however, the defense stood tall. The defense overwhelmed the Hawkeyes in overtime, allowing the Buckeyes to earn a trip to the Rose Bowl with a 27-24 victory.

Just one more opportunity was all the Ohio State defense needed Saturday with a Rose Bowl berth on the line.

After giving up a late touchdown drive that allowed Iowa to tie the game, senior lineman Doug Worthington and the rest of the defense were not going to let history repeat itself. The Buckeyes, along with the 105,455 at Ohio Stadium, had seen the story play out before. Ohio State held late leads in marquee games against Texas in the Fiesta Bowl and earlier this season against USC. In both games the defense lost the lead, giving up game-winning touchdowns to the Longhorns and Trojans in the waning seconds.

Worthington admitted feeling a bit of déjà vu in the fourth quarter.

"A lot of times these games don't (go) in our favor," Worthington said. "It kind of felt like an old story."

This time, however, the old story had a new ending once the game went to overtime. The Hawkeyes started on offense, and the Ohio State defense saved its best performance for last. An incomplete pass by quarterback James Vandenberg started the possession, and senior Austin Spitler put the Hawkeyes in a third-and-long situation by stopping tailback Adam Robinson for a 6-yard loss on second down.

That set up a play Worthington will never forget.

The Buckeyes rushed three, letting junior lineman Thaddeus Gibson spy on Vandenberg. Worthington broke through the offensive line and sacked Vandenberg for a 10-yard loss. The play pushed Iowa out of field-goal range, and Vandenberg's fourth-down heave to the end zone was intercepted by senior safety Anderson Russell.

"We just knew we had to make plays," senior defensive lineman Lawrence Wilson said of the crucial stop. "The game was on the line and our seniors stepped up. Spit make the tackle for loss, then Doug made a sack and Anderson made the pick. Our seniors definitely stepped up."

The offense and special teams took care of the rest, handing the ball to sophomore tailback Dan "Boom" Herron three times before setting the stage for junior walk-on kicker Devin Barclay to end the game with a 39-yard field goal.

The final defensive stand may have redeemed the Ohio State defense, but senior co-captain Kurt Coleman said he never felt like the Buckeyes were going to lose.

"It's never that it was slipping away," the safety said. "It was just we had to put our foot down. We kind of let up a little bit. I think the defense needed to make a stop."

Making a stop was the mantra of other members of the defense when the Buckeyes won the coin toss before overtime and elected to begin on defense.

"Our backs were up against the wall," Wilson said. "We knew it would be up to us to win the game. ... When we grouped we said, ‘This is it. We have to give it all we have.' We came out successful."

All in all it was a jubilant end to what had been an emotional day for the Buckeyes and especially their defense. The Hawkeyes drew first blood with a 32-yard field goal, and even when the Buckeyes answered with 10 second-quarter points, Iowa did not quit. A 9-yard touchdown pass from Vandenberg to Marvin McNutt tied the game in the third quarter. Then when Ohio State scored on a pair of touchdown runs by Herron and Brandon Saine, Iowa answered with two more trips to the end zone to force overtime.

"It had a lot of ups and downs," Worthington said of the game. "We felt great at times, we felt bad at times. But we didn't let that roller coaster peak too much. We didn't feel too high or too low. We kept it going, pinned our ears back and tried to make a play.

"Give much credit to the defense and the seniors doing our jobs. It was a great game and a great battle."

It was an extra-special end for the seniors who make up a portion of the talented Ohio State defense.

"What better way to go out than in overtime and on top?," Coleman said.


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