BIG TEN Ohio State gets physical
Sophomore Antonio Pittman had a career-high 175 yards in a 31-6 victory over Iowa.
By TOM WILLIAMS
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
COLUMBUS -- If last year's 33-7 loss at Iowa was rock bottom for Ohio State, Saturday's 31-6 victory over the Hawkeyes could be the moment when the Buckeyes' 2005 season began to roll.
Unlike the offensive fiasco in Iowa City in 2004 that netted just 177 yards, the No. 8 Buckeyes dominated from their first possession, shredding the No. 21 Hawkeyes' defense for 314 yards rushing.
Sophomore tailback Antonio Pittman gained 175 yards on 28 carries while junior quarterback Troy Smith picked up 133 yards on 18 runs.
Smith also passed for 191 yards by completing 13-of-19 passes.
Equally impressive was how the Buckeyes' defense throttled Iowa's potent offense, limiting the Hawkeyes to minus-9 yards rushing on 18 carries.
"Today was great redemption for us," senior linebacker Anthony Schlegel said. "This was a great statement on both sides of the ball."
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel credited his team's inspired play to the opening of league play.
"You have to be physical in the Big Ten," Tressel said. "Our defense made it very difficult to move the ball."
Defensive coordinator Jim Heacock agreed.
"Our front seven did a good job of stopping the run," Heacock said. "Once that happens, then it gives you a little bit of flexibility that you can turn [them] loose."
Iowa quarterback Drew Tate completed 22-of-39 passes for 146 yards, all but 17 of them coming in the second half after the Hawkeyes trailed 24-0.
"They controlled both lines," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "Whatever they had wrong on offense, they definitely fixed it."
Ohio State's defense limited the Hawkeyes to just 13 yards on 22 first half plays as they opened up a 17-0 lead.
"Our offense did a great job of controlling the football [so] we were able to stay rested," Heacock said.
The Buckeyes possessed the ball for nearly 21 minutes in the first two quarters and 39 minutes overall.
"On defense, you're always excited when your offense can run the ball," senior linebacker Bobby Carpenter said. "It eats time off the clock and wears their defense out."
Ferentz admitted that the Buckeyes' ground game was a surprise "only in the sense that they haven't run the ball that well all year."
The score could have been much more lopsided had the Buckeyes not fumbled the ball away twice deep in Iowa territory in the second quarter. An illegal block also wiped out a 47-yard punt return touchdown by Ted Ginn.
Despite those breaks, the Hawkeyes produced very little against the Buckeyes defense.
"Our D-line did a great job getting pressure and made our job a lot easier," senior linebacker A.J. Hawk said. "We wanted to make sure we out-hit them and we wanted to jump on them early."
After the Hawkeyes opened with five plays on offense, the Buckeyes marched 81 yards for a 7-0 lead as Smith hit sophomore flanker Anthony Gonzalez for an 8-yard touchdown.
On the Buckeyes' third possession, they doubled the lead with a six-play, 79-yard march capped by Smith's 16-yard scoring dash.
The key play on the drive was Smith's short toss to junior wide receiver Santonio Holmes who eluded the grasp of Iowa defensive back Antwan Allen and burst upfield for a 46-yard gain.
Pittman credited his career-high day to the offensive line, saying that on the Buckeyes' first play (a 12-yard pickup) "the O-line pushed everybody off the ball about 5 or 6 yards and I started running.
"I found a rhythm early in the game," Pittman said. "Once you get into that groove, it's like, 'feed me.' "
The lead grew to 17-0 as the first half expired when senior placekicker Josh Huston converted a 47-yard field goal.
Ten offensive plays into the third quarter, the Buckeyes led 24-0 after a 78-yard march. Smith rushed into the end zone from the 4 for the score.
After Iowa placekicker Kyle Schlicher kicked field goals of 52 and 37 yards, Smith hit Gonzalez on a crossing pattern for a 29-yard touchdown.
Senior center Nick Mangold said passion played a key role in the offense's success.
"There definitely was a challenge to run the ball," Mangold said. "Guys were out there hitting people with a passion."
OSU--Gonzalez 8 pass from Smith (Huston kick), 7:43.
OSU--Smith 16 run (Huston kick), 14:30.
OSU--FG Huston 47, :00.
OSU--Smith 4 run (Huston kick), 9:59.
Iowa--FG Schlicher 52, 2:48.
Iowa--FG Schlicher 37, 11:48.
OSU--Gonzalez 29 pass from Smith (Huston kick), 6:36.
Time of Possession20:3739:23
RUSHING--Iowa, Young 10-25, Busch 1-0, Tate 7-(minus 34). Ohio St., Pittman 28-171, Smith 18-127, Schnittker 3-12, Wells 9-11, Haw 1-2, Trapasso 1-(minus 9).
PASSING--Iowa, Tate 22-39-1-146. Ohio St., Smith 13-19-0-191, Zwick 1-2-0-25.
RECEIVING--Iowa, Hinkel 6-47, Young 4-19, C.Davis 3-22, Solomon 2-19, Majerus 2-15, Grigsby 2-13, Chandler 2-5, Schnoor 1-6. Ohio St., Gonzalez 6-90, Holmes 5-95, Ginn Jr. 3-31.