Three and Out: Thoughts From Ohio State's 34-24 Win Over Iowa
by Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — There were no expectations for a beautiful game between these two teams, as Ohio State's running game doesn't much lend itself to “pretty”, and Iowa's offense doesn't ever really paint offense in a good light. Still, it was the Hawkeyes moving the ball up and down the field in the first half, which at least made what was expected to be an ugly game into an interesting one.
Iowa exposed some issues on the Ohio State defense which will surely be poked at by other teams moving forward. Of course, the one great equalizer for the Buckeyes is their running game, as it's hard for an offense to take advantage of Buckeye deficiencies if they can't even get on the field.
Despite that equalizer, there still has to be some large concerns over the fact that the Buckeyes are 3-0 in the Big Ten but have yet to have an easy outing. Though maybe they take some comfort in the fact that their best win (Wisconsin) was also their easiest, but I doubt it.
I'm not sure whether to be more impressed by the offensive line or Carlos Hyde. Talking to offensive line coach Ed Warinner after the game, I asked him what it means when Hyde never once gets stopped behind the line of scrimmage despite 24 carries, and he said that it takes an offensive line not missing its assignments and a running back who knows where he's going. Right now, that describes the Ohio State running game extremely well. Hyde's long carry is just 28 yards this season, but he's still averaging 6.2 yards per carry. He doesn't have any 60-yard runs padding his stats. His is a legit average, and it's a combination of his determination, and the freedom with which the offensive line has given him. There is also the constant threat of Braxton Miller running the ball as well, which people often overlook, but a defense can't. Carlos Hyde might be the best closer in college football, except he's generally asked to provide the unheard of five-inning save, and he's more than happy to do so.
This was a disappointing game for the Ohio State linebackers. Even though Ryan Shazier (9), Curtis Grant (8) and Joshua Perry (6) all finished 1, 2, 3 in tackling for the Buckeyes on Saturday, they were pretty hard to find. I only remember a couple of plays where a linebacker came free and filled a hole, and both of them were Shazier. Granted, it's going to be rough sledding for a linebacker when the defensive line is getting pushed backwards two yards, as the Buckeye front four was in the first half. But the linebackers were also getting picked on relentlessly in pass coverage. Iowa's offensive staff obviously saw something in their two weeks of preparation, and they went after it. If there's a silver lining for the Buckeyes, it's that they now know others know about it, so they can be prepared for others' preparation. Did you follow that? Basically, they know that Penn State is going to attack their linebackers with tight ends – which they were going to do anyway – but now they know that others know, so now they can try to do something about it, rather than hoping nobody would notice. Perry and Grant will probably get quite a bit of work this week in preparation. This could be a big week on the scout team for freshman tight end Marcus Baugh.
It's impossible to criticize the linebackers without also talking about the way the defensive line was being manhandled in the first half. The Buckeye defense simply couldn't get off the field, and it was because they couldn't create any negative plays. Iowa snapped the ball 43 times for 222 yards in the first half. Ohio State finally got some momentum in the second half and held the Hawkeyes to just 18 plays for 153 yards, and one of those snaps went 85 yards all by itself. In that first half, however, the Iowa offense simply mauled the line of scrimmage, swallowing up the Buckeye linebackers in the process. Ohio State only had one tackle for loss, by Michael Bennett, and it only lost one yard. There were no sacks in the game for the Buckeyes. That's the greatest indicator of winning the line of scrimmage, and the first half was won in a rout.
We finally got to see a determined Braxton Miller carrying the ball, and it was good. He had 18 carries for 102 yards, and I think that's probably a good number of touches for him. Six of those carries came in the fourth quarter, so they conserved him pretty well up until that point. It was the healthiest he has looked since the season opener, and probably the most decisive and definitive he has looked since last year. He was in the open field against defenders and was closer to his old self than he has been in a while. Even though we are now into the second half of the Big Ten season, the Buckeyes' two best players on offense – Miller and Carlos Hyde – are more rested than just about everybody else. The season will be won on what these two can accomplish and handle moving forward, and in this game they showed the necessary toughness to get things done. Oh, and pretty soon they will start hitting some home runs again.
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