Vrabel helps Buckeyes Overcome Big Play to Secure Win
By John Porentas
It was a huge deflator to say the least.
After struggling in the first half against Iowa the Buckeyes opened the second half by scoring two unanswered touchdowns to turn a 17-10 half time deficit into a 24-17 lead in the third quarter.
It looked like the Buckeyes had finally seized the momentum. After the ensuing kickoff following OSU's second second-half score the Hawkeyes drew a holding penalty that made it first and 20 at their own 15-yard line. It looked like OSU had finally put Iowa in a world of hurt.
Then lightning struck.
Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock tossed a pass to tight end Jake Duzey that looked like a routine play but was anything but.
Duzey outraced the OSU secondary for an 85-yard touchdown to tie the score and take a considerable amount of wind out of the sails of the Buckeyes.
Former OSU Head Coach John Cooper used to call it having your dauber down. Coaches usually call it having our head down. Whatever you call it, it would have been easy for the Buckeyes to go in the tank a little at that point, but OSU Assistant Coach Mike Vrabel would have nothing of it.
"I've got to give a lot of credit to Coach Vrabel.," said OSU co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell.
Mike Vrabel shares a moment with Ryan Shazier during the Iowa game.
Photo by Jim Davidson
"He kind of grabbed them on the sideline and sat them down and had one of those times to say that this game isn't perfect, and at times you're not going to be perfect.
"We get so frustrated because we have such high expectations for what we do and you like to look up there and see zero or a shut out, you have those mind sets, but when things don't go your way you can't put your head down, you can't pout, you can't mope."
Vrabel's message was clear, and it got through to the Buckeyes.
"I think the thing we have to understand as players and coaches it doesn't always go how you draw it up," Vrabel said on Monday when asked to elaborate on his message to the team.
"You go out and work on something all week and you prepare. And I think as a player you go out there and it's not always roses. It's not always you dominating somebody.
"But then you look up and you have a chance to win a football game.
"At that point in time you have to clear everything and go on and find ways to make plays, like guys did late in the game.
exhorts the Buckeyes against the Hawkeyes.
Photo by Jim Davidson
"Certainly we don't want to play like that, but there's times during the course of a season or game where it's not going well. And you have to find the will to go and win a football game."
What happened next is history. The Buckeyes shut out the Hawkeyes the rest of the way and added a touchdown and field goal of their own to take a 34-24 victory. Fickell said it was Vrabel's talk on the sideline that was the calming influence the team needed at that moment.
"We were playing great defense in the second half and give up one shot. It's a little bit of a shock but you have to give credit to our offense. They didn't bat an eye, they didn't duck their head. They went back out there and brought the momentum back to us and we regrouped," said Fickell
"You've got to be able to regroup. That's what leadership does, whether it's from the coaches or from the players."
In 2011 Fickell served as head coach of the Buckeyes. He said that for whatever reason the ability to overcome adversity and regroup was missing that year, but now it seems to be back.
"I remember two years ago in particular we didn't have the offense, we didn't have the whole tight-knit group that when something happened, the heads went down on the defense and it was hard to get it back.
"The thing about now is you've got a heck of a team. If something happens and those heads go down all of a sudden you see Carlos Hyde bouncing off a guys, and wow, what a momentum swing and what a juicer to everybody."