Ohio State Offense Weathers the Storm of Iowa’s Top Defense

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State knew it would face a good challenge opposite the explosive Buckeye offense on Saturday. Iowa’s top 10 defense allowed only five touchdowns in the red zone coming into Saturday. It also hadn’t allowed a pass of over 40 yards. Chunk plays, touchdowns, and red zone offense success have defined Ohio State’s offense so far this season.

On Saturday, Iowa’s defense made Ohio State’s offense uncomfortable forcing timeouts, turnovers, and field goals — but it proved to be a test Ohio State could pass.

Iowa’s defense initially made Ohio State’s offense look awkward. The Buckeyes had just one touchdown on their first five drives. With a halftime score of 26-10, 12 of Ohio State’s points were credited from defensive points off turnovers.

Early on, Iowa was disrupting quarterback C.J. Stroud’s timing and was not letting him get into a rhythm. Stroud struggled to find the key to overcoming the challenge of the stout defense. Stroud forced a couple of early throws, was sacked for a loss of 11 yards, and came up empty hesitating to run.

While it was clear that Iowa’s defense posed challenges, there was also enough credit and blame to go around on both sides. Iowa’s defense was certainly limiting the dynamic abilities of the Buckeye offense, but the Buckeyes weren’t helping themselves offensively.

Ohio State took over the field with good field position often inside the Iowa 35 or 40. Four of Ohio State’s early scoring drives were 24 yards or less. The fields being so short posed a challenge to the Buckeye offense.

Ironically, the Buckeyes struggled because the field was too short.

“Its tough starting with the ball on the 30 or 40,  it’s hard building a rhythm right there,” Stroud said.

Ohio State also had a hard time establishing the run. The Buckeyes only had one play over 20 yards in the first half and its run game averaged only 1.6 yards per carry, with 28 yards on 17 attempts. Ohio State finished the game with 66 yards on the ground on 30 attempts.

There’s no question that there were strange happenings early on for the Buckeyes offensively, but its defense was equally as disruptive as Iowa’s, forcing interceptions and quick outs to get the ball back to the offense quickly. Ohio State’s defense came away with three interceptions and three fumble recoveries and also forced Iowa to turn the ball over on downs three times.

The defense gave the Buckeye offense opportunities and also added seven points to the board with a pick six from linebacker Tommy Eichenberg.

But once Ohio State found its rhythm, it was another spectacular performance. Stroud threw two NFL-caliber throws to receivers Emeka Egbuka and Marvin Harrison Jr. and for gains of 27 yards and 18 yards respectively and then followed those with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Egbuka in the third quarter.

Stroud then threw his longest pass of the year, with a dime to veteran receiver Julian Fleming for 79 yards. In a game that was uncharacteristic early on, Stroud found his rhythm and went 7-for-7 for 179 yards and three touchdowns following his interception to open the second half.

“Once we got it going we became the dynamic offense that we know,” Stroud said. “We were back and we got our swagger back. We were clicking again.”

An inconsistent day resulted in 360 yards on offense with 294 pass yards and 66 on the ground. Stroud was 20-of-20 passes for 286 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception.

“When you’re playing against a really good defense a top 10 defense, it’s not going to happen all at once,” head coach Ryan Day said following the game. “It’s not going to be fireworks every series.”

Day added that if they turned a few of those field goals into touchdowns in the red zone in the first half, it would be a completely different first half. But they will use that to grow moving forward.

With a 54-10 win, Ohio State still executed the way they needed to, against a good defense. The Buckeyes made adjustments to finish drives and not settle for field goals, scoring the most amount of points Iowa has given up all season and the most points Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz has given up against any team ever, in his 24-year coaching career at Iowa.

Iowa’s defense ruffled the Buckeye offense a bit, but it was nothing this Ohio State team could handle.

Photo via Ohio State Buckeyes. 

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