It's tough to win week in and week out. Regardless of the opponent, regardless of the circumstances, and regardless of the home crowd and coaching staff. At 19 straight wins and counting, today was the first game where I was genuinely concerned that the streak would end, and The Chase would be over. Iowa was dominating the line of scrimmage when they had the ball, and the Buckeye defense couldn't get of the field. Although the offense was able to move the ball, for awhile I thought they were in deeper trouble at home against Iowa then they ever were against Northwestern or Wisconsin. They were flirtin' with disaster, weren't they, Molly Hatchet?
We're flirtin' with disaster, y'all know what I mean
And the way we run our lives, it makes no sense to me
I don't know about yourself or what you want to be, yeah
When we gamble with our time, we choose our destiny
I'm travelin' down that lonesome road
Feel like I'm dragging a heavy load
Yeah, I've tried to turn my head away
Feel about the same most every day
Your SMR that won't get left out of the national championship if it goes undefeated follows:
Blue Chip Stocks:
Braxton Miller, QB: Time after time on Saturday, Miller made a big play with his arm or his feet, particularly in the second half. He continually scrambled out of trouble, kept drives alive, and put points on the board. Miller's had ridiculous plays before, and he's had good games with better stats, but I would argue this was most complete game as a quarterback. If not his most complete, it was his most consistent, as the OSU offense made the most of their limited opportunities in the first half.
Carlos Hyde, Human Battering Ram: When OSU went into the locker room down 17-10, they needed Hyde to come out and set the tone in the second half. Iowa's defense has been superb in the red zone, only yielding one touchdown in 10 trips, and zero rushing TD's on the year. In the third quarter, Hyde became the human mythbuster, knocking it in from the one, and then in the fourth quarter, did this:
It was one of the more amazing runs I've seen in awhile, and it gave the Buckeyes a lead they would not relinquish. Hyde finished with almost 150 yards rushing on 24 carries, and like the Northwestern game, when the Buckeyes really needed him, he delivered.
Jeff Heuerman, TE: Heuerman had an effective day, particularly in the first half. In recent games, the Buckeyes have made a more concentrated effort to use the tight end, and Heuerman has been the primary beneficiary, and is now tied for third on the team with 15 catches.
Philly Brown and Devin Smith, WR: Both Brown and Smith were solid, and both had some big TD grabs. Neither one of them were out of this world, but they were both very good, and have become sure handed targets for Miller.
Defensive line: The Buckeyes defensive line had no answer for the Iowa running game in the first half, and only went away from it once OSU took the lead in the second half. Iowa ran for over 130 yards as a team, and gashed the Buckeyes front four both between the tackles and on the perimeter. But they at least had a complete game, because what they were unable to do in stopping the run they were equally inept at putting constant pressure on Iowa QB Jake Rudock. It felt that the only time OSU could bring pressure was when they had an extra rusher, and it was a disappointing performance for a line as highly touted as this one.
Secondary: Like the line, it was difficult to single out one particularly bad player that stood out, as it seemed they seemed to share the wealth of suckiness. Iowa tight ends had a field day, Jake Rudock threw for 245 yards and three scores, and TE Jake Duzey slipped behind Tyvis Powell and scored on a shocking 85 yard TD pass that stunned 105,254 onlookers.
Buy: Braxton's 4th and 10 run. With Iowa leading 17-10 in the second quarter, the Buckeyes found themselves facing a 4th and 10 at the Iowa 29. Urban Meyer decided to go for it (said it before and I'll say it again--I LOVE the aggression and play to win mentality). Miller rolled out, couldn't find a receiver, came back across the grain, and 17 yards later had a first down at the Iowa 10. It was an electrifying run that maybe half a dozen guys in college football could have made.
Sell: The Philly Brown penalty that negated it. Unfortunately, Philly Brown had a pretty blatant block in the back RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE REF, and when matched with an Iowa holding penalty, the play was negated. OSU still went for it, and Evan SPencer came thiscloseohsoclose to pulling down a perfectly thrown Miller pass down in the end zone, but the play was broken up at the last minute. Iowa got the ball, and a golden scoring opportunity was lost. As a consequence, OSU went into the lokcer room trailing by seven, as opposed to tied.
Buy: Quick strike scoring potential. I love this offense. There are so many weapons, and OSU can literally go from a grind it out, between the tackles power running game on one series, to a 'hey, we need to score right now' mentality on the next. The ABC broadcast made a lot of hay about how little the OSU offense had the ball in the first half, but when they did, they made the most of their opportunities. Down 10-3, and with Iowa dictating the tempo of the game, OSU struck like lightning with a Miller to Philly Brown 58 yard lightning bolt, and tied the game up.
Sell: The long, sustained drives by Iowa in the first half. One of the reasons I was so...unsettled...early on was the way the OSU defensive line was manhandled, and how the linebackers were consistently beat to the edge and were unable to keep contain. Iowa was imposing their will on Ohio State, and the defense had no answers--none--for anything Iowa was doing. Now, all credit to Iowa here, to say OSU wasn't playing to their ability would be an insult to their effort and execution of their game plan. But there is something off with the Buckeyes defense. Either scheme, coaching, player execution, or a combination thereof, but there IS talent there, and it's either not being utilized, or it's being underutilized.
Buy: Increased player safety vigilance. I'm glad that both the NCAA and the NFL has put a greater emphasis on player safety. I remember playing with more than one concussion, and I would be horrified if my son (if I had one) or my grandson took a hit like some of these hits and went right back in to play without being evaluated. I get that there's a fine line between trying to make the game safer while still letting players play the violent sport of football, and I really applaud the effort.
Sell: The Roby Ejection. Now, don't get me wrong, Roby launched and lead with the helmet, and that was a penalty. If the NCAA wants to send a message and institute an ejection, I can understand it in the grand scheme of keeping players safe, or at least trying to. But they should ease into the full game ejection, and next year reverse the policy and go with a graduated penalty. For example, start by making a guy sit out the rest of that series and the next one, or even a half. After the first suspension, then hammer them with a game ejection. It's extremely difficult to re-learn things that have been hard-wired into the development of a player, and it's not something a guy can 'turn off' right away. There have been several HIGHLY questionable ejections of players so far this year, and until the referees can become consistent with instituting the penalty, the players shouldn't have to be ones to suffer for that inconsistency.
Ohio State's mantra this year has been 'win and advance', and that they did Saturday. We can argue the way they went from start to finish, but they've crossed the finish line first 19 straight times, and that is one hell of an accomplishment.