Ohio State got its collective lip bloodied in the first half by an upset-minded Iowa, but then turned the tables on the upstart Hawkeyes in the second half, grinding out a 34-24 victory Saturday afternoon in front 105,264 chilled fans at Ohio Stadium.
Iowa physically dominated the game in the first half, putting together scoring drives of 12, 10 and 15 plays while piling up 222 yards of total offense and 17 first downs on its way to a 17-10 halftime lead. But the Hawkeyes had no answer for Braxton Miller or Carlos Hyde in the second half as Ohio State’s one-two offensive punch simply wore Iowa down.
Miller turned in his best performance of the 2013 season with a combined 324 yards of total offense. He completed 22 of 27 pass attempts for 222 yards and two touchdowns, and eclipsed the 100-yard mark on the ground for the 10th time in his career, finishing with 102 yards on 18 carries.
Meanwhile, Hyde was punishing a tired Iowa defense, carrying 24 times for 149 yards and two touchdowns.
Through the air, OSU was led by junior wideout Devin Smith, who caught seven passes for 72 yards and one touchdown. Tight end Jeff Heuerman established a new career-best with five catches for 38 yards, and receiver Corey “Philly” Brown gathered in three receptions for 72 yards and a score.
Ohio State pounded out 306 total yards in the second half, finishing with 495 for the game. The Buckeyes rushed for 273 yards against an Iowa defense than entered the game having surrendered an average of only 88.5 per game on the ground. The Buckeyes also piled up 30 first downs in the contest, 21 of them coming after halftime.
The Hawkeyes did most of their damage in the first half, getting only 153 total yards and five first downs after intermission. Quarterback Jake Rudock finished 19 for 34 in the passing department with 245 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Six of his passes were gathered in by tight end Jake Duzey, who turned those receptions into a career-high 138 yards and one touchdown.
“We knew going in that Iowa was a physical team, that they had one of the leading rushing defenses in the nation,” OSU head coach Urban Meyer said. “But we responded, especially in the second half. We had 273 yards against a team that’s as good against the run as anyone, so we were pleased with that.
“Defensively, I was very disappointed – very, very disappointed in first half because I thought we were getting pushed around. The second half was much, much better, but that was a very good, physical team we were playing.”
Iowa got on the board first when tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz gathered in a 2-yard scoring pass from Rudock, capping a 12-play, 80-yard drive to open the game and give the Hawkeyes a 7-0 lead at the 9:23 mark of the first quarter.
OSU responded with a 12-yard drive of its own on its first possession, but Miller’s third-down pass targeted for Evan Spencer in the end zone was batted down at the line of scrimmage, and the Buckeyes had to settle for a 27-yard field goal from Drew Basil to make it 7-3 with 4:00 remaining in the opening period.
The Hawkeyes came right back with a 10-play, 67-yard drive during which OSU cornerback Bradley Roby was ejected following a hard hit on Fiedorowicz that officials determined was targeting a defenseless receiver. Meyer said after the game that he thought from his vantage point that Roby had delivered a legal hit, indicating the team would talk to Big Ten officials about the play.
Even with Roby headed to the locker room, the Ohio State defense managed to hold Iowa out of the end zone, and the Hawkeyes settled for a 28-yard field goal from Mike Meyer to push their lead to 10-3 with 0:07 showing on the first-quarter clock.
Ohio State followed with a quick-strike answer when Miller found Brown loose behind the Iowa secondary for a 58-yard touchdown play. It was the longest TD catch of Brown’s career and knotted the score at 10, but the Hawkeyes came right back with another sustained drive, going 69 yards in 15 plays before receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley lost OSU cornerback Armani Reeves – Roby’s replacement – in the back of the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown catch and a 17-10 Iowa lead at the 7:21 mark of the second quarter.
The Buckeyes tried to respond again and had a first down at the Iowa 10-yard line following a nifty fourth-and-10 scramble by Miller. But while the Hawkeyes were called for defensive holding on the play, Brown threw an illegal block in the back that negated Miller’s run. On the next play, Iowa safety John Lowdermilk – son of former Ohio State center Kirk Lowdermilk – yanked the ball from Spencer’s grasp just as he hit the ground in the end zone, leaving the Hawkeyes with a 17-10 halftime lead.
OSU wasted no time seizing momentum early in the third quarter, getting a 12-yard run from Hyde to begin a 13-play, 75-yard drive that culminated with the senior tailback barely breaking the plane of the end zone on a 1-yard plunge to tie the game at 17 with 10:18 remaining in the third period.
The Buckeyes finally held Iowa on its next possession, and Miller engineered another long drive. This one covered 84 yards in 11 plays and was capped when Smith gathered in a short pass and cut through the Iowa defense for a 14-yard touchdown. That gave Ohio State its first lead of the game at 24-17 at the 3:15 mark of the third period.
But just as the Buckeyes began to feel a little more comfortable, Iowa came right back when Rudock found Duzey behind the OSU defense and the tight end outraced everyone to the end zone with an 85-yard touchdown reception. That tied things at 24 with 2:30 to go in the third quarter.
The fourth quarter began with two of the most athletic plays of the season. On a third-and-7, Miller faded to pass and then started to move toward his right. Hemmed off the corner by a pair of Iowa defenders, the OSU quarterback reversed his field, got a couple of blocks from offensive linemen Marcus Hall and Jack Mewhort and converted the first down.
On the next play, Hyde broke through the right side of the line before he broke two tackles, stumbled backward, regained his balance and then picked up a block from Brown before diving into the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown. That made it 31-24 with 13:24 remaining.
The Buckeyes added a 25-yard field goal from Basil at the 5:50 mark of the fourth quarter to make it a two-score game at 34-24, and when freshman defensive back Tyvis Powell grabbed his first career interception with 4:15 remaining, Iowa had fired its final salvo. OSU took over possession at its own 49 and the Hawkeyes never got the ball back.