10 Things We Learned In Iowa City
By Brandon Castel
IOWA CITY, Iowa — This 2010 Buckeye team is a strange group. One moment they look like one giant waste of talent and the next they look like one of the top teams in the country.
They pulled both of those off Saturday in a 20-17 win over Iowa. In the first half, the Buckeyes looked lethargic and disinterested, which makes little to no sense for a team that still has everything to play for.
Though they suffered a setback at Wisconsin, the Buckeyes can make it six-straight Big Ten titles, six-straight BCS Bowl games and seven-straight wins over Michigan by finishing out the regular season strong.
They can’t honestly believe they are that talented enough to walk into Kinnick Stadium and overwhelm the Hawkeyes with their greatness after what happened last week, but they sure didn’t look like a team fighting for a championship in the first half.
That changed in the second half, and Ohio State rallied for the second straight week.
Here are the 10 things we learned from a win over the Hawkeyes.
1. Pryor has a hero mentality. For three quarters, Terrelle Pryor was a mediocre football player. He was 12-of-20 passing for 132 yards with a touchdown and a pick. He also had 52 yards rushing on eight carries, but there just wasn’t anything special about him and as a result, the Buckeyes had only 10 points after three quarters.
Then the fourth-quarter rolled around and Pryor seemed to come alive. He completed six of his 13 passes for 63 yards and ran for another 26 yards on seven carries. He led the Buckeyes on two long scoring drives, including a 12-play 76-yard touchdown drive to win the game. Despite what looked like an outburst on the sideline in the first half, his teammates raved about his positive attitude and ability to stay calm. He threw some good balls that were dropped, including the long one to DeVier Posey, but it was his 14-yard scramble on fourth-and-10 that broke Iowa’s back.
2. Ohio State has no offensive identity. Despite their success in the fourth quarter, the Ohio State offense was a disjointed mess for most of the game. The so-called “favorite” gameplan of Pryor’s turned into a jumble of different strategies jammed into one. They wanted to pass more and run Pryor more a week after winning a game on the legs of tailback Boom Herron. They tried desperately to be creative, but it’s hard to all of a sudden be good at everything.
Unlike Ohio State teams of the past, this one doesn’t seem to have an identity on offense. One week they are a passing team and the next a rushing team. They use the pass to set up the run to set up the pass to set up the run. It gets a little goofy sometimes, and honestly they are fortunate to come away with a 10-1 season after 11 games. They had three games with three points in the first half and won two of them. That’s borderline absurd, especially considering those wins came against Penn State and Iowa.
3. No sense of urgency with this team. Another thing this Ohio State team has lacked this year is a sense of urgency. We saw it against Miami when they were anxious to show the world how good they could be with a win over the Hurricanes, but after that they have completely relaxed. These guys seem to think they are talented enough to just show up and win games. The scary thing is, they probably are, if they actually showed up. Instead, they were MIA on both sides of the ball in the first half against Iowa, particularly on offense, and for the second straight week it took a big second half to pull off the win. You would hope the year-round focus on Michigan would have them ready to play next week, but this team might very well take the Wolverines for granted. They will still win the game, but if they continue their current trend it might be tied at 28 at halftime.
4. Tressel desperate to believe in Pryor. There’s a reason Pryor was so highly sought after coming out of high school. He is a physical freak with a desire to be great and (we think) a work ethic to match. He doesn’t want to let people down and it seems like Tressel doesn’t want to let him down. The OSU staff promised they would turn him into an NFL quarterback, and likely a college star, in Columbus and Tressel seems desperate to believe that is still possible.
That’s not to say Pryor hasn’t shown glimpses of greatness, but it’s tough to watch a player that talented look as average as he did for most of the game. The Buckeyes should have focused their gameplan around Boom Herron and the running backs. They did it a year ago and ran for over 200 yards on the Hawkeyes despite their tough run defense. Herron did get 20 carries in the game, but it was hardly as if the gameplan revolved around him. Right from the start it was obvious they wanted to run the offense through Pryor, who has yet to prove he can take over a big game from start to finish in the Big Ten.
5. Offensive line was the difference. So how were the Buckeyes able to win this game? Mainly because their offensive line wore down the Iowa defensive front and took control of the game in the second half. Mike Adams in particular did an excellent job neutralizing star defensive end Adrian Clayborn, but it was a collective effort up front. They gave Pryor plenty of time to pass and while the holes weren’t nearly as wide as they were against Penn State, they still allowed the Buckeyes to average 4.4 yards per carry against the fifth-ranked run defense in the country.
6. Dane Sanzenbacher must be part of the gameplan. Tressel said in his post-game press conference that the gameplan included getting the ball to Sanzenbacher and the tight ends. Clearly, Tressel and his staff realized that it wasn’t a good idea to forget about their best pass-catcher the way they did against Penn State. Sanzenbacher managed one catch against the Nittany Lions despite the fact he was never directly targeted by Pryor. His long touchdown catch was intended for Posey, but Sanzenbacher made a great play to catch the deflection. He had four catches for 73 yards in the first half against Iowa and finished with six for 102. His leaping catch over the head of an Iowa linebacker in the fourth quarter was the second-biggest play of the game behind the fourth-down scramble.
7. DeVier Posey needs to get focused. It’s impossible to question the competitiveness of a guy like Posey, but wherever his head is at right now, he needs to get back to thinking about this team, this season and this last game against Michigan. He had two catches for 32 yards against Iowa, but dropped a pair of balls, including a 50-yard touchdown bomb. It’s one thing when he’s dropping the short passes because he usually makes up for it with the long bombs, but that was not the case against Iowa. He dropped what could have been the game-winning touchdown and would have been the biggest goat of the season if Pryor and Sanzenbacher hadn’t picked him up.
8. Philly Brown is still a freshman. The only guy who had a tougher day catching the ball than Posey was freshman Corey “Philly” Brown. Maybe he got caught up in making his first career start (Buckeyes were in three-wide) but Brown had a day to forget. He dropped three passes, including a bomb from Pryor in the first half. He took a hard hit to the helmet, but clearly lost the ball before contact. Fortunately for Buckeye fans, Brown is still a freshman. He was fast enough to get himself open a few times Saturday and should develop into a solid receiver.
9. Brian Rolle came to play. One of the often-most criticized players on the team, Brian Rolle was flat out balling against Iowa. Considered a speed guy who only suits their defense when playing against the spread, Rolle played big in Iowa City. He led the team with 10 tackles, including three stops in the backfield. He was used as a blitzer and always seemed to be around the ball. Big games for Rolle the last couple weeks.
10. Devin Barclay has a clutch leg. Who knew Barclay had a 48-yard field goal in him? With a career-high of 42 yards coming into the game, many OSU fans were holding their breath when Tressel sent him out there to kick from 48 yards with his team down 17-10 in the fourth quarter. Barclay blasted one through the uprights with the kind of boom we haven’t seen from him on the long field goal tries. It wasn’t as big as his kick in overtime against Iowa last season, but it ultimately led to victory over the Hawkeyes for the second year in a row.
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