COLUMBUS, OH — Can anyone say special teams?
In a game that had just 404 yards of total offense for both teams, No. 8 Ohio State defeated No. 9 Iowa, 19-10, Saturday in a battle royale between two of the strongest special teams squads in the Big Ten Conference.
On their first possession, the Buckeyes’ Mike Nugent, who came in second to Iowa kicker Nate Kaeding in the 2002 Lou Groza Award balloting, made a 53-yard field goal with 9:56 remaining in the first quarter to cap off an eight-play, 28-yard drive.
The Hawkeyes couldn’t produce on their next possession, and just 34 seconds after the field goal, Ohio State’s Michael Jenkins made a 54-yard punt return off of David Bradley for the first touchdown of the game.
With 2:45 remaining in the first, Kaeding made a 36-yard field goal to end a 14-play, 51-yard drive to give the Hawkeyes their first appearance on the scoreboard making it a 10-3 game, a score that would hold until the third quarter.
In the third, Roy Hall got in front of Bradley as he dropped back to punt from Iowa’s own 13-yard line and the ball dropped back into the end zone as Donte Whitner fell on it for Ohio State’s first touchdown with 7:54 on the clock.
However, Iowa was able to respond in the fourth quarter with a faked field goal attempt by Kaeding that turned into a 5-yard run and the senior kicker’s first touchdown of his career. He tacked on the extra point to narrow the Hawkeyes’ deficit to 17-10 with over 14 minutes left on the clock.
“It was kind of surreal doing something other than kicking,” said Kaeding. “It put us in good position, but we couldn’t pull it off. It was something I saw in the third quarter. I just kind of thought that three points wouldn’t get the job done. I didn’t have to do too much. It was in vain, I guess. We didn’t come out and execute today.”
“The problems we anticipated showed up. That part didn’t kill us. The part that really killed us was that we thought we had some strengths, and they didn’t come through today.”
Head Coach Kirk Ferentz
“If you’re asking (Kaeding) to be involved in a critical play, I couldn’t think of a better guy,” said coach Kirk Ferentz. “It was a great play. He wanted to give that thing a shot.”
But Iowa couldn’t get it together in the last stanza, and the game was effectively over with 3:03 left, when the Buckeyes picked up a safety as replacement center Eric Rothwell missed quarterback Nathan Chandler in the shotgun on the Iowa 3-yard line sending the ball through the end zone.
The miscue highlighted a tough game for both teams’ offenses.
“The problems we anticipated showed up,” said Ferentz. “That part didn’t kill us. The part that really killed us was that we thought we had some strengths, and they didn’t come through today.”
Iowa had trouble extending the field and utilizing running back Fred Russell, who had 42 yards on 22 carries. The play action device used so well in the Hawkeyes’ 30-27 victory over Michigan in their last contest wasn’t seen as often, while Ohio State’s defense was keen on the rush.
In fact, as far as rushing is concerned, Chandler had an unusually high day with 10 carries for 25 yards. His performance was second only to Russell’s.
Indeed, quarterbacks seemed to be getting a lot of rush action as Ohio State’s Craig Krenzel led his team with 14 carries for 20 yards.
Iowa’s defense was characteristically strong Saturday holding Ohio State to just 185 yards
The Buckeyes were, though, shut down by the characteristically powerful Iowa defense led by Abdul Hodge, who had 16 total tackles including one for a forced fumble and two for lost yardage.
Bob Sanders and Chad Greenway each contributed 10 tackles, while Howard Hodges had three sacks on Krenzel for eight lost yards.
“Both defenses played superbly. We knew it was going to play out that way,” said Ferentz. “They played a tremendous game. It typifies the football team. We played with hope all the way till the end.”
Kaeding agreed with his coach’s assessment.
“Our philosophy hasn’t changed throughout the year. Our defense is carrying the load. Along with that, we have to play great special teams,” he said. “There were some missing pieces in the puzzle today. Something you can’t take away from us is that we went out there and played our hearts out today.”
Ohio State improves to 6-1 overall and 2-1 in the Big Ten, while Iowa falls to 5-2 overall and 1-2 in the conference.
The Hawkeyes will come back to Kinnick Stadium next Saturday when they host Penn State.
“It will be a tough assignment, but I’m confident that we’ll get back up on our feet,” Ferentz said.
Barry Pump, hawkeyesports.com