Sept. 24, 2006
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IIOWA CITY — Two years ago Ohio State came into Kinnick Stadium with a quarterback controversy. Junior Justin Zwick was the starter while Buckeye fans wanted sophomore Troy Smith.
As it turned out, neither was effective against Iowa’s rugged defense, one of the Big Ten’s best. Smith threw for the visitor’s only touchdown in the final minutes.
Meanwhile, there was no disagreement about who should be Iowa’s quarterback. Sophomore Drew Tate had already piloted the Hawkeyes to victories over Iowa State and Michigan State.
Tate had a big day against the Buckeyes, completing 26 of 39 passes for 331 yards and three touchdowns, and running for another score.
Iowa won 33-7, and it’s fair to say the game was not as close as the score indicates. The Hawkeyes went on to share the Big Ten championship and beat LSU in the Capital One Bowl. You might recall that Tate, named the all-BigTen quarterback, threw the winning touchdown pass in that game.
When Iowa visited Ohio Stadium last year the Buckeyes had no quarterback controversy. Troy Smith was the man, as he proved by running for two touchdowns and passing for two more. He personally accounted for 318 total yards.
Meanwhile the Ohio State defense, one of the nation’s finest, smothered Tate and the Iowa offense, which managed only two field goals.
Ohio State won 31-6, and it’s fair to say the game was not as close as the score indicates. The Buckeyes went on to share the Big Ten championship and beat Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl.
Which brings us to this year.
No. 1 Ohio State comes into Kinnick Stadium for a night game Saturday to play No. 14 Iowa. Both teams are 4-0.
Ohio State claims victories over Texas and Penn State and is seemingly unbeatable. Iowa went two overtimes to escape at Syracuse, sometimes struggled at Illinois, and appears vulnerable.
Fans of the Hawkeyes are reminded that Saturday at Kinnick is a “Be Bold, Where Gold” game day. Show your support of the Hawkeyes by turning Kinnick gold!
Tate and Smith both back for their senior seasons. Smith is considered a strong candidate for the Heisman Trophy and Tate is also performing at a high level.
There will be a lot of hyperbole and analysis leading up to this game. ABC-TV will throw the national spotlight on Kinnick. And (gasp!) the ESPN Game Day crew might even be in town.
Can it get more exciting than this? Yes, and Kirk Ferentz experienced it 21 years ago when he was a Hawkeye assistant coach. No. 1 Iowa entertained No. 2 Michigan in a nationally televised night game at Kinnick on Oct. 19, 1985.
Kirk can draw on his experience in over-hyped games, and he’ll probably need it. He and his staff have some serious concerns to address before facing the Buckeyes. Slow starts have become a habit for the offense, and the running game has been sporadic.
And most of all, the Iowa’s head coach is concerned about an injury list that resembles something out of M*A*S*H.
Ohio State will be favored to win this game on a field where Iowa has beaten 26 of the last 27 visitors. But the Hawkeyes might make it interesting, especially if Tate has the kind of game he did two years ago. A good start and consistent running game would also help, as would a favorable medical report on the injured Hawkeyes.
And at some point during the week it’s likely that Coach Ferentz will remind his team that in a big game at Kinnick Stadium 21 years ago Iowa beat Michigan 12-l0 and went on to the Rose Bowl.