It was exactly the nail biter most of us expected and when all was said and done, Terrelle Pryor led a game winning TD drive and the defense shut down the Hawkeyes, especially in the 4th quarter, paving the way for a 20-17 victory in Iowa City.
The win improved the Buckeyes to 10-1 making them the first team in the history of the Big Ten to win at least 10 games in six consecutive seasons and boosted Tressel's record to 28-4 in November at Ohio State.
Having already directed an 11 play FG drive on the previous possession cutting the Iowa lead to 17-13 with 7:38 to play, Pryor took the field with a little over six minutes left following an Iowa 3-and-out needing to march his team 76 yards for a game winning touchdown to avoid a second big game loss on the road.
Brandon Saine got it started with an 11 yard run around right end then Pryor followed it up with a six yard draw out of a five wide set (great call) to make it 2nd and 4 from the OSU 41. Under center, Pryor dropped back and led Boom perfectly out of the backfield resulting in another nine yards out to midfield. That particular play requires accuracy and Pryor's toss hit Boom in stride allowing him to keep full momentum toward the line of scrimmage. Simple, yet vital execution from Pryor on a day when some of this throws, even completions, weren't delivered necessarily where he'd want them to be.
On the ensuring 1st down play, Pryor, again under center, play faked and threw wide over the middle for Stoneburner. Clayborn scorched Adams on the play but Pryor was able to step into the throw, it just wasn't a good one. Then, on 2nd down, Pryor faked left to Boom and rolled right hoping to hit Stoneburner rolling with him on the play but the throw, albeit pressured by DE Broderick
Binge Binns, was woefully low and behind the intended receiver. Unshaken but facing 3rd and 10, Pryor, out of the shotgun, went into the Troy Smith roll right dropback and launched an absolute strike roughly 60 yards in the air and through the arms of Posey bringing you, me, Posey and Brutus to our collective knees. What a throw. The kid bounces back from two shaky passes and delivers an absolute rainmaker that should've been good for six.
Fear not. Facing 4th and 10 with the conference championship and a pontential BCS bowl bid on the line, Pryor again went into the roll right dropback and as the Hawkeye defense rolled hard in the same direction, Pryor reversed course with a waiting Adams and Boren convoy in position allowing TP to scamper left for 14 yards and a season saving 1st down to the Iowa 36 yard line. Incredible play.
With new life, Pryor rolled right and found Dane for five yards on a low throw before Boom made two nice cuts, first right, then left, creating a five yard run for another 1st down, at the Iowa 26. After an Iowa injury stopped the clock, I was expecting a run considering three minutes still remained however Pryor, back under center, again rolled right then into a dropback before lofting what amounted to a back shoulder fade to Dane who made an incredible leaping catch with his left foot grazing the turf at the two yard line. With more juice on the throw, Dane might've scored however it was a tremendous play by one of the true blood and guts warriors on this team and a clutch throw from Pryor on a gutsy play call from Tressel.
Boom would finish the job two carries later, willing himself into the endzone on a second effort thrust behind Adams, Fragel, and a pulling Browning. The drive was truly a beautiful thing to watch as Pryor handled some adversity, the line stepped up when it mattered most, Tressel stayed agressive, Dane made a clutch grab and Boom plowed through to pay dirt saving Posey from becoming Hamby 2.0, all on the road.
Self-inflicted wounds don't prove fatal
Chalk up another November win for Tressel but it was far from flawless execution as the Buckeyes looked to be in September form from a discipline standpoint. Ohio State racked up a ridiculous eight penalties for 73 yards with many coming at very inopportune times. Shugarts got the ball rolling on OSU's first offensive possession sandwiching false starts between a pass off the hands of Philly Brown on 2nd and 12. Two false starts in three plays? The second putting OSU in 3rd and 17? This is a two year starter we're talking about. The Buckeyes did overcome his jumps but still punted five plays later.
On Iowa's second possession, Chekwa was flagged for PI moving Iowa 15 yards closer and they would score three plays later on a 19 yard TD pass from Stanzi to McNutt as Hines was beat in coverage. Chekwa would be flagged for PI again on Iowa's fourth possession on a 3rd and 9 play that moved the Hawkeyes into FG range but thankfully Michael Meyer missed a 40 yard try wide left four plays later.
Trailing 7-3 and looking to seize momentum following Meyer's miss, Brown dropped another pass, this time on 2nd and 10. Pryor would pick up Brown on the next play hitting Posey for a 22 yard gain but two plays later Pryor tossed his worst pass of the day, a deep ball intended for T-Wash, that Micah Hyde intercepted off a deflection to, in effect, end the first half.
After a Pryor to Fragel TD connection put OSU in front 10-7 midway through the 3rd quarter, Iowa capitalized on a touchy personal foul call on Jermale Hines - on 3rd and 6 - allowing Iowa to kick a game tying FG four plays later. Now, the call may have been ticky tack but Hines should've never allowed the ref's poor decision making to become a factor. First, it looked liked Hines might have a shot at the INT if he would've been trying to play the ball and second, he did go facemask to helmet with the Iowa receiver making the hit look far worse than it was. Hines woud have an even closer call on Iowa's last gasp drive as he blasted Adam Robinson on a failed screen attempt. This time, the refs didn't throw a flag as replays showed Hines was very close to arriving ahead of the ball.
Certainly, the fact Ohio State was able to overcome the eight penalties and at least five drops is a testament to their...wait for it...moxie, but in week 11, I think we all expect a little cleaner effort out of our favorite team. No way they were looking ahead to Michigan so I'm not sure what to make of it. I can only say I hope it gets ironed out for Michigan week because I know we're all wanting a result more resembling 2008 than 2009.
The rise of the bullets
Though they surrendered just three points in the first half, the Bullets didn't overwhelm Stanzi as he hit 13/17 for 103 yards and a 19 yard TD strike to Marvin McNutt. The second half was a different story as the line got more pressure, the blitz was more effective and the secondary stayed closer to the Iowa receivers reducing Stanzi to 7/14 for 92 yards in the final 30 minutes.
Not to be outdone by Pryor's heroics, the defense was money late in the game after permitting Marcus Coker to chew up 27 yards in two plays following Pryor's INT allowing the Hawkeyes to take a 17-10 lead with just under 12 minutes to play. Pryor and Co. responded with a FG drive cutting the lead to 17-13 with 7:38 to play meaning the defense would have to step up keep OSU from losing on the road for the second time this season. Enter John Simon.
The relentless defensive tackle blew past the inside shoulder of Iowa's Sr. guard Josh Koeppel sacking Stanzi for a six yard loss forcing 2nd and 16. Iowa would get 11 yards back on an out to McNutt but on 3rd and 5, Simon, lined up over the left guard, slid down the line of scrimmage after diagnosing a quick pass to the left flat intended for Robinson and jumped to bat the ball away forcing the Hawkeyes to punt. It was an incredible series for Simon setting the stage for Ohio State's game winning drive.
Following Boom's TD run to make it 20-17 Buckeyes with 1:47 left, the defense was called upon to make one last stand. After the KO return team allowed Iowa to reach the 36 yard line, Hines blew up the aforementioned screen to Robinson on 1st down. On the next play, the Buckeyes rushed five led by Heyward, Solomon Thomas and Simon forcing Stanzi to throw it away. Now facing 3rd and 10, Stanzi dropped back and with all receivers covered, Heyward was able to finally break free and drop Stanzi for an 11 yard loss. With the game on the line at 4th and 21, the Bullets smartly still rushed four and got decent pressure flushing Stanzi to his right before he threw back across his body complete to McNutt. Homan was right with him, however and Hines was there to clean up the play leaving Iowa two yards short of moving the chains. Game over. Angina in remission.
The spectacular finishing act helped the Buckeyes hold Iowa to 276 total yards on the day including second half numbers of just 121 yards allowed and six first downs. Rolle led the way with 10 stops (3 TFL) while Hines (8), Sweat (7) and Homan (7) also filled the box score.
Boom and dane continue to do work
Pryor is without question the most talented player on offense but it's the glue guys, Dane and Boom, that continue to propel this unit with gritty play and clutch performances. Boom found the sledding a little bit tougher than in previous weeks but he still carried 20 times for 69 yards, averaging 3.5 yards per carry against the nation's 4th ranked rush defense. Not eye-popping numbers, but I felt he showed good vision all day and he really stepped up as a receiver recording five grabs for 30 yards including a very important 11 yarder on the 4th quarter FG drive and a clutch nine yarder to move the sticks on the game winning drive capped by his one yard TD run, giving Boom 10 straight games with at least one TD. Combined, Boom racked up 99 yards of offense and scored the game winning touchdown. Herron also put himself in position to make a run at 1,000 yards needing 107 on the ground against Michigan to crack a G. Also of note, his yards per carry stands at 5.3 this season against 3.9 in 2009 and 4.9 in 2008. Great stuff from one of the most under appreciated Buckeyes in recent memory.
Dane also turned in a clutch performance eclipsing the 100 yard barrier for the third time this season with 102 yards on six grabs. He recorded probably the second greatest offensive play of the day behind Pryor's 4th down scramble when he streaked down the right sideline, adjusted his body in mid-air to Pryor's back shoulder toss, and got his foot down just inside the boundary line while hauling in a 24 yard reception giving OSU 1st and goal from the Iowa two yard line setting up the decisive score. Sanzenbacher also had two important grabs on OSU's first scoring drive snatching a 16 yarder on a 2nd and 13 crossing route just before grabbing a 26 yarder moving the ball to the Iowa 20.
For the year, Dane stands at 818 yards receiving on 49 catches with nine TDs putting him 13 receptions and 248 yards ahead of his full 2009 campaign. Beyond the numbers, there's nobody on the roster that leads by example and focuses on the little things any more than Sanzenbacher. Similar to Boom, he's one of those guys where we all probably won't realize just how much we miss him until he's gone.
Peaceful, Uneasy feeling
Where to start with Terrelle Pryor? I should first say that I am thankful he's in Columbus because I like winning above all else and he's pretty damn good at it; 29-4 as a starter to be exact. Despite struggling to deliver the football between the numbers on a consistent basis, he managed to engineer two amazingly clutch 4th quarter scoring drives capping the comeback and keeping Ohio State in the Big Ten and BCS bowl bid races. Then, instead of playing the hero role in a classy fashion, we're digesting tweets from TP's account that make him look like the anti-hero, at least in a grown up world.
First, he takes issue with the haters tweeting, "Talk is cheap none of you haters could fill my shoes w ten socks on. Bums. Go Bucks." What is that? I get that big time college athletes get sick of the criticism but this is childish. Show some humility. Of course, that tweet is nothing in comparison to Pryor's encore performance: "Heard Kirk herbstreit was dogging us. He a fake buckeye. Fake as hell." Stay classy, Terrelle. Ever give any thought to the idea Herbstreit is an analyst? It's his job to give his opinion. Plus, from what I saw of Herbie's comments, he merely suggested Pryor's sideline demeanor in which he shows frustration could work against him and negatively impact his teammates. Sounds pretty accurate to me. He also predicted Ohio State would win. I know some of you are anti-Herbie but for Pryor to handle any opinionated criticism from a guy who clearly knows college football and bleeds scarlet and gray - whether you agree with his opinions or not - is simply another instance prompting me to believe Pryor might not ever grow up. Especially when any intelligent fan or player knows Herbie loves Ohio State just as much as any person alive. To call him a "fake buckeye" is the dumbest thing Pryor has ever communicated, even beyond his signature "I mean everyone kills people, murders people, steals from you, steals from me" quote regarding Vick.
If anything, Saturday confirmed where my personal feelings stand with Pryor. He's my guy, the QB of my favorite team, trying to live up to the unimaginable expectations and pressure as a result of being such a high profile HS player but I've also come to grips with the fact that both on and off the field, he'll always be susceptible to doing something completely bone-headed, no matter what he's done to that point to almost convince me otherwise. As a result, I'm at peace with the fact that while he brings absolutely freakish physical skills and abilities to the table, the foundation is still not quite as steady as I'd hope by year three and therefore an uneasy feeling will likely always be present. His sometimes erratic mouth is but a metaphor for his sometimes erratic play - both influenced by emotion that should be put in check. That said, this stuff isn't the same as cheating on tests, getting in trouble with the law and the like so I am perfectly willing to tolerate it as long as the wins follow behind. At least I'm fan enough to admit it.