COLUMBUS – Before Ohio State and Iowa even kicked off, the day was full of upsets and exciting finishes. And it didn’t stop at 3:30 eastern inside Ohio Stadium. The Buckeyes were on the ropes from the outset, trailing in the first, second and third quarters.
But on the year anniversary of the Purdue comeback for the ages, Ohio State had more drama saved up. The game-winning touchdown in a 34-24 victory came on a PlayStation-esque 19-yard run by Carlos Hyde, where he broke a tackle at the 7, backtracked four yards and then fast-forwarded with a dive into the end zone.
“It’s God-given [talent],” Braxton Miller said about his backfield partner’s highlight-reel score.
Said Hyde: “'I’ve never had a run like that, but that play was working all day. The safety came up and hit me. I came out of it and I was still up. I was like, ‘Let me catch my balance,” and once I did I turned around and was like, ‘Man, I haven’t even scored yet.’ When I saw Philly’s block, I just went in for the touchdown.”
It was another second-half surge for Hyde, who finished with 149 yards rushing and two touchdowns. He had 106 yards and both scores after halftime. Miller added to the backfield’s production by turning in his best outing of the season and looking like the 2012 version that earned the nickname XBrax360. He tallied 324 yards of total offense – 222 passing and 102 rushing – completed 22 of 27 passes and had two scoring strikes. It was the 10th game of his career with 100 or more rushing yards.
Philly Brown and Devin Smith each finished with 72 yards receiving and a touchdown, and Jeff Heuerman snagged a career-high five catches.
For more than two hours, 105,264 fans sat anxiously in a cold, damp stadium just waiting to cheer for something, anything. They got it on Hyde’s touchdown run and much of the second half. The Buckeyes had five second-half possessions: three resulted in touchdowns, one a field goal and the last ended in the victory formation.
“We knew going in that Iowa was a physical team, that they had one of the leading rushing defenses in the nation,” 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.”
It was the first half, though, that stuck in the craw of head coach Urban Meyer and the players – for multiple reasons. A tone was set on the opening drive when Iowa faced little resistance, traveling 80 yards in 12 plays while converting two third downs to take a 7-0 lead.
“Defensively, I was very disappointed – very, very disappointed in first half because I thought we were getting pushed around,” Meyer said. “The second half was much, much better, but that was a very good, physical team we were playing.”
But it was the second Hawkeye possession that was a game changer.
On 2nd-and-4 near midfield, Iowa tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz caught a pass before being leveled by cornerback Bradley Roby. Problem was Roby got called for targeting a defenseless player, which comes with an ejection.
It led to an unhappy stadium, an irate Roby and an incensed Meyer. But it didn’t provide an energy boost to the defense, at least not in the first half. Iowa converted seven of its nine third downs in the half and gained 222 yards. For the second consecutive game, Ohio State trailed at halftime, this time 17-10.
All three scoring drives by the Hawkeyes were at least 10 plays. It took Iowa all of 15 plays to get over the century mark. But Ohio State also faced little resistance. It gained more than 7.5 yards per play but had two drives stall deep inside Iowa territory – one resulting in a field goal, the other a turnover on downs. Meyer had the chance to kick a 45-yard field, only to decline and go for it on 4th-and-10.
“We were into the breeze a little bit,” he said. “I thought about punting it. I think [Braxton] was throwing the ball well and receivers were catching the ball, so I decided to take a chance there.”
The highlight of the half came on a 58-yard pass play from Miller to Philly Brown that resulted in a touchdown. It was a career-long catch for Brown and the fourth time this season Iowa surrendered a touchdown pass of 40-plus yards.
Adjustments on the defensive side of the ball were paramount for Ohio State during halftime. Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock torched the secondary in the first 30 minutes and the Buckeyes’ stout run defense had suddenly found its match. The Hawkeyes gained 101 yards in the first half.
It would all come crashing down in the third and fourth quarters. Iowa was limited to 153 second-half yards – 29 rushing – and 85 came on one play, a touchdown pass to Jake Duzey. It converted just one third down. Ohio State outgained the Hawkeyes 306-153 in the second half and dominated time of possession, controlling the football for all but 6:55.
Rudock finished 19-of-34 passing for 245 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Duzey caught six passes for 138 yards and a touchdown.
Ohio State tied the game after a 13-play drive to begin the half. Hyde scored from one-yard out for the first rushing touchdown of the season against Iowa. Miller was 4-for-4 passing on the drive and completed his first nine passes of the half.
The Buckeyes’ first lead came with 3:15 remaining in the third quarter on a 14-yard pass play to Devin Smith. But the 24-17 advantage didn’t last long. Rudock’s 85-yard pass to Duzey came on the first play of the ensuing drive. Roby’s replacement, Armani Reeves, was beaten badly on the play, allowing his second touchdown of the game.
However, the fourth quarter belonged to Ohio State. The go-ahead score – Hyde’s dipsy-do – came with more than 13:00 left. Iowa would only run 11 more plays, though, with one of its two possessions ending with the only turnover of the game - a Tyvis Powell interception.
From there, it was win No. 19 in a row for the Buckeyes. The streak ties the second most consecutive wins in school history. Meyer won his 20th straight game as a head coach, becoming the first head coach to have three suck streaks.
“I’ve learned a lesson in my life. I’m going to enjoy this win,” Meyer said with a mischievous grin. “I feel outstanding. I’m going to go hug my players and hug my family and go to work tomorrow. But, tonight? I'm not worried about the defense. I’m going to enjoy this win.”