It didn't go down quite like most of Buckeye nation (and a lot of Hawkeye nation) envisioned, but in the end, the Buckeyes clinched their first Rose Bowl trip in 13 seasons by squeaking by Iowa in overtime, 27-24.
And how fitting was it, that on Senior Day in Ohio Stadium, three standout senior defenders stepped up in overtime after the Hawkeyes had stormed back from a 14 point fourth quarter deficit to tie the game? Kirk Ferentz's squad had all of the momentum in a stunned Horseshoe when they received the opening series of the extra period.
On first down, James Vandenberg, who had played brilliantly to that point, threw the ball away on a rollout. On second down, linebacker Austin Spitler dragged down Hawkeye running back Adam Robinson for a six yard loss. It was Doug Worthington's turn next. On 3rd and 16, he busted through the Iowa line and sacked Vandenberg for a 10 yard loss. Finally on 4th and 26 and out of field goal range, Vandenberg heaved up a desperation throw into the endzone that was picked off by Anderson Russell -- his second snatch of the day.
Seniors stepping up on Senior Day. It's almost too perfect.
After the Buckeyes took over in OT, it was three straight Boom Herron runs up the middle for a total of three yards before kicker Devin Barclay stepped up and kicked the biggest field goal of his life: a 39-yarder for the final margin.
While the fourth quarter and overtime provided plenty of excitement, the game started as a typical Big Ten slugfest with two strong defenses taking turns stifling offenses that struggled for much of the first half.
The Hawkeyes got on the board first, taking a 3-0 lead on a 32 yard Daniel Murray field goal in the waning moments of the first quarter. The score came after Iowa received good field position on their second possession and they rode the hot start of Vandenberg (7/7 to start) to move the ball down the field. Hawkeye receiver Trey Stross, an Ohio kid, dropped a would be touchdown on third down (he had a brutal day overall with four drops) and the Buckeyes escaped giving up just the three.
The Buckeyes answered on their next possession, marching 73 yards in 17 plays before settling for a Barclay 30-yarder to knot things up. The running game appeared to pick up some steam on the drive and Pryor completed a key 3rd and 10 strike to DeVier Posey for 15.
OSU held Iowa to a three-and-out on their next possession and took over at their own 26. Six straight runs by Boom and Zoom moved the ball to the Iowa 34 before Pryor found Ray Small for a 12 yard gain. On the next play, Saine put on a cutting showcase, taking the ball 22 yards for the score and the Buckeyes had their first lead of the afternoon at 10-3.
Anderson Russell intercepted a tipped Vandenberg pass on Iowa's next possession but with just 58 seconds remaining in the half, Tressel was content to take the 10-3 lead into the locker room and ran the clock out.
On Iowa's opening drive of the second half, Adam Robinson quickly ripped off successive nine yard runs before Vandenberg dialed up a 55 yard strike to wide receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos. Torrence was the victim in this instance, and looking at a first and goal from the Buckeye seven, things were looking a tad bleak. Alas, the defense held and the crowd erupted when Murray missed a chip-shot 22 yard field goal.
The two teams traded a few three-and-outs before Vandenberg and the Hawks got the ball back on their own 44 after a meager 31 yard John Thoma punt. Vandenberg again hit a big play, finding Marvin McNutt for a 33 yard gain (Chekwa the victim, this time) to the OSU 13. Three plays later, on 3rd and six, Vandenberg drilled a beautiful slant for a touchdown between Coleman and Chekwa. Just like that, it was 10-10.
On the Buckeyes' next series, Pryor delivered a couple of huge passes, the first going to a wide-open Jake Ballard for 17 on 2nd and seven. The play was notable because Ballard thought about hurdling a defender before deciding against it and going out of bounds. Facing pressure on 3rd and five, Pryor completed a 12 yard pass to Duron Carter while he was going down -- perhaps the play of the game out of the quarterback. Facing another 3rd and 10, Pryor ran the keeper for 19 yards to keep the drive alive. On the next play, Boom scampered into the endzone for an 11 yard touchdown out of the Wildcat, putting the Buckeyes back ahead 17-10 at the top of the fourth quarter.
Linebacker Ross Homan stepped up on the next series, intercepting a Vandenberg pass at the Buckeye 45 and showing some nifty footwork of his own, returning the ball 34 yards before being brought down. 14 yards of the return were wiped out due to an illegal block out of Nathan Williams, but big mo had surely swung and the stadium was rocking.
On the very next play, Saine took a handoff from Pryor, made a sick move at the line and sprinted 49 yards down the right sideline to put the Buckeyes up 24-10. With a little over 10 minutes left in the game, this one looked to be in the bag.
Unfortunately, nobody told the Hawkeyes. DJK took the ensuing kickoff back 99 yards for a score to cut the lead to seven. It was the 4th-longest kickoff return in Iowa history and and it sucked to this biased fan, at least.
A kickoff out of bounds and a personal foul spotted the Buckeyes the ball at the Iowa 45 on their next drive. Riding Boom for six-straight carries, the offense moved the ball to the Iowa 27 before Barclay came in and missed a 47 yard field goal. Still up seven with time ticking away. No worries, right?
Not quite. Vandenberg went to work right away, moving Iowa from their own 30 to the OSU 10. He finished the drive with a nasty fade over Chekwa to Marvin for his second touchdown of the game. 24 up and the once jubilant home crowd is shitting bricks to put it mildly.
The Buckeyes received the ball again with 2:42 to work with and were able to pick up a couple of first downs, but the drive fizzled out at their own 31. After a Thoma punt, the Hawkeyes received the ball with 52 seconds remaining but Ferentz opted to run the clock out, setting up one hell of an overtime finish.
- James Vandenberg is going to be one hell of a quarterback. The future looks bright in Iowa City. And his mom is hot as well, so there's that.
- Hats off to the Iowa offensive gameplan. They did a great job of moving the pocket and rolling Vandenberg out, neutralizing the Buckeye rush for the most part. Worthington's sack in overtime was the only one recorded by the Buckeyes.
- The win takes away some of the sting, but up by just seven and opting for a run up the middle on 3rd and nine late in the game was a terrible call. Absolutely no balls shown. If Cooper took heat for biting his nails and instilling a lack of confidence in his players, what does this say about Tressel?
- Pryor didn't have that many huge plays, but finishing 14/17 with no turnovers to clinch a Rose Bowl trip is really something. He did manage to pass Todd Boeckman and move into 10th on the all-time passing list.
- Freshman lineman Marcus Hall made his first career start today at right tackle.
- The Buckeyes were this close to having two 100 yard backs on the afternoon. Saine finished with 103 and Herron with 97. The 229 yards of rushing marked the 7th time the unit has gone over 200 on the ground this year and really says something, coming against a solid Iowa defensive front.
- Thoma really struggled today, averaging only 35.8 yards on five punts. A couple shanks were really costly and helped Iowa maintain great field position throughout the afternoon. He'll have a chance to avenge this performance, thankfully.
- It's Michigan week. 'Nuff said.