Freedom Fought

By Luke Zimmermann on November 20, 2010 at 9:02 pm

The final five minutes. Tension thick as a November fog or the gray that will occupy both school's skies for the better part of the next four and a half months. The chips on the table firmly centered; the point of no-return well beyond summited.

And yet in spite of the unique circumstances contributing to the tenor of the evening, against the grain of the measure that read noxiously similarly to exact moment at which the entirety of the piece deviated from the pleasant and derailed like a train off its tracks, a gut check, breathless site all to familiar to this school and its fans, just as it was a year prior, the plane leveled. Cabin pressure restored. Tornado sirens shrieking silenced. Sheer terror turned sheer jubilation; a deja vu sensation not entirely unfamiliar and perhaps (from an emotional standpoint) an a:b repeat of a year prior. 

The frustrating tease of the three quarters prior trivialized almost instantaneously, the Ohio State Buckeyes found consistency where there was none, stability when things seemed most unstable, and enough fire and counter punch to almost usurp a more than worth advisory in the Iowa Hawkeyes. Daniel "Boom" Herron's second effort in as many tries penetrated the goal line with but 1:47 to play and gave Ohio State their first lead since six minutes into the third quarter, 20-17. While a Rose by any other name (say, Sugar, or Orange) would smell as sweet, the very prospects there are of now stand shifted from impossibility to a grudge match away from becoming a reality.

The Buckeyes began late Saturday afternoon's contest getting to notable jingoist Ricky Stanzi, but in the process also took down one of the members of Iowa's chain gangs in one the ugliest injuries this side of Lawrence Taylor-meet-Joe Theismann. This would serve to establish the tone for the better part of the next two quarters of football. While Ohio State came with the sort of aggressive approach that vocal message board and internet weblog commenters alike dream up on their XBOX360's and PS3's, seemingly only Ohio State's Brian Rolle found a way to establish himself within the context of the general strategy. Rolle would ultimately help contribute to a defensive effort that would hold Iowa to just 81 rushing yards.

Capitalizing on a defensive secondary routinely out of position and a defensive line that struggled to consistently establish a counter push on the Hawkeyes offensive line, Ricky Stanzi let a systematic, true freshman Marcus Coker-powered drive that gave the Hawkeyes the afternoon's first lead, 7-0, on a strike to junior receiver Marvin McNutt. The freshman tailback would finish the first quarter with 7 carries for 43 yards, including an 18 yard scamper on the tone establishing drive.

The Buckeyes countered early in the second as Terrelle Pryor re-established a familiar rapport with senior Dane Sanzenbacher. Herron seemed to finally pick up with a similar feel for the gaps that he had a week prior breaking a ten yard rush though this wouldn't to be a trend for Boom. TP, perhaps channeling some of the histrionics he'd seen his idol Michael Vick display the previous Monday night, scrambled out of a tackle attempt flipping the ball as he lost his balance not unlike a point guard driving the lane and found sophomore fullback Zach Boren, but alas a yard short and with no room for the momentum necessary to push for the three feet still needed to turn the dynamic effort into six points. Initially, Ohio State seemed well position to uncharacteristically go for and establish their will upon the Hawkeyes on the 4th-and-goal from-the-1 opportunity, but after taking a time out to reconsider the situation, ultimately reverted into the same pacifist, calculated 'Tresselnomical' approach to game theory we've grown to accept and condone and converted a field goal attempt.

Adding to Buckeye aficionado frustrations was an overly analytical, almost patient to-a-fault heave by Pryor late in the half that ultimately found its way into a crowd of Hawkeyes (behind a once streaking, open Taurian Washington) before being deflected and caught near miraculously one handedly by Iowa sophomore defensive Micah Hyde. Most worrying of all was Pryor's demeanor and attitude after the sequence in which he could plain as day be seen mouthing "he cut; that's not my fault" before a reported incident in which he yelled and dismissed video coordinator turned quarterback coach Nic Siciliano from a post-play sideline huddle. The three points would ultimately prove all Ohio State had in them for the half, trailing for a second straight weekend going into the intermission. 

The second half started not unlike a week Pryor with Ohio State combining some of the same inefficiency and ineffectiveness that plagued their first halves, by also showing a renewed sense of zeal in their approach to the game. The new found vigor would culminate in Pryor finding an unaccounted for second tight end Reid Freigel. HIlariously enough earlier in the week during media sessions, Pryor had addressed #88 to reporters as "that backup guy"; there's no doubting the two were closer to being on a first name basis after the go-ahead score made things 10-7 Buckeyes.

The ensuing Iowa drive would find Ricky Stanzi again having success moving the ball down the field before one of the most contentious moments of the (now) evening when Ohio State strong safety Jermale Hines leveled McNutt in a play that in fast action seemed innocuous (besides the involuntary collision sustained by the Hawkeyes receiver). A fifteen yard penalty for hitting a defenseless receiver drew the ire of Jim Tressel for the second time in the contest  and helped contribute to the equalizing field goal by Iowa. After an ill conceived follow up drive by the Buckeyes, Ohio State's defense returned to the field as did the same poor zone coverage that gave Iowa the ability to sustain drives for the better part of the afternoon. The two sides would head into the fourth level at 10 a piece.

After forcing an Iowa punt, Ohio State resumed possession of the ball with a chance to drive an take control of the contest. Terrelle Pryor's judgement had other ideas as the junior made the poorly derived decision to throw off balance from one foot on the run into traffic to a flanked Dane Sanzenbacher, ultimately leading to another deflection and another Iowa turnover, this one by Omaha, Nebraska product junior safety Shaun Prater. Capitalizing on the terse shift of momentum, the Hawkeyes would reap the benefits of a 26-yard Marcus Coker scramble that would set up a one-yard punch in by the freshman on the very next play and give Iowa a 17-10 lead following a successful point after try.

The ensuing Ohio State drive continued to move away from the effective running the team had showcased two weeks prior, whether by respect of a highly talented defensive line unit, a lack of rhythm, or strategic impropriety, perhaps we'll never know. In spite of finding success behind a less experienced, less effective offensive line a year prior (and against a more elite Iowa linebacking corp to boot), the Buckeyes continued to move the ball down the field primarily through the air and with Pryor having to make things come together with his feet. Buckeye freshman wide receiver Corey "Philly" Brown continued a rough afternoon after being unable to bring in a long throw from Pryor that could've put the position in prime positioned to level things. Instead the Buckeyes turned to the foot of senior Devin Barclay, who proceeded to reward their faith on a wing and a prayer in the form of converting a career long 48-yard field goal to bring Ohio State within four, 13-17.

Iowa's possession to follow would be dominated by sophomore defensive tackle John Simon. The Youngstown Cardinal Mooney alum would sack Ricky Stanzi on first down only to bat down a pass attempt effort on third to breathe new life into the now time constrained Buckeyes. While Terrelle Pryor's body language grabbing his helmet on the sideline seemed mixed at best, the resulting effort would speak far louder than the vague inferences gained from watching him act mildly indifferent. The drive got off to a start with the fresh legs of Brandon Saine scampering for a first down. The next two plays would setup the almost Ryan Hamby moment of the season, when junior receiver DeVier Posey broke away from coverage at the exact moment Terrelle Pryor took the initiative to throw the ball deep in his direction. With a floating, nearly perfectly thrown ball descending from the heavens, Posey promptly allowed the pigskin to slip through this extended arms and fall lifelessly to the ground in what would've surely been the go ahead touchdown. Having to regroup emotionally in a hurry, Terrelle Pryor would scramble on a fourth-and-ten and just narrowly convert to extend the drive (and for all intents and purposes, the game, for the Buckeyes).

The penultimate sequence would play out on the very next play when Terrelle Pryor found Dane Sanzenbacher narrowly down the edge of the right sideline in a play that had to had all watching reminiscing of Troy Smith finding Anthony Gonzalez late in the fourth quarter against Michigan in 2005. After a lengthy review, Ohio State would give the honors from within the three yard line to Herron to score the aforementioned touchdown and go ahead in strike in Ohio State's second victory in as many classic contests against the Hawkeyes. Iowa would have a drive to answer with three time outs at that, but no until after Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz had allowed Jim Tressel to run off nearly 40 seconds in lieu of keeping his timeouts unadulterated. 

The first play of the next drive would reprieve the controversy surrounding Hines but this time play out in the favor of the opposing side. Hines exploded on tailback Adam Robinson, almost a full second prior to the ball arriving according to replay, but was able to avoid any kind of penalty associated with the act, much to the chagrin of the Knnick faithful. Robinson appeared to almost be weaving as he walked to his sidelines on a night he likely physically won't be able to remember much of. The next play marked the return of the sophomore Simon who pressured and chased the Hawkeyes quarterback forcing an incompletion to the sideline. Third down would result in the noticeably quiet during the 2010 season Cameron Heyward, who despite early successful pressure against the Hawkeyes, had yet to record a quarterback sack on the afternoon until he blindsided the pocket awareness lacking Stanzi. With but bleak hopes and 21 yards to go to extend the drive, Stanzi found McNutt who would instead by tackled by Ross Homan short and turn the ball over on downs to the Buckeyes.

After giving the ball to Boom Herron three straight plays, Ohio State ate up the remaining time and escaped Iowa City with genuine BCS aspirations alive and well. Another year, another game you'll be hard pressed not to recall vivid details at a Thanksgiving dinner ten or fifteen years down the road to friends and family. Almost makes it easy to neglect to consider the week that lies ahead, but in doing so you would likely be going against the very nature of the type of individual you'd have to be to be perusing this summary. Michigan lies on the horizon with yet another opportunity to write history you won't soon forget.

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