IOWA CITY – One week after stealing a victory from the jaws of defeat against Penn State, Ohio State didn’t even give itself a chance to come back on Saturday at Iowa.
The Buckeyes were not just defeated but utterly embarrassed by the Hawkeyes on Saturday, suffering a 55-24 loss, marking the second time in 10 games – dating back to the Buckeyes’ 31-0 shutout loss to Clemson that ended last season – that Ohio State has lost by 31 points.
Losing in such a fashion, just one week after winning what had been considered the biggest game of the season to that point, could only be described as a "terrible feeling," said Ohio State center Billy Price.
"You go from the highest of the highs to the lowest of lows," Price said.
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer admitted he had concerns about a letdown after an emotional, 39-38 win over Penn State, but he thought his team would be able to overcome that after a good week of practice. He certainly didn't expect anything like what happened Saturday.
"I tried to watch very closely (in practice) like I normally do, and I didn’t see the signs (of a letdown)," Meyer said. "Usually I do see signs, if I do I address them and move forward. But I didn’t see it."
Price, one of only two Buckeyes players to talk to the media after Saturday’s game, said he and his team "just didn’t come prepared."
"We weren’t nine units strong, and it resulted with a loss today," Price said. "I think Penn State week, we had a very, very attention-to-detail week of preparation. I guess off the emotional toll of last week, or whatever you want to blame it on, just the week of preparation itself has got to get better."
“You go from the highest of the highs to the lowest of lows.”– Ohio State center Billy Price
Ohio State defensive end Tyquan Lewis, however, felt the team "had a great week of practice" and just didn’t show up on Saturday.
"I wish I could just tell you what happened," Lewis said after Saturday’s game, "but we definitely have to come back and we have to execute."
Meyer said losing the turnover battle – four turnovers to zero – while allowing Iowa to control the line of scrimmage was what cost his team on Saturday.
"Good team, tough environment, didn’t play very well," Meyer said.
Ohio State’s defense struggled mightily on Saturday, as Iowa – which had scored less than 20 points in four of its last five games – scored more points than a team coached by Meyer had ever allowed in his entire career.
The Hawkeyes accumulated 487 total yards – 244 passing yards and 243 rushing yards, and more total yards than Iowa had gained in all but one game this season – as quarterback Nate Stanley matched his season-high with five touchdown passes.
"You expect to go into every game and dominate and play like the Silver Bullets, and obviously it didn’t turn out that way," Lewis said. "Nobody expected that, I don’t think, on defense, because we play defense and take pride in stopping the run."
The defense didn't get much help from Ohio State’s offense, however, as Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett threw four interceptions – the most he has ever thrown in a single game in his Buckeyes career. While the Buckeyes had 251 yards of offense in the first half, they gained only 120 yards in the second half, going scoreless for a drought of nearly 37 minutes between early in the second quarter and late in the fourth quarter.
Price said the Buckeyes knew going into Saturday’s game that Iowa’s defense, which had held each of its last six opponents to 21 points or less, would present a tough test for Ohio State’s offense on Saturday. Nonetheless, Price said the Buckeyes had only themselves to blame for not putting together a better effort.
"We knew coming into that week what kind of defense that was," Price said. "We knew what to prepare for. We just didn’t get that rhythm going, and we took one on the chin."
Ohio State is still in the hunt for a Big Ten championship, currently tied atop the Big Ten East standings with Michigan State after the Spartans defeated Penn State – handing the Nittany Lions their second straight loss – on Saturday. With next Saturday’s game between Ohio State and Michigan State now likely to be the game that decides the Big Ten East, Price expects his team to get refocused quickly in pursuit of achieving what he says was always the team’s primary goal.
"The good thing is the Big Ten East … we are still in the driver’s seat for this right now. That is first and foremost our goal is to win the Big Ten East itself," Price said. "The success that follows that is not necessarily our primary goal itself. So everything that we still want to play for is still in front of us. Got to look at the film, be very honest, hold guys accountable."
That said, the biggest goal that Ohio State fans had their sights set on is now off the table. A two-loss team has never made the College Football Playoff, and a two-loss team that lost by 31 points to an unranked opponent almost certainly won’t be the first.
This year’s Ohio State football team will not win a national championship, and that’s a reality that the Buckeyes – including seniors like Lewis, who came back hoping to erase the bad taste of last year’s Clemson loss and go out on top – will have to quickly accept.
"As a leader, I feel like I let a lot of people down," Lewis said. "But probably the thing you take out of it is, you wake up tomorrow and you get another opportunity to do something special. And everybody that’s a senior on this team, all the leaders, we share a special bond and that bond is so solid that nothing can crack us. You get a breath of fresh air tomorrow, and you turn your focus to the next game."