Thoughts in the aftermath of...
Ohio State 38, Iowa 17
Well, I didn't see that one coming. Yes, I know that Iowa had largely been playing like crap coming into this game. Yes, I know that we were better than them at pretty much every position on the field. But while I was reasonably confident that the Bucks would pull through, I was more in line with Todd's thinking than I was with the majority of other Buckeye fans who were predicting multi-TD wins. Granted, as long as the game wasn't played in a mudpuddle like PSU, I didn't think there was any way in hell Iowa would hold OSU under 21 points; what I was worried about was Drew Tate pulling his Brett Favre Jr. act, scrambling away from pressure a few times and turning broken plays into big-gainers (as evidence that it happens: against Cincinnati OSU gave up 5 plays of 20+ yards in the first half alone, and all five of them were the result of the Cincy QB breaking out of the pocket and making a big play against a scrambling Buckeye D). So I figured that if we were gonna end up losing, it would be something in the neighborhood of 28-24 or something. Also, under Ferentz, the Hawkeyes have a track record of starting each season extremely slow, then really putting things together by late September or early October. So basically I was worried that this would be the sparkplug game the Hawkeyes needed in order to really sharpen their focus.
Didn't so much happen.
On to crap about the actual game:
When Ohio State had the ball
Last year Iowa primarily tried to cover Anthony Gonzalez with linebacker Chad Greenway. It didn't work at all, as Gonzo was open all day, scoring two TDs and leading the Bucks in receiving yards. This year was hardly any different, as Gonzo was rarely covered by a solid cornerback, sometimes facing LBs and oftentimes sitting down in the pockets of zone coverage, which he is better at than almost anyone. Huge game again, thanks primarily to...
Teddy Inge was essentially double-covered the entire game. And I love it, because Gonzo can absolutely murder people in that situation (note to people who thought the offense might be worse than we thought, based on the PSU game: that 30-yard catch-and-run for a TD is the kind of thing these receivers can do when the game isn't being played on a slip-and-slide). Teddy didn't hit any big plays, and he's getting on my nerves a little bit with his cutting and indecision on kick returns and WR screens, but the threat of him flat-out running past your cornerback is perpetually on the minds of every defensive coordinator we will face all season. Second possession of the game, Troy overthrew him on first down on a fly pattern where he had two steps on the DB. Even though it didn't connect, the ability and the willingness to hit huge plays like that if teams leave Teddy in single coverage alters the opposition's thinking for the rest of the game: "shit, we have to have two guys over there on every play." That leaves Gonzo, Robo, and - hey! - Roy Hall even more open than they would be otherwise. Heavens to mergatroid, even.
Not much can be said about Troy that hasn't already been slobbered. He is poised, calm, and above all, supremely confident in both his abilities and the ability of all of his weapons to get open and make things happen.
Above: I'm gonna pwn you, and then I'm gonna pwn you...
Speaking of, did anyone else notice the blond-mulletted Iowa defensive lineman who was talking shit to Troy after, like, every single play in the first half? Did I dream that? Was it an Appletini (lucky drink?) induced hallucination? Note that the jawing didn't seem to continue into the second half, for obvious reasons.
Then, you know, there's Bad Running Back Antonio Pittman, who kept the chains moving time and again, racking up 117 yards. Plus he got some assistance from Chris Wells, who seriously needs a much better nickname than "Beanie," and as soon as possible. Todd, you can occasionally come up with nonsensical nicknames that are funny, or sort of funny (11:30 update: I just got done watching "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," a show that I like a lot for the writing and the characters, but one pretty big thing is bugging me: these guys are writing a friggin' comedy show that is apparently pulling in tons of viewers now, but the problem is that what they show us of that show-within-the-show isn't fucking funny. Come up with funny stuff for it or don't bother giving us glimpses of the show-within-the-show.) But, as per usual with the running game, I think the lion's share of the credit needs to go to the offensive line. I know I made mention of it during the game, but it bears repeating: Alex Boone has been shaky at best in pass protection, drawing false starts and holding calls at an alarming pace in the Texas and Cincinnato games. But he is a devastating run blocker. I mean, he plows his guy backward almost every time. A lot of the excellent results we got on the ground were behind that mammoth left side, featuring Boone and Rehring. That's a goddamn metric ton of prime man-beef to run behind. Sexy. It must also be mentioned that Troy is getting all the time in the world to throw -- quite simply, this is the best OL of Tressel's tenure, and it isn't particularly close.
When Iowa had the ball
I loved our gameplan of coming after Tate from the get-go. On two of the first three offensive plays for Iowa, we brought Laurinaitis on delayed blitzes, and the pressure kept up all night. Although the defense only finished with two (I think) sacks, they clearly set up shop in Tate's mind. He didn't spike the ball, but he did get in some amusing tongue-lashings for his linemen, once again coming dangerously close to crossing the line between "fiery competitor" and "asshole."
That injury to Anderson Russell is scary. I've read in a few places that it's probably season-ending, which means we're in Jamario O'Neal territory until further notice. That could be dicey considering jamario's penchant for missing tackles this far this year. Also, he was the guy who got beat on that 30-yard wheel route on third down during Iowa's first scoring drive. Let's all cross our fingers, for multiple reasons. O'Neal's safety-mate (... gross ...?) Brandon Mitchell continues to be all over the place, which is fantastic, because not a lot of 35-year-old quintuple-redshirts get a shot at this level. Good to see him making the most of it.
Once again, the numbers show a "vulnerability" against the run that my crazyblindbiased eyes just aren't seeing. But yes, Albert Young and Damian Sims combined to average about 5.3 yards per carry, proving once again that you can use stats to prove anything that's even remotely true. Stats schmats.
Laurinaitis got another pick. I'm befuddled. The guy just makes plays, big ones, every damn game. Huzzah.
It's tough to say for sure, since Iowa's receiving corps essentially exists of a bunch of guys Kirk Ferentz picked up at the Iowa City YMCA, but the corners still seem to be a lot better than we had any earthly right to expect. I can't hear Antonio Smith's story enough, and the fact that he's playing great out there just makes it better. Malcolm Jenkins, Andre Amos, and Donald Washington are all turning in solid efforts, week after week.
Now for the D-line. I know it probably comes off as arrogant, biased fanwankery, but seriously: I'm not sure I've ever seen a group of defensive linemen get held so much, so egregiously, and with so few flags thrown against the opposition, in my life. Vernon Gholston gets bearhugged on almost every play (but still has enough freakish arm strength to do shit [douche it?] like this one-armed clothesline takedown, all while -- hey! -- being held); ditto Quinn Pitcock. Yet these hilariously obvious calls are rarely made by the officials, and it's gotten past the point of being infuriating, moved all the way through being funny, and is back around the spectrum into anger-inducing again. As Keith over at BC has pointed out, OSU has the least-penalized opponents in the Big Ten (about halfway down, titled "opponent penalties"). Same thing happened last year. This means that, when teams play OSU, they just flat-out don't get called for penalties. And it sucks. I took the liberty of going through each of OSU's games, and comparing the penalties and yardage that teams accumulate against OSU to what they get called for against other opposition. The numbers, they here:
|TEAM||AVG. PENALTIES vs. NON-OSU TEAMS||PENALTIES vs. OSU|
|Northern Illinois||6.8 for 60 yards||4 for 35 yards|
|Texas||7.3 for 63 yards||4 for 39 yards|
|Cincinnati||7.5 for 64 yards||6 for 28 yards|
|Penn State||5 for 38 yards||3 for 20 yards|
|Iowa||6 for 56 yards||0 for 0 yards|
I'll just let that speak for itself. Mostly because I'm tired and that's gotten me all bent out of shape after a win about which we should all still be gleeful.