The Ohio State defense allowed Iowa to cobble together three clock-munching touchdown drives in the first half and then gave up an 85-yard scoring bomb in the third quarter to a back-up tight end.
But though the unit was consistently getting pushed around, Braxton Miller’s message to the defenders was that the Buckeyes had too much firepower for the Hawkeyes to keep up.
“Sometimes it ain’t going to go as you want it to go. That’s why you have two sides of the ball,” the junior quarterback said. “They’ve got to be able to lean on us. You tell them, ‘We’ll pick it up for you.’”
Miller and his mates certainly did that. They pounded out 495 total yards — including 273 on the ground — while overcoming a 17-10 halftime deficit for a 34-24 victory before 105,264 fans Saturday.
Running back Carlos Hyde rushed for 149 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries, while Miller finished 22-of-27 passing for 222 yards and two TDs and rushed for 102 yards on 18 attempts.
The third-ranked Buckeyes (7-0, 3-0 Big Ten) scored on six of their seven possessions, aside from the two times they took a knee at the end of the first half and fourth quarter. It was the first time they’ve gone through a game without punting since 2008 — unless you count Miller’s punt toward the sidelines in celebration after taking the last snap.
“On offense, I was really, really pleased with our performance,” coach Urban Meyer said. “We dropped back more on first down than we have in probably a year and a half. That’s showing we have much more confidence in our receivers than we ever have and certainly our quarterback. I thought Braxton played very well.”
As for Hyde, Meyer said: “They’re feeding off each other, that offensive line and Carlos. That was a very good rush defense.”
Going into the game, Iowa (4-3, 1-2) was the only FBS team not to allow a rushing touchdown. But Hyde bulled his way to a one-yard score early in the third quarter and then tacked on a dazzling 19-yarder after that.
The 6-foot, 230-pound senior rumbled through the line, was tagged by Iowa safety Tanner Miller, regained his balance after stumbling backward and then did a swan dive across the goal line.
“That play was working all day. I told (running backs coach Stan) Drayton we should run it more,” Hyde said. “I hit it inside and bounced it outside. The safety came down and hit me. I came out of it, and I was still up. I was like, ‘Let me try to catch my balance.’
“Once I did, I turned back around and saw (receiver) Philly Brown with an unbelievable block. I got so excited, and I hadn’t even scored yet.”
Asked for his reaction to the play, offensive coordinator Tom Herman said: “Wow. Just wow. Everybody gives him much-deserved credit for being a big, bruising back. But that kid’s got tremendous balance and tremendous fortitude and really, really, really has a refusal to be tackled — especially on that play. Holy smokes.”
Iowa’s ability to keep rushers out of the end zone was motivation for the Buckeyes.
“Offensive line coach (Ed Warinner), he told the receivers if they catch the ball and fall on the 1-yard line, be ready for a run because he’s running it,” Hyde said. “They’ve got it messed up if they think we’re not getting a rushing touchdown.”
The defensive showing wasn’t a positive step for a team that has designs on making a national title run, but Meyer sounded like Scarlett O’Hara in the postgame press conference: He’ll worry about that tomorrow.
“I learned a lesson in my life. I’m going to enjoy this win. I feel outstanding,” he said. “I’m going to go hug my players and my family and go to work tomorrow. Tonight, I’m not worrying about any defense. I’m going to enjoy this win. See ya.”
Ohio State vs. Penn State, 8 p.m. Saturday, ABC1410