Challenges just beginning for Ohio State team still focused on improvement

COLUMBUS -- By now, the balancing act of excitement over success and worry about worts is becoming routine for Ohio State football.

There may not be a better example than the mixed reaction to the Buckeyes’ 54-10 win over Iowa on Saturday to start the second half of the season.

ExploreIowa game recap

The Hawkeyes limped into Ohio Stadium at 3-3, but they looked more like the team that was expected to contend for the Big Ten West title before the season started.

At least when Ohio State had the ball.

Iowa’s highly-ranked defense gave the Buckeyes more fits than any other team has this season, and taking positives out of that was not hard for head coach Ryan Day or his quarterback, C.J. Stroud.

“The first half was kind of weird,” Stroud said. “When you start out a couple times on the 30- and 40-yard line, it’s hard to get the rhythm there. We just have to execute better. It’s good to get it under our belt because the second half of the season gets very tough and you have games like that where you’re not hot early on. You have to get going and so once we got it going, I feel like we became the dynamic offense that we are.”

Stroud had some struggles early with a fumble returned for a touchdown and an interception, but he finished with a solid passing line (20 for 30 for 286 yards and four touchdowns) even for a player who has developed high expectations.

Such was not the case for the Ohio State running game that turned in a season-low 66 yards on 30 carries (including Stroud’s lost 13 yards on sacks).

Per the official stats, the Buckeyes were only 1 for 7 in short-yardage situations and had 30 percent of their runs stopped for loss or no gain.

“We’re gonna have to go back and look at how we can run the ball better — that’s for sure — but that’s every week,” Day said. “We’ve got to figure out how to throw the ball better. How to score points in the red zone better, but that’s every week.

“I wouldn’t say I’m concerned (about the running game), but we’re going to need better play moving forward.”

Explore5 takeaways and more from Ohio State's win over Iowa

Ohio State’s offense also bogged down in the red zone unlike it had in any of the first six games.

The Buckeyes remained perfect on the season with 36 scores on 36 trips, but three times they settled for field goals.

“I wish we had some of those calls back,” Day said. “I wish we had plays back. The No. 1 goal is to score touchdowns in the red zone. That’s part of our plan to win. We’ve been good at that in the past. Not as good today.”

Next up is a trip to Penn State.

The Nittany Lions thumped Minnesota on Saturday night 45-17 in front of a raucous “White Out” crowd at Beaver Stadium.

In a stark contrast from the physical 41-17 beatdown Penn State suffered at Michigan a week earlier, the Nittany Lions had it all going against a Golden Gophers squad forced to play without injured quarterback Tanner Morgan.

Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford threw for 295 yards and four touchdowns while the Nittany Lions ran for 175 yards, and the defense notched seven tackles for loss.

“The challenges are going to get bigger and bigger,” Day said of the rest of the season for Ohio State. “We need to be balanced across the board. We need complementary football. We need special teams. We need everything.

“(Iowa) is a very good team coming in here. We had a lot of respect for them, and they played well, especially on defense. So for us to win like this, it’s good, but there’s still a lot to improve on and a lot to grow from.”


Ohio State at Penn State, Noon, Fox, 1410

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