Feature: Miscues and big plays hamper Iowa’s chances at an upset

Buckeye playmakers were too much for the Iowa defense as Ohio State tops the Hawkeyes, 34-24.

Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller runs the ball past Iowa defensive end Drew Ott in Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2013. Braxton ran 108-yards on the game. Ohio State defeated Iowa, 34-24. (The Daily Iowan/Tessa Hursh)

Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller runs the ball past Iowa defensive end Drew Ott in Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013. Braxton ran 108-yards on the game. Ohio State defeated Iowa, 34-24. (The Daily Iowan/Tessa Hursh)

By Cody Goodwin
cody-goodwin@uiowa.edu

COLUMBUS — Braxton Miller – the lethal dual-threat Ohio State quarterback and Heisman Trophy Candidate – began the third play of the fourth quarter by rolling toward the left hash. The Iowa defense forced him back all the way toward the right side of the field. Then, as if pulled by some psychological imperative, Miller turned back toward the left and scampered nine yards to the Iowa 19-yard-line. The play itself spanned likely more than 50 yards and lasted upwards of 11 seconds.

The very next play, Buckeye running back Carlos Hyde snuck through Iowa’s defensive line but was pushed toward the sideline by Tanner Miller. Hyde, through some sort of weird toe-dancing maneuver, managed his balance, and dove at the pylon for the go-ahead score that ultimately gave Ohio State (7-0, 3-0) a 34-24 victory over Iowa at Ohio Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

The fourth quarter began with a frustrating series of plays for the Hawkeyes (4-3, 1-2 Big Ten). Those two plays by Miller and Hyde are what will be played on highlight reels around the country for the next week, and possibly for the rest of the year. They will serve as a constant reminder to Kirk Ferentz’s squad – a reminder that will tell the Hawkeyes that simple mistakes are what kept them from pulling what would’ve been the biggest upset of the college football season.

“They took control in the second half, and we couldn’t get a stop when we needed to,” Ferentz said after the game. “That’s why they’re a good football team. They’re very explosive and can hurt you. In the second half, they did a really nice job of marching the ball down the field.”

Ohio State’s offense is one of the most potent in college football. Urban Meyer’s team entered Saturday’s contest with the nation’s sixth-best scoring offense (46.8 points per game) and with the nation’s 10th-best run game, averaging just over 280 rush yards per contest.

So it’s no surprise that Iowa had trouble trying to stop the Buckeyes, the first sign of blood being a 58-yard touchdown pass from Miller to Corey Brown to begin the second frame. But the Hawkeyes did itself no favors on defense, either.

Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde scores a touchdown during the fourth quarter in Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013. Hyde scored two touchdowns on the game and these were the first rushing touchdowns Iowa has allowed so far this season. Ohio State defeated Iowa, 34-24. (The Daily Iowan/Tessa Hursh)

Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde scores a touchdown during the fourth quarter in Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013. Hyde scored two touchdowns on the game and these were the first rushing touchdowns Iowa has allowed so far this season. Ohio State defeated Iowa, 34-24. (The Daily Iowan/Tessa Hursh)

Ohio State’s featured back on Saturday, the 6-foot, 242-pound Hyde, accumulated 149 yards on the ground and two touchdowns – the first two rushing touchdowns Iowa has allowed this season. And he did it largely by slipping through tackles in the box and advancing to the secondary to gain more yards.

“There were certainly plenty of chances for us to go out and win that game,” Iowa linebacker James Morris said. “But we just didn’t capitalize, didn’t do a good enough job generally.”

Iowa’s pass coverage also struggled, allowing a five-yard cushion to Buckeye receivers at times. This made for an easy day for Miller, who finished an efficient 22-of-27 for 222 yards and two touchdowns.

Miller and his receiving corps spent most of the afternoon picking on true freshman Desmond King. King cycled through guarding both Brown and Devin Smith, the two leading Buckeye receivers. Smith and Brown combined for 10 catches and 144 yards and two scores. King finished with a team-high 12 tackles – and 10 of those were solo.

There were times during the game, though, when Iowa’s defensive backs were able to cloak Ohio State’s receivers, causing Miller to go through his entire progression. The added time allowed the Hawkeye pass rushers to collapse the pocket and, on occasion, sack Miller – a feat they achieved just twice on Saturday.

But Miller, like so many other playmakers that play on Saturdays, often makes his most memorable plays when the one in front of him breaks down. And it was during those times that Iowa couldn’t contain Miller, causing him to scramble around for 50-plus yards only to end up gaining the nine he needed for the first down. It was those plays that ultimately served as the difference.

“I can always tell when he’s feeling good, when he’s running, carrying out fakes,” Meyer said of Miller, who finished with 102 rushing yards of his own on 18 carries. “And he’s becoming a much better practice player and obviously that correlates to production. I can see it now, he looks better, he looks like he feels great.”

Added Miller: “I don’t feel as well since the first game of the season. I had a knee injury and it set me back a little bit, but it felt pretty good out there; good week of preparation. And the O-line did a hell of a job and coaching and it showed on the field.”

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