|Ohio State tailback Carlos Hyde (34) dives for a touchdown in the Buckeyes' 34-24 victory over Iowa on Saturday evening in Columbus. (AP photo)|
COLUMBUS — Iowa kept No. 4 Ohio State against the ropes during the first half of Saturday evening's game in Columbus.
But in the end, it was Buckeye standouts Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde who delivered haymakers which sent the Hawkeyes to the canvas for good.
Iowa came into Saturday's tilt touting one of the best defenses in the nation against the run — surrendering just 88.5 yards per game (8th in FBS) — but Miller and Hyde put a hurting on that average, rushing for 251 of the Buckeyes' 273 yards, en route to a 34-24 victory over the visiting Hawkeyes at Ohio Stadium.
The Buckeyes (7-0, 3-0 Big Ten) extend their nation's best winning streak to 19 games — all of which under second-year head coach Urban Meyer. Ohio State is only four wins from snapping the school's all-time streak of 22 victories.
Hyde was once again the catalyst for the Buckeyes' offensive attack, toting the rock 20 times in the win for 149 yards and two touchdowns. What made the two-score performance by Hyde even more impressive is the fact that Iowa hadn't surrendered a rushing touchdown all season coming into Saturday's showdown with the Buckeyes.
Hyde's second touchdown was perhaps the highlight of the night. After an incredible third down scramble by Miller gave the Buckeyes a first down at the Hawkeyes' 19, Hyde took a handoff up the middle, bounced right, took a big shot by an Iowa defender, regained his balanced and then dove across the chalk for an acrobatic score.
"It was a basic sweep play," Hyde said of the scoring run. "Braxton read it right, gave it to me and I followed my blocks. I thought the safety had me, but I managed to stay up. When I saw Philly Brown with the block, I got excited and knew I had it."
Miller was also a Hawkeye killer in Saturday's win, totaling 324 yards (222 pass, 102 rush) with two touchdown passes, including a 58-yard score to Philly Brown in the second quarter for their first TD of the game. The other touchdown strike went to Devin Smith late in the third quarter from 14 yards out.
Miller eclipsed 300-yards of offense for the seventh time in his career — a new school-record. He also connected on a career-high 22 completions (on 27 attempts) in the win. Miller hooked up with six different receivers during the victory, led by Smith with seven snags for 72 yards and a score.
Meyer said he knew that Miller — who had been slowed by injury this season — was going to be great on Saturday against Iowa.
"I just noticed in practice he looked really good this past week," Meyer said of Miller. "We were plus one this week so we went pretty hard Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. I can always tell when (Braxton's) feeling good, when he's running, carrying out fakes. Those type of things.
"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.
Iowa (4-3, 1-2) began the contest by dominating the line of scrimmage on offense, grinding more than 18 minutes off the clock in the first half to take a 17-10 lead at the break.
However, the Buckeyes returned the favor in the second half, taking more than 23 minutes off the clock, as well as outscoring the Hawkeyes 24-7. Iowa's only score in the second half came on a broken 85-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jake Rudock to tight end Jake Duzey.
The Buckeyes, who gave up 17 first downs in the first half of the game Saturday, clamped down in the second, surrendering just five in the final 30 minutes of action.
Junior linebacker Curtis Grant said after the game that the defense can't continue to start slowly and expect to keep winning games down the stretch.
"We have to start fast," Grant said. "The defense is at our best when we start fast, and we feed off their momentum. We didn't do that today and we didn't put it all together until the second half,
"That can't happen."
Junior linebacker Ryan Shazier paced the defense once again with a team-high nine tackles, while freshman defensive back Tyvis Powell put the game away — with 4:21 to play in the fourth — by picking off Rudock at the OSU 49.
"Defensively, very disappointed in the first half," Meyer said. "Felt we were getting pushed around. And I thought in the second half they did a much better job, much better job. But once again you've got to give them credit, that's a good outfit we beat and a tough physical game.
"So the best thing about 7-0 is the chance to go 8-0."
The Buckeyes will try to go "8-0" when they host Penn State next Saturday night for a primetime tilt at the Horseshoe.
GRANT PLAYED FOR HIS DAD ... Playing with a big heart in the Buckeyes' win Saturday was linebacker Curtis Grant, who lost his father during the Buckeyes' bye last week. He finished with eight tackles in the victory and dedicated his play to his dad.
"I knew I was going to play — my dad would have wanted me to," Grant said. "I went out there and did my best for him."