Coach Jim Tressel has said repeatedly that his team isn’t always a first-half team. In a nail-biting 20-17 victory over the Hawkeyes, it showed.
“It wasn’t the prettiest offensive game that we’ve had,” wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher said.
Ugly is the word he’s looking for.
The Buckeyes were down 7-3 at halftime, but Tressel said his halftime speech wasn’t “anything to write home about.”
“I thought we did some good things,” Tressel said. “It’s a lot easier to block them on the chalkboard than it is out here. It’s hard to be consistent against them play after play.”
With 8:36 left in the third quarter, quarterback Terrelle Pryor found tight end Reid Fragel for a 5-yard touchdown, the first of Fragel’s career.
The Hawkeyes answered back with Mike Meyer’s 31-yard field goal to settle the score at 10-10.
It was all tied up going into the fourth quarter in Iowa City, Iowa, in a game that prompted flashbacks to last year’s meeting.
The Buckeyes hosted the Hawkeyes on Nov. 14 last season and, in similar fashion, were tied 10-10 going into the fourth quarter.
However, in 2009 the Buckeyes sealed a 27-24 victory over the Hawkeyes with a Devin Barclay field goal in overtime.
This year, haunting memories turned the pressure on OSU.
The threatening misstep that could have cost the Buckeyes the game was quarterback Pryor’s deep pass to Sanzenbacher, picked off by corner Shaun Prater.
Running back Marcus Coker fed off Pryor’s mistake and rushed 27 yards in two plays for an Iowa touchdown.
The pick “was kind of B.S.,” Pryor said. “It kind of bounced off Dane and bounced up. They made a great play on that.”
Sanzenbacher converted his first four receptions for first downs but soon fell flat.
“I dropped one out there,” Sanzenbacher said. “I, by no means, played a great game. There are obviously plays you wish you had back, and we’re in a spot where you have to have a short memory.”
Trailing 17-13 with just less than six minutes left, Pryor looked to DeVier Posey in the end zone. But Posey dropped a would-be touchdown, a mistake that could have lost OSU the game.
Forced to go for it on fourth-and-10, Tressel stacked the offense.
“You want to get (Pryor) back with options,” he said. “You send five receivers out so you have five options there, plus you have the option to run it. That’s about as many options you can get for a fourth-and-10.”
The team stepped up.
“I don’t know how many guys in the conference or in the country could have made that play,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “He converted and it was just a great effort on his part.”
Pryor’s 14-yard rush, coupled with two Sanzenbacher receptions for 29 yards, gave the Buckeyes a first-and-goal.
The Buckeyes saved their best for last, running back Dan Herron said.
“Hey, we’re comeback kids.”