Posted: Sunday October 1, 2006 1:57AM; Updated: Monday October 2, 2006 5:28PM
Troy Smith threw for 186 yards and four of Ohio State's five touchdowns.
"It's pretty much choose your poison," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said of defending the Buckeyes.
Defensively, the Buckeyes certainly weren't perfect (allowing 336 yards), but they achieved their primary goal of rattling the normally unflappable Tate, who completed just 19 of 41 passes and threw three interceptions. They did appear once again to be susceptible to the run (Iowa tailbacks Albert Young and Damian Sims averaged 5.9 yards on 13 carries in the first half), but by building a big lead and forcing four turnovers, they forced the Hawkeyes to be one-dimensional in the second half. Tate produced one nice touchdown drive but otherwise struggled.
"We knew we had to get in his mind," said defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock, who deflected two of Tate's passes. "We were able to get him rattled. He threw into coverage of a lot of times."
It's increasingly hard to believe this is the same defense that lost three NFL first-round picks and nine starters from a year ago. Thanks in large part to big-play defensive backs Antonio Smith, Malcolm Jenkins and Brandon Mitchell (in the one downer of the night, OSU lost safety Anderson Russell to what is believed to be a season-ending injury), the Buckeyes have already forced more turnovers (13) than they did all of last season (12).
"The big question coming into the season was how our defense was going to hold up," said Gonzalez, before making his own straightforward assessment. "Pretty well."
In the postgame press conference, a reporter asked Tressel what questions he had about his team after five games. A perplexed look came over the coach's face. "Questions?"
Following a clarification, Tressel came up with about the only question one could have about the Buckeyes at this point. "Can you handle the success of being 5-0?" he said. "We handled the adversity of a tough environment [Saturday]. I think that's natural. Now, can we handle being successful and will we continue to get better? Because we're capable."
Tressel didn't specify what exactly he considered them capable of, but it's not hard to guess the answer. Four years ago, he led a far more unheralded team to the national title on the strength of an average offense, opportunistic defense and solid special teams. This team still possesses the latter two traits, but it also happens to have one of the nation's most powerful offenses.
The 2002 Buckeyes stunned the nation by winning every game; the only shock with this team will be if it loses before Michigan.