Saturday, October 18, 2003

Buckeyes view Iowa as must win

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COLUMBUS - There'll be a chill in the air today, and a whiff of desperation. Eighth-ranked Ohio State and ninth-ranked Iowa both have a Big Ten loss, and the loser of the matchup of the Big Ten's 2002 co-champions can bag hopes of a repeat title.

"It's a must-win situation," OSU safety Will Allen said. "We have to refuse to lose."

Kickoff: 3:37 p.m. today, Ohio Stadium (101,568), Columbus.
Records: OSU 5-1 (1-1 Big Ten), Iowa 5-1 (1-1).
TV: Ch. 9, 2.
Radio: WBOB-AM (1160), WPFB-AM (910).
Series: OSU leads 42-12-3.
Line: OSU by 3 1/2.
The Buckeyes (5-1, 1-1 Big Ten) must be equally resolved to rejuvenate their offense, which with 10 returning starters was expected to be its strength. The 10-point effort in their loss at Wisconsin has Chicken Littles in full cluck.

OSU has sunk to a No. 109 ranking in total offense among the 117 Division I-A teams, averaging 293.8 yards a game.

The Buckeyes have been dismal running the ball, in part because of inconsistent line play. The team's leading rusher, Maurice Hall, is on pace to finish the regular season with 574 yards, which would be the lowest figure for OSU's top rusher since 1987.

OSU rushed for just 69 yards against Wisconsin and has averaged 95 rushing yards against its four opponents from Bowl Championship Series conferences.

"You could put Archie Griffin back there dotting the 'I,' and he wouldn't be getting yards in this offense," ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit said.

Some players have lobbied to open up the offense.

"Finally in the fourth quarter, they gave us a shot," receiver Drew Carter said afterward. "You kind of wish we did it earlier, but coach (Jim Tressel) has a game plan and we've got to follow it."

Said quarterback Craig Krenzel: "We feel we have way too much talent on this offense to be scoring 10 points."

Tressel isn't planning a radical departure. His stated goal each game is 250 yards passing and 200 rushing.

"It may be my archaic belief at times, but I haven't seen a whole bunch of the throw-it-for-300, run-it-for-100 teams be consistently champions," he said.

Tressel said he had wanted to establish the pass early against Wisconsin. Yet OSU ran the ball on its first six first-down plays and nine of its first 10 first downs.

Krenzel was 4-of-9 for 34 yards at halftime. He went 10-of-16 for 158 yards in the game's final 19 minutes, nine of those completions to Carter and Michael Jenkins.

Tressel's conservative style has an ally in Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, whose team's offensive average of 318.8 yards ranks ahead of only OSU among Big Ten teams.

"The thing I admire is they do what it takes to win," Ferentz said. "They're not getting many style points. Fans tend to worry about things like that. But the bottom line is they won a national championship, and they're having a good season this year."

These are two strong defenses, both ranking in the nation's top 25. Iowa (5-1, 1-1) also has exceptional special teams, led by Lou Groza Award winner Nate Kaeding.

Iowa's main weapon is tailback Fred Russell, who has 726 rushing yards (5.3 per carry).


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