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September 30, 2006

No. 1 Ohio State gets the job done at Iowa

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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Troy Smith believes to be the best you have to believe you're the best.

The way Ohio State has manhandled the competition so far, there's every reason for the Buckeyes to think they're unbeatable.

Smith threw for 186 yards and four touchdowns and No. 1 Ohio State made another September statement, thumping No. 13 Iowa 38-17 Saturday night and extending the nation's longest winning streak to 12 games.

"I think if there's a guy in the locker room who said that we weren't the No. 1 team in the nation, he'd have a problem with me," Smith said. "You have to have that kind of attitude, that kind of swagger."

Of course, having Smith behind center doesn't hurt. Once again, Smith kept his cool in the toughest of settings - remember Texas - and led the Buckeyes (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten) to a surprisingly easy win.

Ohio State faced three ranked teams in September - Texas, Penn State and the Hawkeyes - and beat them all by at least 17 points.

Saturday's showdown was one of the biggest games in Kinnick Stadium history, and more than 70,000 fans - about 69,000 of which were decked out in Iowa gold - did their best to help the Hawkeyes (4-1, 1-1) pick up their first win over a No. 1.

Smith didn't let that happen.

All four of his TD passes gave Ohio State breathing room. His counterpart, Iowa's Drew Tate, threw three picks that helped kill Iowa's upset bid.

"He was in command the whole game," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said of Smith. "I thought he was one of the elite ones (in the nation) before this game. But he keeps getting better."

Tate had his worst game last season against Ohio State. He wasn't much better Saturday. He finished 19-of-41 for 249 yards.

"I gave them two touchdowns," Tate said. "You take two of them away, it's a pretty close ball game."

It looks like smooth sailing for the next six weeks for Ohio State. None of its upcoming opponents, until Michigan comes calling on Nov. 18, are currently ranked.

"That's something we talked about, how brutal that September schedule is," Tressel said. "We've played against some tough teams who brought all they could bring us."

Iowa (4-1, 1-1) fell to 0-10-1 against top-ranked teams. The Hawkeyes couldn't put up much of a fight in the most anticipated game at Kinnick in more than 20 years.

The Buckeyes were just the fifth top-ranked team to visit Kinnick, the last being Miami, who beat Iowa 24-7 in 1992. And the last game to generate this much buzz in Iowa came in 1985, when the top-ranked Hawkeyes beat No. 2 Michigan 12-10.

All the buzz, and a loud sellout crowd, wasn't enough to stop the Buckeyes.

"By my vantage point, this is the best they've played all year," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said of the Buckeyes. "This wasn't an easy one to walk into as a visitor."

Ohio State broke open a 21-10 game with long scoring drives on its first two possessions of the second half. Anthony Gonzalez, who caught two touchdown passes, took the air out of the Kinnick crowd with a spectacular 30-yard TD catch that put the Buckeyes ahead 28-10 early in the second half.

Gonzalez caught the ball on the left hash mark, cut back toward the right sideline - using his hand to keep from falling down - and fought through a tackle to reach the pylon.

Ohio State's next drive only netted an Aaron Pettrey field goal. But it ate almost eight minutes off the clock and gave the Buckeyes a 21-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.

The Hawkeyes pulled within 31-17 on a 4-yard TD pass from Tate on fourth down. But Ohio State forced a fumble and two interception on Iowa's next three possessions. Smith put Iowa's comeback hopes to rest with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Brian Robiskie.

Antonio Pittman and Chris Wells combined for 55 yards rushing on a 12-play, 89-yard scoring drive late in the second quarter. Smith capped it with a 6-yard strike to seldom-used senior Roy Hall.

The Buckeyes rushed for 124 yards in the first half - just 15 shy of their game average heading into Saturday - and picked up 5.9 yards a carry against an Iowa defensive line considered one of the Big Ten's strongest.

"The run is what killed us," Iowa cornerback Charles Godfrey said. "They ran the ball down our throats."

Iowa got as close as 14-10 on a 15-yard touchdown run by Albert Young.

The Buckeyes moved ahead 14-3 by capitalizing on an interception by Brandon Mitchell, who returned it to the Iowa 30. Pittman followed a 23-yard rush with a 4-yard TD run.

Ohio State scored on the game's opening possession, marching 53 yards in just 2:24. Smith, who finished 16-of-25 passing, found Gonzalez for a 12-yard TD pass to give the Buckeyes a 7-0 lead.

Pittman rushed for 117 yards and a touchdown.

For more coverage of the Ohio State Buckeyes, visit BuckeyeGrove.com; for more on the Iowa Hawkeyes, visit HawkeyeReport.com.



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