The Ohio State Buckeyes are playing a dangerous game. It just hasn't come back to bite them—yet.
In what has become a running theme of their 2013 season, the Buckeyes held off an upset-minded opponent, putting up 24 second-half points en route to a 34-24 victory over the Iowa Hawkeyes on homecoming afternoon at Ohio Stadium.
Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde used the celebratory atmosphere as a pulpit to help push the Buckeyes to one of their finest offensive performances of the season. Hyde scored two second-half touchdowns, and Miller threw one with the Buckeyes coming back from a 17-10 halftime deficit before pulling away.
Ohio State took off at the start of the fourth quarter when Hyde and Miller pulled off consecutive plays that sent the sea of red into a tizzy.
First, Miller picked up nine yards on a 3rd-and-7 at the Iowa 28, juking two defensive linemen and scampering from beyond the right hashmark back toward the left sideline after the Hawkeyes left the Ohio State quarterback with nowhere to throw. Hyde scored from 19 yards out on the very next play, bowling over an Iowa defender and resetting his balance on the right sideline for the score.
The touchdown gave the home side a 31-24 advantage, just its second lead of the game. The Buckeyes previously led for a total of 45 seconds in the third quarter before Hawkeyes quarterback Jake Rudock hit Jake Duzey for an 85-yard touchdown to tie the game at 24 heading into the fourth.
As it has for much of the season, the Ohio State secondary struggled to stop the pass. Rudock started the game picking apart the Buckeyes with short and intermediate throws, leading his offense on a 12-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to start the game. He connected with C.J. Fiedorowicz on a two-yard route to give Iowa a 7-0 lead just over five minutes into the game.
That was the first of three straight elongated scoring drives to start the game for Iowa. Mike Meyer kicked a 28-yard field goal to cap a nine-play, 67-yard drive to make the score 10-3 through the first. Rudock then took 6:37 of the second quarter to go 69 yards in 15 plays, capping it off with a six-yard strike to Kevonte Martin-Manley.
The sophomore signal-caller completed 19 of 34 passes for 245 yards and three touchdowns against an interception.
Miller, meanwhile, was left to do whatever he could to keep up. The preseason Heisman favorite rushed for 33 yards and completed three of his four passes on the Buckeyes' opening possession before the drive stalled, leading to a Drew Basil field goal from 27 yards out.
Miller then hit Philly Brown on a 58-yard touchdown pass on the next possession to tie the game up at 10. Iowa took a 17-10 lead into halftime, however, after the Rudock pass to Martin-Manley.
With Hyde getting only six carries in the first half, it looked like Miller would be left to win the game by himself.
Luckily, the Ohio State running back showed up in a big way in the final 30 minutes. Hyde scored from the 1-yard line on the Buckeyes' opening possession of the third quarter as he, Jordan Hall and Dontre Wilson pounded the ball up the field to spark the offense. That score began a streak of three straight touchdown drives that flipped the halftime deficit into a double-digit win.
Hyde finished the game with 149 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries. It's his second consecutive game with 100-plus yards and at least two scores. Miller completed 22 of his 27 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns, his second-half score going to Devon Smith in the third quarter. He also rushed for 102 yards.
It was the Buckeyes' third time in as many Big Ten games that their win came down to the final quarter. They needed 27 second-half points to take down Northwestern in Evanston two weeks ago and held on tight against a hard-charging Wisconsin at the Horseshoe on Sept. 28.
Meyer has won 19 straight games since taking over the Buckeyes program. They are now three short of the team's self-proclaimed goal of matching the offensive guru's run at the University of Florida, when the Gators won 22 straight in 2008-09.
Left without a ranked opponent remaining on their schedule, odds are good that the Buckeyes can pull it off. But with the team continually putting itself in tight spots, one has to wonder how much the BCS rankings will punish Meyer's squad when they're revealed on Sunday.
The 4-3 Hawkeyes continue their quest for bowl eligibility next week when they host Northwestern. The Wildcats have lost their last three games after starting the season 4-0. Ohio State hosts unranked Penn State next week in a prime-time clash. The Nittany Lions were off this week after pulling off a huge upset of rival Michigan last Saturday.
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