Ohio State vs. Iowa score, takeaways: No. 2 Buckeyes hand Hawkeyes worst loss since 1999 in turnover fest
The Buckeyes offense overcame some sloppy play to run away with the victory at home
No. 2 Ohio State crushed Iowa 54-10 at Ohio Stadium in a game that was an absolute mess early but saw the Buckeyes' pedigree shine through in the end. We all should've known what kind of ride we were in for when Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras threw an awful interception on the first snap of the game. It was the first of six Iowa turnovers on the afternoon, though the Buckeyes struggled to take advantage of them in the first half.
The loss was the worst for Kirk Ferentz since his Big Ten debut as Hawkeyes coach -- a 49-3 defeat to a Michigan State team coached by Nick Saban at the time.
Four of Ohio State's first seven possessions began in Iowa territory following turnovers or misguided fake punt attempts, but time and time again the Hawkeyes defense held firm and forced Ohio State to settle for field goals. The defense even put points on the board itself, stripping C.J. Stroud of the ball on a sack and returning the loose ball for a touchdown.
You can only hold off the Ohio State offense for so long, however, and it's even harder when your offense is as inept as Iowa's. The Buckeyes got a pick six late in the first half to take a 26-10 lead into the locker room before running away with the game in the second half.
C.J. Stroud finished with 286 yards passing and four touchdowns with Marvin Harrison Jr. catching seven passes for 62 yards, Emeka Egbuka hauling in six balls for 80 yards and Julian Fleming catching two passes for 105 yards. All of those playmakers found the end zone, as did fullback Mitch Rossi.
Meanwhile, Iowa finished with only 158 yards of offense total and averaged 2.7 yards per play. It's the fourth time in seven games the Hawkeyes have been held to 10 points or fewer.
1. Iowa offense is an abject failure
Iowa fans have pointed fingers at offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz throughout the struggles this season. They've pointed fingers at quarterback Spencer Petras, saying he needed to be benched in favor of Alex Padilla. They've blamed it on a young offensive line struggling to gel and form a cohesive unit. They've pointed out the lack of explosive playmakers in the passing game while watching former Hawkeye Charlie Jones tear it up in Purdue's offense.
While the target might move, they've been right every time. If today's game proved anything it's that there's nothing redeeming about the Iowa offense. From a schematic standpoint, I can't tell what the offense's primary goal is. It's certainly not to find explosive plays or scheme ways to get receivers open. If it is, they're doing an awful job. The offensive line isn't good enough to establish the run consistently, and Iowa seems incapable of running the ball against defenses before their opponent has begun dropping back into shell coverages to protect a big lead.
During times the offensive line does provide time and a pocket for Petras -- as infrequent as they are -- or for a Hawkeye receiver to get open, Petras misses them or throws the ball directly to a defender. Padilla finally got a chance when he took over for Petras in the second half, though he played no better. He might've been worse! It's too hard to tell.
There is nothing redeeming about the Hawkeyes offense, and the worst part is Iowa fans have no escape from it. Unless you think Kirk Ferentz is going to get fired -- which is hard to believe considering all he's achieved for the program -- or the legend will fire his son, nothing will change. Not this season, anyway.
2. Ohio State defense continues to look legit
Today, however, we have to grade it on the "It's Facing Iowa Curve", but even so, it played an incredible game. The Buckeyes forced six turnovers and had five sacks and 10 tackles for loss. Whether it was Petras or Padilla in the game, they confused both with their looks pre-snap and swarmed to the ball all afternoon.
Ohio State won the game on first down, holding Iowa to an average of only 2.4 yards on its first down plays. That led to the Hawkeyes being put in a lot of third-and-long situations -- assuming Iowa got to third down without turning the ball over -- as the Hawkeyes needed an average of 8.9 yards on their third-down attempts. Considering what I've already written about the Iowa offense, you already know this isn't a team designed to convert third-and-9. You can't even trust it to convert third-and-1.
While nobody will (or should) point to shutting down Iowa as a reason to believe the Ohio State defense is special, this is the continuation of a good trend with this unit so far this season. When Ohio State's offense isn't firing on all cylinders, the Buckeyes can rely on their defense to keep them in the game and give that side time to figure things out. That hasn't been the case in the last few years.
Speaking of the Ohio State offense not firing on all cylinders ...
3. Reason to be concerned about Ohio State's offense
So far this season, Ohio State has faced two teams with objectively good defenses. There was the season-opener against Notre Dame and now this game against Iowa. Ohio State stumbled out of the gates against Notre Dame in the opener before figuring things out in the second half and finding a rhythm.
Today, against another good defense, the Buckeyes struggled out of the gate and needed the entire first half to figure things out. The good news if you're Ohio State is that you now have a defense that allows you to get away with that, and your offense is so explosive that it can score very quickly once it does figure things out.
While Notre Dame and Iowa have good defenses, their offenses have been bad, and they are average football teams. The biggest tests on Ohio State's schedule are yet to come. What happens if Ohio State gets off to a slow start against Michigan? Or in a potential College Football Playoff game?
4. Jaxon Smith-Njigba did not finish the game
Smith-Njigba suffered a hamstring injury during the first quarter of the season-opener against Notre Dame. Outside of a brief appearance against Toledo, he hadn't returned to action since. That changed today when he started against the Hawkeyes, but he again failed to complete the game. He came up gimpy after being overthrown on a route and went immediately to the sideline. The superstar was never seen heading to the injury tent, but never returned to the game.
FINAL: Ohio State 54, Iowa 10
It is my duty as a journalist to keep you informed, thus I am here to tell you that this game continues, and Ohio State continues to score points. This time it's a 3-yard pass to Mitch Rossi that ends an 8-play, 40-yard drive. It's 54-10. There are still 8 minutes left. It's a nice day outside.
The exclamation point
C.J. Stroud flings his best throw of the day and hits Julian Fleming in stride on a post route down the field and it's the easiest 79-yard touchdown throw you'll see this season. It's 47-10 Buckeyes.
Ohio State seems to have figured it out
Three straight beautiful throws, and one spectacular grab by Marvin Harrison in traffic, cap off a 4-play, 55-yard touchdown drive by the Buckeyes and it's a 40-10 Ohio State lead. Emeka Egbuka finished the drive with a touchdown grab, and he's up to 80 yards receiving on six catches.
Turnover on downs
I think Alex Padilla just threw the ball away on fourth down. At least, I kind of hope he was throwing that away, because it landed about 20 yards out of bounds. The Hawkeyes have made the switch at QB, but nothing has changed. They cannot move the ball, which is going to make erasing a 23-point deficit pretty hard.