Clash in Columbus: Iowa football to face Ohio State for first time in five years

The last time Iowa and Ohio State met, the Hawkeyes picked up a 55-24 victory.


Nick Rohlman

Iowa strong safety Amani Hooker dives into the end zone after intercepting a pass on Ohio State’s first play from scrimmage during Iowa’s game against Ohio State at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017. The Hawkeyes defeated the Buckeyes 55 to 24.

Ryan Day said the 2017 Iowa-Ohio State game scarred him.

Day, now the Ohio State head coach, was the Buckeyes’ quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator when starting quarterback J.T. Barrett threw four interceptions as the Buckeyes fell to the Hawkeyes, 55-24, at Kinnick Stadium. The first interception came on the first offensive play of the game, a 30-yard touchdown return by Amani Hooker.

“It’s a scar,” Day said at a press conference Tuesday. “It doesn’t go away. I’ve felt it this week for sure … Going into Kinnick, which is a very difficult place to play, we turned the ball over. First play of the game was a pick six.

“That was a tough day for all of us. Anytime you have a scar like that, it’s real. We’ve talked about it a lot to our staff. We’ve talked about it a lot to our players.”

Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley throws a touchdown pass during Iowa’s game against Ohio State at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017. The Hawkeyes defeated the Buckeyes 55 to 24. (Nick Rohlman/The Daily Iowan)

The Hawkeyes’ offense outgained the Buckeyes 487-371. Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley completed 20 of his 31 passes for 226 yards and five touchdowns, while Barrett went 18-of-34 for 208 yards and three TDs.

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said he didn’t feel like his team prepared any differently for Ohio State in 2017 than it has its other matchups. He said unusual games can happen inexplicably.

I wish I could tell you what we did that week that was different than anything else we do,” Ferentz said ahead of Saturday’s game against the No. 2 Buckeyes in Columbus.. “The fact of the matter is, sometimes things just happen, and sometimes, rarely, it goes like that one did.

“That’s one thing I learned long before I was a head coach — that sometimes that just happens,” And when it happens on the good side, man, that’s a great feeling. But typically, you go back and look and there’s nothing mystical or magical about it. It just happened.”

Iowa left tackle Mason Richman said photos from the 2017 game adorn the walls of the Hansen Football Performance Center. Richman added he and his teammates aren’t hung up on the game because it was played five years ago.

None of Hawkeyes’ current players were on that 2017 team. Four players on Ohio State’s active roster were part of the Buckeye program that season —  kicker Noah Ruggles, defensive tackle Jerron Cage, long snapper Bradley Robinson, and tight end Mitch Rossi.

The Buckeyes’ coaching staff also looked different in 2017. Ohio State’s head coach was three-time national champion Urban Meyer and its defensive coordinator was Greg Schiano, now the head coach at Rutgers.

Richman said while the Hawkeyes can’t take much schematically from the 2017 game, there are things the contest proved.

“This Ohio State team is a lot different, in a sense, than [the 2017 team],” Richman said. “That team had a different head coach, different defensive coordinator. I think that’s the important thing we take is they’re going to be running different stuff. 

“It’s not going to just be like 2017 because [the Buckeyes] have that in the back of their mind. If anything, if they have that in the back of their mind, they’re going to play much harder this year than they did that year.”

Richman said the game hasn’t been played repetitively on TVs around the Hawkeyes’ practice facility this week. He noted the only thing that has been on the complex’s televisions multiple times this week is 2022 Buckeye game film.

Because of the carnage Iowa’s defense created the last time it played Ohio State, Day isn’t overlooking the Hawkeyes this week. Iowa is one of nine teams to hold Ohio State to fewer than 400 yards of offense in the last five years. The Buckeyes have played 69 games during that stretch.

“They force you to execute things all the way down the field and get their hands on a lot of balls,” Day said. “I’ve been there before. I’ve seen it against these guys live and in color. So, it’s something we’ve got to talk to our offense about, make sure they understand how important the ball is here. 

Ohio State head coach Ryan Day answers questions from media during day two of Big Ten Media Days at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind., on Tuesday, July 27, 2022. The event marked the 50th annual Big Ten Media Days. (Jerod Ringwald)

“They know their defense. They know how to tackle really, really well. Any time you’re going against that style of a defense, they’re going to create turnovers. They feel like they know their defense better than you know your offense.”

The Hawkeyes have intercepted six passes this season. Iowa recorded a program-high 25 interceptions in 2021.

Iowa currently ranks third in the nation in scoring defense. That rating could drop after Saturday’s game, as the Buckeyes have cashed in on all of their trips to the red zone this season. Ohio State has driven the ball inside the 20-yard line 29 times this season and came up with 27 touchdowns and two field goals.

Ohio State ranks second in the nation in total offense, averaging nearly 544 yards and 49 points per game.

“I think it’s going to be a great test for our defense,” linebacker Jay Higgins said. “We’re a blue-collar program. So, you know, we’re going to go out there, give it our all, give it our best … You’re not going to see any quit out of us. Our guys have been working hard this week. We’re going in there to win again. We’re not just going to roll over and give it to them.”

Ohio State is fifth in the nation in total defense. The Buckeyes are the third team with a top-10 defense the Hawkeyes have played this season. Iowa’s offense ranks last in the 131-team FBS in total offense, averaging 238.7 yards and just over one touchdown per contest. 

Iowa senior quarterback Spencer Petras has thrown for 939 yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions. C.J. Stroud, a Heisman Trophy hopeful and the Buckeyes’ starting QB, has recorded a 70.6 completion percentage, 1,737 yards, 24 touchdowns, and three interceptions. 

The decided offensive advantage Stroud and the Buckeyes have over Petras’ Hawkeyes has led most sportsbooks to elevate Ohio State to a 29-point favorite. The Iowa and Ohio State moneylines are +2,200 and -10,000, respectively.

“Absolutely, we know we’re underdogs,” Ferentz said. “We know that. Our guys aren’t stupid … They’ve always had really good talent, but I think they’re at an all-time high right now. They’ve recruited very well.”