Ohio State Gives Another Close Loss to Iowa, Kirk Ferentz
That's funny, because indigestion pretty much sums up the Hawkeyes' season.
With 26 seniors returning, including 14 starters such as quarterback Ricky Stanzi and All-American defensive lineman Adrian Clayborn, from last year's Orange Bowl championship team, a lot was expected from the Hawkeyes this season. Not expected was an 7-4 record and a non-BCS bowl appearance.
But that's what the Hawkeyes are stuck with -- again.
The Hawkeyes are headed to another non-BCS bowl, most likely Tampa's Outback Bowl. And, hey, as much as I love Tampa, Big Ten teams with 14 returning starters and its four toughest games (Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State) all at home don't set their preseason goals for getting to Tampa. The left coast of the United States, not the left coast of Florida.
In the 20 years since Iowa's last Rose Bowl appearance in 1991, seven Big Ten teams have been to Pasadena. The only four that haven't: Iowa, Michigan State, Indiana and Minnesota. Indiana and Minnesota have nothing to be ashamed about. They are expected to reach Pasadena. However, Michigan State and Iowa certainly should have visited California at least once in the past 20 years. Ron Zook even made it, for God sakes.
What's more troubling is that the Big Ten's highest-paid coach is -- well, how can I say this? -- not earning his keep. Earlier this year, Ferentz received an extension through 2020 that pays him at least $3.675 million a year.
That's more than every Big Ten coach, including Ohio State's Jim Tressel, who is one win from winning at least a share of his sixth consecutive Big Ten title. Tressel's Buckeyes are expected to receive their seventh BCS bowl berth in the past eight seasons next month. And Tressel also is now 5-1 in head-to-head matchups with Ferentz.
Ferentz, however, does lead the nation in one category: worst coaching record in close losses. Since 2005, no other automatic qualifying BCS coach does it worse than Ferentz in games decided by eight points or less. Saturday's three-point loss to Ohio State dropped Ferentz to 11-18 in games decided by eight points or less.
"Losing is frustrating and losing close games is frustrating, first quarter, third quarter," Ferentz said. "That's what happens when you're in tight ballgames. It's going to go back and forth typically and we didn't make enough plays to get it done today in the fourth quarter."
Ohio State did make the plays. Specifically quarterback Terrelle Pryor.
Trailing 17-13 with 6:05 remaining and 76 yards away from the winning touchdown, Pryor stepped into the huddle and delivered a message to his teammates.
"They looked in my eyes," Pryor said. "I looked in their eyes and I was 'let's go, let's go get this.' I could definitely lead them and they know that. That was it. They knew I was going to lead them back. I don't want to be denied, I hate losing."
The Buckeyes reached midfield and on third-and-10, Pryor threw a perfect rainbow to DeVier Posey in the end zone for the winning touchdown. Posey dropped it.
"Was I pissed?" Pryor said. "Yes, I was mad."
Pryor was so upset, he took off his helmet and went to the sideline where Pryor said Tressel calmed him down. "I had to jump back up and get everything right mentally and try to get this first down," Pryor said.
What happened next, Tressel said, was "huge."
On fourth-and-10, the Buckeyes sent out five receivers. None of them had a shot at catching the ball because Pryor wasn't giving it up.
"I was going to run the whole time," Pryor said. "I found running room, had some good blocking and cut it up."
Pryor scrambled for 14 yards, keeping the drive alive. "I don't know how many guys in the conference or the country could have made that play," Ferentz said.
Two plays later at Iowa's 26, Pryor told Tressel what play to run. Pryor's 24-yard completion to Dane Sanzenbacher gave the Buckeyes' first-and-goal at the two. Two plays later, Dan Herron banged over from the one with 1:47 remaining.
Pryor finished with 195 yards passing, completing 18 of 33 with two interceptions. He admitted he made some bad throws and inaccurate throws. His receivers didn't help, either, with a few drops. Pryor also led the Buckeyes with 78 yards rushing.
The preseason Heisman Trophy favorite may not even be invited to New York next month, but he's more concerned with winning.
"I hate losing with a passion," he said.
The only thing Pryor, or any Buckeye, hates worse than losing is, of course Michigan. Which is now less than a week away.
"Everyone in here knows what's most important next week is Ohio State-Michigan, it's not the Big Ten race," Tressel said.
While the Buckeyes are looking ahead to this week's game with Michigan and a chance to clinch another piece of a Big Ten championship, the Hawkeyes already were reflecting on the season.
A few minutes after the game ended, the Kinnick Stadium public address announcer asked the fans to watch the video board for a "special highlight video" of the 2010 season. Most of the Hawkeyes fans didn't stick around. They already knew how this one ended.
Brett McMurphy is a national college football writer for FanHouse. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or please follow at Twitter.com/BrettmcmurphY