Hawkeyes hoping soft schedule has them ready for OSU
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) _ Eleventh-ranked Iowa has had blaring crowd noise at this week’s practice, trying to simulate what it will face Saturday at No. 7 Ohio State.
The Hawkeyes also have practiced against an approximation of the Buckeyes’ offense and defense.
But even coach Hayden Fry sounds as if he wishes the Hawkeyes’ opponents had helped them prepare a little more for the stout test at Ohio Stadium.
``The quality of players we’re going to meet are a level above anything that we’ve seen so far.
Iowa has throttled four opponents _ with a combined record of 2-13 _ by an average score of 55-12.
``Illinois is probably the best team they’ve played,″ Ohio State coach John Cooper said. He added, ``That was close for the first quarter.″
That all changes, of course. Don’t count on Iowa, which is a four-point underdog, to blow out a fifth opponent, particularly based on what’s happened the last two times the teams have met.
The last time Fry brought a team to Columbus in 1995, the Buckeyes led 56-0 at the half before pulling back the starters. Iowa made it look a lot closer by the 56-35 finish.
Last year in Iowa City, Ohio State coasted to a 38-6 lead at the start of the second half and again Cooper took it easy on one of his best coaching buddies. The 38-26 score wasn’t nearly as competitive as it looked.
Putting a positive spin on Iowa’s 3-24-1 record over the last 28 meetings with Ohio State, Fry said, ``Two out of the last four times we’ve been successful over there.″
Ohio State hasn’t exactly been playing Penn State either _ that task comes next week in Happy Valley.
``We haven’t played a team this year of their caliber, except ourselves in practice,″ Buckeye linebacker Kevin Johnson said.
Ohio State, facing a nine-man front almost every week, has gained just 153 yards a game on the ground as opposed to 244 yards passing.
But with the Stanley Jackson-Joe Germaine tandem at quarterback, Pepe Pearson at tailback and David Boston at receiver, the Buckeyes still have lots of ways to score.
Cooper is troubled by the Buckeyes’ inability to hang on to the ball or protect their quarterbacks.
They’ve fumbled 13 times, losing eight, and have had several costly penalties that have brought back touchdowns or negated defensive turnovers.
``Ohio State’s been making mistakes,″ Fry said. ``They’ve been sacked for more yardage than anybody in the Big Ten at his point _ 21 times they’ve been thrown for a loss. That’s uncharacteristic for Ohio State.″
It remains to be seen if the Sunday arrest of freshman wide receiver Ken-Yon Rambo will distract or galvanize the Buckeyes. Rambo was charged with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and drug abuse after Columbus police responded to reports of a fight and gunfire at a fraternity party at a downtown restaurant.
Many Ohio State players were there. Cooper defended their actions and assailed the police; the players have been unified in their defense of Rambo.
Cooper sent a letter of apology Thursday to the local Fraternal Order of Police for comments he made about Columbus officers who responded to the restaurant.
``I have and will always have the utmost respect for the job the women and men that wear the badge do to keep our communities safe,″ he said in the letter.
The bigger concern Saturday figures to be stopping Iowa tailback Tavian Banks, who is averaging 9.1 yards per carry and 209 yards per game. Matt Sherman is hitting 62 percent of his passes with 10 TDs and two interceptions. Nine receivers are averaging more than 10 yards per catch. And the defense has forced 12 turnovers.
``Our attitude is different than it has been in the past,″ Sherman said. ``I think we’re more confident in what we’re doing. Guys want to win. We want to have a great year.″
Iowa has won its last seven games and last five on the road. Ohio State has won five in a row, including a certain season-ending game in Pasadena.
``I think both squads are going to come out and hammer each other,″ Iowa wingback Tim Dwight said. ``You’re going to see a very physical game. Ohio State has been to the Rose Bowl and wants to get back; we haven’t been there for a while and want to get to it.″