IOWA CITY, Iowa - The Ohio State Buckeyes have faced a couple of legitimate field tests against live fire so far this season. But this week the No. 1 team in the country will be exposed to an army headed by a different kind of commander.
Three weeks ago in Texas, Ohio State faced the defending national champions, but a first-year guy was playing quarterback for the Longhorns. Against defending Big Ten co-champ Penn State last week, the Nittany Lions used a new starter behind center.
Tonight, Iowa takes its direction from a skilled and crafty veteran, who last year was picked as the Big Ten's preseason offensive player of the year. Hawkeyes quarterback Drew Tate is one of the conference's most experienced, and Ohio State coach Jim Tressel thinks that makes him one of the most dangerous.
"Our defense knows full well that we're facing one of the premier quarterbacks in the country," Tressel said. "Drew Tate's a senior. In the second game [at Texas] we faced a guy with his second start of his life. And then this past weekend, it was a guy in his fourth start. So Drew Tate, I don't know what number start this is for him, but he's good."
Ohio State senior cornerback Antonio
Smith knows the Buckeyes defense will face significant pressure from Tate and a highly charged atmosphere for the nationally televised night game.
"Being an experienced quarterback like he is, that brings confidence," Smith said. "You know what you can and cannot do. You know what to do in key situations. You can control the game and be a key factor in it. They have a great offense that can run and pass the ball. They are one of the top contenders in the Big Ten, so we just have to be ready."
Senior defensive tackle David Patterson said the Buckeyes need to keep Tate contained and not give him time to utilize Iowa's many offensive weapons.
"He is a tremendous quarterback, and he does everything well," he said. "He's able to get out on the perimeter and just put the ball on the money. He's a real tough guy. He's one of those guys who is like a linebacker playing quarterback."
Patterson said the difference between Tate and the younger quarterbacks at Texas and Penn State is that Tate won't lose his composure.
"Basically, he adds a whole other aspect to the game," Patterson said. "He's not going to get rattled at all. If anything happens he's going to be prepared to do whatever he does. Being a three-year starter, he's experienced just about everything you can at the quarterback position. He's going to be ready to go, and whatever we throw at him he'll be ready."
Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Heacock said Tate has the ability to take off and run if the situation presents itself.
"Drew is really good at running the ball, and he has the ability to scramble and throw and is a good leader," Heacock said. "He is probably one of the best quarterbacks we will face and the most experienced, with a good cast surrounding him. He creates a lot of big plays. He's a dual threat and an outstanding quarterback."
Tate enters the game ranked second in the Big Ten in passing, with 229 yards per game. He has hit on 58-of-93 passes for 687 yards and seven touchdowns, while playing in just three of the Hawkeyes' four games due to injury. Tate missed the second game of the season, a double-overtime win at Syracuse, due to an abdominal strain, but he has started the past two contests.
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