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Published: Sunday, 11/15/2009

FG in OT gives OSU fifth straight Big Ten title

BY MAUREEN FULTON
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE

COLUMBUS - To get Jim Tressel to his first Rose Bowl as a head coach, it figured that Ohio State would have to play its first overtime game in more than five years.

After all, no Rose comes without thorns.

Once in the extra period against Iowa yesterday, the Buckeyes quickly made it clear Tressel would receive a postgame bouquet.

Forcing the Hawkeyes into a negative offensive series in overtime, OSU won 27-24 at Ohio Stadium on Devin Barclay's 39-yard field goal. The Buckeyes (9-2, 6-1 Big Ten) clinched their fifth straight Big Ten championship and the Rose Bowl berth. It will be OSU's first trip to the Rose Bowl since the 1996 season.

OSU won despite giving up a 14-point lead in the final 11 minutes of the game. When the Buckeyes won the coin flip, the defense sensed its chance to take over for good.

"There was no need for any inspiration - the Big Ten championship and a trip to the Rose Bowl provides plenty of motivation," senior linebacker Austin Spitler said.

On first down to start overtime, Iowa's freshman quarterback James Vandenberg was chased to the sideline and had to throw the ball out of bounds. Vandenberg, making his first career start, exceeded expectations in passing for 233 yards and two touchdowns. Yet the Buckeyes, in front of a crowd of 105,455, wouldn't allow him any more big plays.

"The thing is, we couldn't have walked him into a tougher environment," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "Ohio State is a great team, and this is a tough place to play."

On second down, Spitler dropped Iowa running back Adam Robinson for a six-yard loss. Robinson returned from injury and had 74 yards rushing, but the Buckeyes' team rushing attack was much more formidable. Brandon Saine ran for 103 yards and two touchdowns, and Dan Herron had 97 yards and a score.

"If you rush for 229 and they rush for 67, usually you're going to win," Tressel said.

Then on third down, Doug Worthington fought his way around the Hawkeye offensive line to bring Vandenberg down for OSU's first sack of the game.

"I came outside, and I saw his eyes," Worthington said. "He looked at me and then put the ball down. The rest is history."

The Hawkeyes were pushed back so far, at OSU's 41, they decided to go for it on fourth down rather than kick a field goal. Vandenberg searched for a receiver in the end zone but instead found OSU safety Anderson Russell, who recorded his second pick of the game.

"We created [the interception] on that series with the big plays before that," Russell said. "He had fourth down, so he was just throwing it up."

The Buckeyes gained only three yards on their possession in overtime, but that was enough for Barclay. He made his second field goal of the game after missing a 47-yarder with seven minutes remaining in regulation.

"I was nervous, but I had Aaron [Pettrey] there in my ear," Barclay said. "He was saying, 'You can do this.'•"

It didn't appear Ohio State would play its first overtime game since losing to Northwestern in the 2004 season. The Buckeyes kept the Hawkeyes (9-2, 5-2) out of the end zone until late in the third quarter. OSU played conservatively on offense, rushing the ball 15 out of 16 times at one point, and kept mistakes to a minimum. Terrelle Pryor completed 14-of-17 passes for 93 yards, showing accuracy on short throws.

When Ross Homan intercepted Vandenberg and then Saine took the ball 49 yards for a score on the next play, the Buckeyes led 24-10 with 11:11 to play.

The momentum swing came moments later, when Derrell Johnson-Koulianos returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown for the Hawkeyes. Johnson-Koulianos dropped the ball at Iowa's 1-yard line then scooped it up, broke a tackle, and took off.

"I was a little disappointed after the kickoff return, quite honestly," Tressel said. "You can't let someone come into your stadium and win the special teams, and really until the field goal that won the game, I'd say they won the special team."

OSU's next possession resulted in a missed field goal, and Iowa took advantage. Vandenberg was 5-for-5 on Iowa's game-tying drive, the final his second touchdown strike to Marvin McNutt with 2:42 left in the fourth.

"[Vandenberg] had an arm on him, and he made us pay for our mistakes," Spitler said.

The Buckeyes played it safe heading into overtime, with Tressel saying, "You know how I feel about turnovers." The defense made up for its late slip and won a league championship in the process. And gave Tressel his Rose Bowl berth.

"I haven't been there for 25 years," Tressel said, referencing a 1985 trip as an OSU assistant. "It's been a long time, and there's nothing like it. It's a great feeling."



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