It was too long in coming, and too quickly gone away. The top-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes' dream of winning the national championship may have died here today before 90,467, the largest crowd, and one of the most rain-soaked, ever to see a football game at Ohio Stadium.
Ohio State, playing without all-America tailback Keith Byars, won, 22-13. In the end, the people who love their Buckeyes football tore down the goal posts, broke them into parts and walked off chanting something lost to the great, drumming thunder of rain on the aluminum seats.
The eighth-ranked Buckeyes upped their record to 7-1 and made a terrific stride toward the Big Ten championship. Iowa, rated the best team in the country in most every college football poll, fell to 7-1.
With today's Michigan-Illinois tie, and Minnesota's loss to Michigan State, the Buckeyes (whose loss was to Illinois) and Hawkeyes share the conference lead at 4-1.
Down and disheartened after throwing four interceptions, half as many as he'd thrown all season long, Iowa quarterback Chuck Long said, "I'll probably be sick tomorrow thinking about this."
His coach, Hayden Fry, said, "The rain hampered our passing game, and the crowd noise was no help either. That is not sour grapes because we just did not play well. We had our chances but did not capitalize on them the way Ohio State did."
The Buckeyes offense that took to the field in the early going, and helped build a 15-0 lead, showed no symptoms of the "Woody Hayes syndrome," which is how Fry once described the Big Ten malaise of three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust. Rather than try to do damage on the ground, and repeatedly send fullback George Cooper and tailback Vincent Workman up the middle, Coach Earle Bruce let his quarterback, Jim Karsatos, throw the ball and displayed a daring, wide-open offense.
With passes to flanker Mike Lanese and split end Cris Carter, the Buckeyes moved as close as the Iowa nine before free safety Devon Mitchell batted down Karsatos' pass to Carter. Rich Spangler came in and kicked a 28-yard field goal not quite four minutes into the game. It was the first time this year an opponent scored on Iowa in the first quarter.
The Buckeyes looked equally strong on their next drive, starting out on their 20 and moving to the Iowa 14 before being stopped. Spangler's 31-yard field goal attempt with 4:09 left in the first quarter sailed wide left, and the Hawkeyes let out a collective sigh of relief; they easily could have been down by two touchdowns.
"Sure," Bruce said, "we could move the ball, but we just couldn't put it in the end zone . . . We were playing hard out there, as hard as we've played at Ohio State in a long, long time."
With only two seconds left in the first quarter, Iowa punter Gary Kostrubula stepped back to punt from the back of his end zone, but his kick was blocked by rover Sonny Gordon storming off Ohio State's left end. The ball dribbled out of the end zone, and the Buckeyes were awarded a safety, making it 5-0.
Cornerback William White intercepted a pass by Long to set up the Buckeyes' only touchdown of the half. It happened when tailback John Wooldridge, playing with bruised ribs, took the dive play right off guard Jeff Uhlenhake's rump and ran 57 yards for the score. Uhlenhake and Cooper shared the credit for blocking linebacker Larry Station completely out of the picture. It was Wooldridge's first carry of the day. The score went to 12-0, with 9:06 left in the half.
In the first half, Long threw three interceptions and struggled to get his offense in gear. With the crowd noise, he was unable to audible at the line of scrimmage; Fry said that was one reason his team "couldn't get much of anything going." But on Iowa's last drive of the half, after a 26-yard kick by Spangler had made it 15-0, Long finally produced a drive of some distinction, moving 88 yards in 14 plays and finding the end zone with 28 seconds left.
The Hawkeyes had moved to the Ohio State three but could not gain another inch, it seemed, when Fry called a timeout. It was fourth down, and Fry showed some of his west Texas courage by going for the touchdown. Ronnie Harmon took the option pitch off his shinbone and ran wide and in, slipping right by hard Ohio State pursuit.
"All day," Fry said, "we kept bouncing back but it seemed we were not good enough to do it."
To start the second half, the Buckeyes came out under the lights in the increasing rain with the same big-bang offense that had dominated early. Karsatos completed passes of 14 and 10 yards to Lanese, and Cooper had a big run of 27 yards. For the most part, the Hawkeyes seemed powerless to stop Ohio State on most every square inch of the artificially turfed pasture except down close to their end zone, where it counted most. They shut down the Buckeyes' advance at the 11, then finally found cause for celebration when Spangler missed from 28 yards.
The Hawkeyes, dreadful as they were offensively, still had their chances. The best and biggest opportunity came when defensive back Jay Norvell intercepted a pass by Karsatos to Lanese at the Ohio State 27 and returned to the 19.
So very close to where he wanted to be, Long took no risks throwing the ball, choosing, instead, to give the ball to Harmon every time. Faced with a fourth-and-one from the 10, Long let Harmon attempt to dive over the front line for the first. Linebacker Chris Spielman met him head-on, killing that good dream with a vengeance. The Hawkeyes' hopes of winning the game might have died there, too.
"That was some really great tackling," Bruce said, "the way they swarmed all over the football."
Ohio State used a big defensive play for the first score in the second half. Long threw 18 yards to wingback Scott Helverson on the sideline, but Helverson fumbled when linebacker Derek Isaman stuck his headgear into the tender point of the ball. Tackle Fred Ridder recovered for the Buckeyes on the Iowa 31.
On the scoring drive, Workman, Ohio State's first freshman starter at tailback since two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin, did most of the work when he slammed up the middle for 15 yards. For the touchdown, Workman ran four yards off left tackle with 11:39 remaining and moved Ohio State ahead, 22-7.
Iowa quickly made up some of the difference, aided by two pass interference calls. Fullback David Hudson worked hard for six yards off center to get close, then scored from two yards out with 8:19 to play. On the conversion, Kevin Harmon was pulled down by Gordon shortly after taking the pitch on an option run.
Iowa's Rob Houghtlin missed a 42-yard field goal try with 3:33 left, and later Spielman made his second interception of the day. r 28
OS -- Safety, Gordon blocked Kostrubala punt out of end zone