COLUMBUS, Ohio The Kirk Ferentz-Urban Meyer handshake was Usain Bolt fast.
The Iowa coach gave the Ohio State coach a quick congrats around the middle of the big "O" on the Ohio Stadium field Saturday and floored it to the locker room.
The read into that is Iowa remains landlocked in the tiered Big Ten.
The term "moral victory" came up in Ferentz's postgame. The closeness didn't make the Hawkeyes' 34-24 loss at No. 3 Ohio State (7-0, 3-0 Big Ten) any more palatable than a mouthpiece dragged through a pasture. The Buckeyes took the drama out of it in the fourth quarter to seal their 19th consecutive victory, tying the second-longest streak in OSU history, before 105,264 fans.
Ferentz was surrounded by the big red "O" for the drive-by handshake. The Hawkeyes were once again surrounded at Ohio Stadium, a place they won't see again until 2020 at the earliest and where they haven't won since 1991.
"When it comes to the 12 games you have, the objective is to win," Ferentz said, face weathered, manner straightforward. "As long as they keep score, that's what you're trying to do."
Iowa held a 17-10 halftime lead. The game was tied 24-24 in the fourth quarter. In the end, the Buckeyes squeezed the life out of Iowa (4-3, 1-2), dominating the second half with scores on its first four drives while holding a 23:05 to 6:55 edge in time of possession. The Hawkeyes were limited to 18 plays in the second half.
Ohio State picked up the Hawkeyes and helicoptered them in the fourth quarter. Running back Carlos Hyde's 19-yard TD run, which included a 5- or 6-yard stumble while trying to hold his balance before a perfect 10 dive into the end zone, served as the piece de resistance.
"It was a wild play, from what I heard and saw up on the big screens," said Meyer, who has yet to lose as OSU's coach. "Feeding off each other, that offensive line and Carlos. That was a very, very good rush defense."
It was a good rush defense that was gutted by the Buckeyes' firepower. Hyde battered between the tackles and eventually the edge, rushing 24 times for 149 yards and two TDs. Quarterback Braxton Miller rushed for 102 yards. Iowa allowed its first 100-yard rushers of the season, its first rushing TDs of the season and its most rushing yards (273) of the season.
"I thought we played tough, I thought we played with great effort," linebacker James Morris said. "I thought our hearts were in the right place, but there were just some things that we need to fine tune."
The Hawkeyes took the fight to Ohio State in the first half. Quarterback Jake Rudock threw for 121 yards and two TDs. Iowa rushed for 101 yards and converted 7 of 9 third downs. Iowa took the game's opening possession and drive 80 yards in 12 plays, with Rudock finding tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz for a 2-yard TD. Rudock hit wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley for a 6-yard TD with 7:21 left in the first half.
"We had good tempo on offense," said Rudock, who finished 19 of 34 for 245 yards, three TDs and an interception. "We wanted to continue that, but we unfortunately didn't get it done."
Iowa strong safety John Lowdermilk broke up a fourth down pass from Miller to Evan Spencer in Iowa's end zone with 2:30 left in the first half to help protect that lead. Mark this one down, because it was Iowa's last stop until Miller took a knee to close it out.
Against a soft zone coverage, Miller completed 22 of 27 for 222 yards and two TDs. No helmet stickers for Ohio State's punter whoever it is (it's actually Cameron Johnston). No punts for the Buckeyes.
Rudock hit tight end Jake Duzey for an 85-yard TD with 2:30 left in the third quarter to tie the game at 24. From there on out, though, it was an Ohio State stiff arm.
The Buckeyes converted 8 of 10 third downs, including 5 of 7 in a dominant fourth quarter. Iowa's defense ended up punch drunk.
"You play 60 minutes," said Ferentz, whose team watched a first-half lead dissipate for the second straight game. "There are no prizes for playing a good first half. I think we all realize that. Now it's a matter of what you do to be in a better situation the next time we get this chance."
Iowa will get this chance. Seven games in, Iowa has shown it can trade punches and hang. From here, October gets a little more possible with Northwestern (4-3, 0-3) and Wisconsin (5-2, 3-1).
Saturday teased them with the possibilities and left them with mouthpieces filled full of dirt.
Ferentz referenced Miller's 12-yard gain on a third-and-7 at Iowa's 28 at the beginning of the fourth quarter. It was pretty much the same play Terrelle Pryor made against the Hawkeyes late in the game of a 20-17 Buckeyes' victory at Kinnick Stadium in 2010.
Miller/Pryor rushed right, reversed field to the left and Iowa/Iowa wasn't home in 2010/2013.
"The Terrelle Pryor moment," Ferentz said. "We didn't do a good job containing there. The rest of the question is 'Could you still stop them?' I don't know, but we didn't give ourselves a chance on that.
"That's putting the white flag up. You can't do that and expect to win football games."
The interview room for the opposing team at Ohio Stadium is bathed in red. Ferentz spoke with an Iowa backdrop behind him. Still, this was unmistakably Iowa being surrounded by the "O."
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