Buckeyes strive for fast start vs Iowa

Ohio State fans love the eighth-ranked Buckeyes’ record, they’d

just prefer to avoid late-game comebacks.

Despite finishing solid enough to win nine of their 10 games,

the Buckeyes have been slow starters – particularly on the

road.

The Buckeyes (9-1, 5-1) would like to reverse that trend at No.

21 Iowa (7-3, 4-2) on Saturday. Riding on the outcome is a possible

Big Ten title and Bowl Championship Series postseason berth.

”We know we have to start fast this week or we’re going to have

problems,” said center Mike Brewster.

It’s hard to imagine a team averaging 42 points a game – and

winning by an average margin of 28 points – having so much trouble

early in games. But it has been a nagging problem all season.

The Buckeyes have been tied or trailed early in all three of

their previous road trips. Only against Wisconsin have the Buckeyes

(9-1, 5-1) not survived a sluggish start.

– Miami led 7-3 after a quarter before the Buckeyes piled up 33

points in the middle two periods of a 36-24 home win on Sept.

11.

– When the Buckeyes hit the road for the first time on Oct. 2,

Illinois scored on its first possession and hung tough with Ohio

State before falling 24-13.

– Ohio State lasted just a week in the No. 1 spot, falling

behind 21-0 in the opening 17 minutes on the way to a 31-18 setback

at Wisconsin on Oct. 16.

– On Saturday, the Buckeyes trailed 14-3 and Penn State was

knocking on the door again at the Ohio State 20-yard line before

order was restored. The Buckeyes made a big fourth-down stop, and

then ran off the game’s final 35 points for a 38-14 win.

Is Ohio State taking teams lightly? Do other teams just play

better against the Buckeyes? Or are they just one of those teams

that need additional time to find their stride in a game?

”I wish I could put a thumb on it, so we could prevent it,”

defensive lineman Dexter Larimore said. ”I do think sometimes that

teams are going to give us their best shot and you’re not going to

be able to really see the team that you saw on film all week. Some

teams come out and they have some special package, a tweak or

adjustment, to kind of defend against what we do.”

Wide receiver DeVier Posey doesn’t think the problem lies in the

Buckeyes not being ready to play.

”I know before the (Penn State) game, guys seemed like they

were fired up, ready to go,” he said. ”I don’t really know how to

avoid it, I don’t have a formula for it. I don’t know – maybe we

play better fighting uphill.”

This much is certain: Iowa has victimized good teams who

stumbled at the start.

”Just turn on the Iowa-Michigan State game,” Ohio State coach

Jim Tressel said. ”Michigan State’s a good team. But they have

three picks, one goes to the house and one way down there. All of a

sudden, it’s 30-0. And they’re a good team.”

Just three weeks ago, fifth-ranked Michigan State came into

Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium unbeaten and on a roll. But the Hawkeyes

took the opening kickoff and drove 80 yards in 12 plays with Ricky

Stanzi hitting Colin Sandeman on a 3-yard scoring strike.

Then Micah Hyde picked off a pass and returned it 66 yards. And

Shaun Prater brought back another errant pass 42 yards, setting up

Adam Robinson’s 32-yard scoring catch from Stanzi. Then Robinson

added a rushing touchdown. The stunned Spartans never recovered in

a 37-6 rout.

The Buckeyes have seen the video of that surprisingly lopsided

game and have compared it to what they’ve done all season.

”We definitely have to get off on a good start,” said Buckeyes

linebacker Ross Homan. ”We can’t come out flat.”

Even if Iowa makes the first big play, gets the initial break or

finds the end zone first, the Buckeyes can’t just throw up their

hands.

”Slow starts happen sometimes. The biggest thing is I guess you

really have to fight back and get some momentum on your side,”

Brewster said. ”You know how big momentum is. It’s crazy.

”Once we got the momentum back on our side (against Penn

State), things worked well. But we know this week we really can’t

do that.”