IOWA CITY — Sean Welsh made it sound so simple.
“We had our best week of preparation all season,” said the Ohio native and starting offensive guard. “I think it does boil down to that. When you have that good week of practice it gives you the confidence to come out and play well regardless of who you are playing.”
Who the Hawkeyes were playing was the mighty Ohio State. The third-ranked team in the country according to the Associated Press poll. A team averaging 46 points and 570 yards per game.
None of that mattered inside a sold out Kinnick Stadium though.
The Hawkeyes started their nearly-perfect night with an Amani Hooker pick six, Akrum Wadley had 158 total yards and Nate Stanley threw a career-high five touchdowns.
It all ended in a 55-24 Iowa blowout victory.
“It was an outstanding effort,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “We came into this game heavy underdogs, and for good reason. Ohio State is a tremendous football team. Our guys believed in themselves. They played with great energy, great effort and played opportunistic football.”
Iowa, which came into the game as 20-point underdogs, forced Heisman hopeful J.T. Barrett into four interceptions. He came into the game with just one pick in his first eight games.
Josh Jackson tied a school-record with three interceptions, and the Hawkeyes (6-3 overall, 3-3 in Big Ten play) turned every mistake into points.
The loss was just the second road defeat for Ohio State under head coach Urban Meyer.
The victory was Iowa’s first over a top-10 ranked Ohio State team since defeating the third-ranked Buckeyes, 20-14, in 1983.
“We came out and just tried to play with confidence,” Jackson said. “We got rewarded for our hard work and preparation.”
Barrett came into the day with 25 touchdowns and one interception in his first eight games. The Buckeye veteran tossed three touchdowns but completed just 18-of-34 through the air for 208 yards. He was sacked just once the four interceptions were the difference.
His first pass was picked off by Hooker, who returned it 30 yards for a score, leaping into the end zone ahead of an Ohio State player to put the Hawkeyes up 7-0 early.
The two teams traded points for most of the first half.
Ohio State (7-2, 5-1) answered Iowa’s early momentum with a six-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a 29-yard TD pass from Barrett to Terry McLaurin.
Miguel Recinos and Sean Nuernberger traded short field goals to keep the game even at 10-all.
They matched each other again on TD drives. Iowa went 80 yards in 11 plays and Stanley hit freshman tight end T.J. Hockenson for a 10-yard touchdown pass to put Iowa back on top. Ohio State answered with a quick seven-play, 77-yard drive that was capped by a 44-yard TD pass from Barrett to Johnnie Dixon.
It was after that that the game turned into the home team’s favor.
Stanley came right back and answered the Buckeye TD with back-to-back scoring passes to sophomore tight end Noah Fant. The first one was a 25-yard TD pass that ended a seven-play, 89-yard drive.
The next one came three plays after Jackson’s first pick. The Hawkeyes needed just 22 yards to go up 31-17. Stanley hit Fant on a 3-yard TD pass to end that drive.
“Everyone came to play. We had a lot of guys make plays today,” said Stanley, who finished with 226 yards on 20-of-31 passing through the air.
Ohio State rallied from an 18-point deficit against Penn State the week before to win by one. Leading 31-17 at the break, Iowa made sure it kept its foot on the offensive gas Saturday.
The Hawkeyes’ first scoring drive of the second half covered 78 yards in nine plays. Hockenson capped the drive with a 2-yard TD catch from Stanley. Before that, Iowa dialed up a fake field goal that resulted in a Colten Rastetter 19-yard pass to senior long snapper Tyler Kluver.
Hockenson had a career-best in catches (five), receiving yards (71) and touchdowns (two) in the win. Fant hauled in a career-high four catches for 54 yards. His seven TD catches are the most since Marvin McNutt caught 12 back in 2012.
“It was a lot of fun to see us compete and make plays,” Hockenson said about the tight end duo. “The coaches put us in a good position to win and we executed the game plan. Everyone in our locker room believed. Things came together tonight.”
Prior to Saturday, the most points Iowa had ever scored on Ohio State was 35. The Hawkeyes put up 55 in the win because the defense forced four turnovers, and the offense rushed for 244 yards and tallied nearly 500 total yards. The Hawkeyes were 7-of-7 inside the red zone.
“I didn’t expect to score 55 points, no way. I did feel like we would be able to get after them and win the battle up front,” said Iowa center James Daniels, who is another Ohio native. “My two college choices were Ohio State and Iowa. I came here because of the offensive line play, and we needed to show them what an Iowa offensive line is supposed to look like. This felt good.”
Stanley is just the second Iowa quarterback to throw five touchdowns in a single game twice, joining Chuck Long. He has 22 touchdown passes on the season. The Iowa single-season record is 26.
Senior tailback James Butler gained 75 rushing yards on 10 carries, and freshman tailback Toren Young rushed for 47 yards on five carries.
Senior Josey Jewell finished with nine tackles on defense. He now has 391 career tackles, which ranks seventh all-time in program history. Senior Ben Niemann had seven tackles and the team’s only sack.
“We have a belief in our people and a belief in our system,” Ferentz said. “You just stay the course, and you hope at some point you feel your gaining some traction. We hadn’t had much consistency before today so hopefully this is a start of something for us.”