When Terrelle Pryor scrambled left and, in a few quick strides, converted a game-deciding fourth-and-10, this all looked vaguely familiar for the 20th-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes. The opponent, the jerseys, the atmosphere were different, but the situation — another late-game lead being erased all too easily — was similar.
So was the result.
For the fourth time this season, the Hawkeyes (7-4, 4-3 Big Ten) allowed a score on their opponents final drive to lose the game. On Saturday, it was Pryors fourth-down conversion and Dan Herrons subsequent one-yard touchdown run with 1:47 remaining that propelled seventh-ranked Ohio State (10-1, 6-1) to a 20-17 victory inside Kinnick Stadium.
It seems like it, doesnt it? offensive lineman Julian Vandervelde said of the script repeating itself. This is probably one of those things where last year, maybe we would have pulled it out. But sometimes the cards are with you, sometimes they arent.
The fourth quarter began with such promise for the Hawkeyes.
On his 19th birthday, linebacker James Morris deflected an interception into Shaun Praters hands. Two plays later, true freshman running back Marcus Coker scored his first career touchdown, giving Iowa a 17-10 lead with 11:53 remaining.
Coker rushed for a team-high 70 yards. Adam Robinson was sidelined during the first quarter for what head coach Kirk Ferentz termed academic indigestion and was later knocked out of the game with an apparent concussion.
The Hawkeyes next two drives featured a combination of ineptitude and inconsistency. Ricky Stanzi and the offense ran seven plays on those two series, gaining 13 collective yards. The offensive line allowed two sacks as the Buckeyes secondary closed down any available options.
Stanzis final game inside Kinnick Stadium ended with a 19-yard pass to Marvin McNutt on fourth-and-21. As has been the case all season, the senior quarterback couldnt muster the late-game magic of a season ago.
Theyre just really fast, said Stanzi, who finished 20-of-31 for 195 yards and one touchdown. Its not really the best situation to go against a defense like that when you have guys laying off and theyre flying around out there.
In many ways, Saturdays game a statistical anomaly. They Hawkeyes were plus-two in turnover differential. They committed nearly 50 yards less in penalties. And heading into the fourth quarter, they had only gained two less total yards.
The only tangible difference was Pryors fourth-quarter play, along with the field-goal kicking. Iowa kicker Michael Meyer missed a 40-yarder wide left in the second quarter, while Ohio States Devin Barclay drilled an attempt from 48 yards midway through the fourth.
The latter kick pulled the Buckeyes within four, 17-13, and set the stage for Pryors 12-play, 76-yard game-winning drive.
Weve got to help ourselves a little bit more there, Ferentz said of his teams kicking situation.
Even when the Buckeyes missed opportunities, they came back with a sense of stubbornness that has, in many ways, defined Jim Tressels tenure in Columbus.
Perhaps theres no better example of this than what happen just one play before Pryors fourth-and-10 scramble. The 6-6 junior took a long-winded drop-back on third-and-10, floating a pass 65 yards in the air to DeVier Posey in the back corner of the end zone.
Posey had a sure touchdown in his hands, but the ball slipped through his grasp. Six plays later, Poseys gaffe was nullified by Herrons touchdown.
The Hawkeyes, on the other hand, were plagued by many of the same mistakes that have doomed their 2010 season — late-game defense, failed two-minute drives, and inopportune special-teams play.
Indeed, on an afternoon that was supposed to honor one of the most-decorated senior classes in recent memory, Iowa was instead left wondering what could have been, haunted by an all too familiar story.
Were not a four-loss team, cornerback Micah Hyde said. I just dont see us as a four-loss team.