INDIANAPOLIS — The unexpected fog of defeat that engulfed Ohio State football last November at Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium has reappeared in the form of questions at the NFL combine this week.
NFL team officials have asked the Buckeyes what happened in the Hawkeyes’ 55-24 victory that day, which ultimately cost Ohio State a College Football Playoff spot. The players seem to have the same answer four months later as they did in the moments that followed the original game.
“Every NFL team asks me about the Iowa game,” former Ohio State defensive lineman Jalyn Holmes said Saturday. “‘What happened?'”
So what does he say?
“I just look at them and I don’t know what happened,” Holmes said with his arms held up. “I’m still trying to find those answers out.
“They played the best game of their life. That’s all it is. We didn’t come to play that day. They came to play. I feel they played the best game of their life, and the score showed.”
The Hawkeyes put up 487 yards and rushed for 243. Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley tossed 5 touchdowns, and cornerback Josh Jackson became the nation’s biggest defensive star with 3 interceptions of Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett. On the game’s first play, Iowa safety Amani Hooker intercepted Barrett and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown.
Iowa led 31-17 at halftime, and it surprised even the Hawkeyes at that point.
“I remember getting in at half and we’re sitting,” said former Iowa guard Sean Welsh, an Ohio native who also took part in the NFL combine. “The line sits. We had James [Daniels] and Tristan [Wirfs] and we sit in rows. It’s like, ‘Is this happening right now?’ It was a great day for the Welsh household.
“I think a lot of things went our way that game. The fans were incredible. They were on top of them from the beginning. It seemed like a lot went our way, but we executed as well. In terms of our run game, it went really well, from what I can remember. It was something I think it was one of those days where everything went well for us. At the end, it was pretty emotional, at the end for sure.”
Ohio State rallied from that defeat to win the rest of its games. The Buckeyes blasted Michigan State 48-3 in a first-place showdown the following week. In the Big Ten title game, Ohio State beat Wisconsin 27-21. Although the Buckeyes missed a spot in the College Football Playoff, they did beat Pac-12 champion USC 24-7 in the Cotton Bowl.
“It’s a tough subject and something you’ve got to handle head on because we didn’t do good enough that day,” former Ohio State defensive end Sam Hubbard said. “The thing I always like to look at is the resiliency of our team and the leadership we had to come back and win the next week.”