COLUMBUS – Nine out of 10 people probably would have predicted hard-hitting safety Christian Bryant would have been the first Ohio State player to feel the wrath of college football’s new targeting rule this season.
But it was cornerback Bradley Roby who was the first Buckeye bitten by the beefed-up targeting rule when he was ejected for a hit on Iowa tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz in the first quarter of OSU’s 34-24 win over the Hawkeyes on Saturday.
Good rule? Bad rule? Or a bad interpretation of the rule?
The NCAA defines targeting as hitting a defenseless player above the shoulders in a manner that goes beyond normal tackling.
Roby first made contact with Fiedorowicz, who is eight inches taller than he is, at chest level and then there was helmet to helmet contact. Replay officials could have overturned the ejection but they upheld the call on the field.
This is the first season that officials have been able to eject players for targeting. Until now, conferences had the option to impose a suspension. Going into last weekend, 37 players had been ejected in major college games.
“Was it below the shoulder, that’s my question. I guess I don’t know,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. “I got fined $30,000 once for going after an official so I’m not going to do that.”
Linebacker Curtis Grant was less reserved in his reaction. “I think it was a real bad call,” he said. “He led with his shoulder and you have to understand your head is connected to your body, so it is going to be in there on a hit. I just thought it was a bad call.”
Safety C.J. Barnett said, “I have no idea. I’m not a referee. I’m happy I’m not. From my perspective I think it was a great hit. It’s unfortunate he had to get thrown out of the game but player safety is the most important thing.”
Roby will be able to return for Ohio State’s game against Penn State (4-2, 1-1 Big Ten) on Saturday night. The Nittany Lions did not play Saturday. OSU allowed three passing touchdowns against Iowa and two of them came against Roby’s replacement, Armani Reeves.
LINING UP RIGHT: Meyer called OSU’s offensive line “my favorite players on the team” after the win over Iowa.
The offensive line has been especially strong in the second half in the last two games when the Buckeyes came from behind to beat Northwestern and Iowa.
But that doesn’t mean they aren’t constantly being prodded to get even better by the coaches.
Iowa’s defense hadn’t allowed a rushing touchdown or a 100-yard rusher before Saturday’s game before Carlos Hyde sent both of those accomplishments to the recycling bin when he rushed for 149 yards and scored two touchdowns.
“It’s something they (Ohio State’s coaches) made sure we were well aware of. It’s kind of been our mindset in the bye week and this week that it was a goal we wanted to achieve and we’re glad we did that,” offensive tackle Jack Mewhort said.
Offensive line coach Ed Warinner said, “They (the offensive line) wear people down. We’re very confident they’ll come through and play well when we need them to.”
NO DOUBT FOR GRANT: Linebacker Curtis Grant said there was never any doubt he would play Saturday after returning to Ohio State on Tuesday one day after his father’s funeral on Monday in Richmond, Va.
“I knew I was going to play. My dad would have wanted me to play. I just went out there and did my best for him,” Grant said.
MEYER STREAK: Ohio State is a perfect 19-0 with Meyer as coach. That ties the second-longest streak in OSU history. But Meyer has a personal 20-game winning streak because Florida won its final game as coach, a 37-24 win over Penn State in the 2011 Gator Bowl.
It is the third time Meyer’s teams have had a 20-game winning streak.
SLAMMING THE DOOR: Iowa converted 7 of 9 third-down opportunities in the first half. In the second half, it was 1 of 4.
Defensive coordinator Luke Fickell talked about the difference between the two halves.
“There are times when you’re not going to be perfect,” Fickell said. “You have to be able to move on. We get so frustrated because we have such high expectations for what we do and you’d like to look up there and see a zero or a shutout. But when things don’t go your way, you can’t put your head down and you can’t mope.”