The Golden Gophers, coming off their 7th straight loss of the season, ran into the #11 Buckeyes in the Twin Cities. Ohio State started slow, but eventually put the clamps down and killed the Gophers 52-10. The Buckeyes found success with a balanced attack, with Pryor throwing 18-22 for 222 yards and 2 touchdowns and Dan Herron carrying the ball 17 times for 114 yards and a touchdown. Herron’s 100 yard game was the first since Saine’s against Marshall during the season opener.
The Buckeyes came out of the gate passing the football. The strategy was exactly the opposite to the previous game when they started out with 5 straight Herron runs. Pryor found some open receivers downfield against the Minnesota secondary early on but wasn’t able to connect on a couple of his passes. Intermixed with the passing game were a few runs to Herron that gained a few yards. The Buckeyes eventually got the ball down to the 3 yard line and took two Boom runs and a Pryor quarterback keeper for the touchdown.
The balanced offensive attack almost seemed like a first first the Buckeyes this season. Ohio State traditionally would attack in the first drive with either a vast majority of passes or a vast majority (or all runs). The change was clearly another step in the development of this offense after the Wisconsin loss.
Minnesota’s offense, a primarily passing, pro-style offense, found no success on the ground against the Bucks until the very end of their drive. However, through the air, as expected the Gophers had no trouble moving the ball in big chunks. Two big passing plays put the Gophers within the 10 going in. A run on the very next play tied up the score.
Ohio State’s defense looked uninspired and confused on the first Minnesota drive. The Gopher’s had found a weakness in the Buckeye D and exploited it as much as possible for their first score. It was a worrisome start to a game that had quickly begun to have the flavor of Purdue Harbor. Minnesota moving the ball with ease, but Ohio State having to fight to move the ball added to that illusion.
The next drive for the Bucks saw a continuation of the difficulties for the offense. The Minnesota defense was attacking the offense in ways that the team had likely not seen before. It almost appeared like sheer desperation driving the Gophers D. That did not stop the Buckeye offense from it’s inexorable surge. Starting from inside their own 10, Pryor drove the Bucks down the field a little chunk at a time taking only what the defense was giving them. Pryor found Saine in the endzone on an easy looking pass to the right side that the defense had no chance to make a play on.
Minnesota’s subsequent drive continued to find success against Ohio State’s secondary. Adam Weber found Da’Jon McKnight for a 36 yard passing play over the middle. The pass led to a Buckeye stop at their own 17. The Gopher’s field goal attempt clanked off the upright, saving the OSU defense from giving up any points after the big play.
The Buckeyes gave Minnesota a taste of their own medicine. Pryor found Posey for a nice 20 yard gain on the first play of the drive. A couple of plays later, Pryor hit Sanzo over the middle for 39 yards that would have been 6 if the turf monster hadn’t tripped Sanzo up at the 15 yard line. Despite the great field position after the Sanzo pass, the Buckeyes couldn’t convert on 3rd and 2 inside the 10. Barclay nailed the field goal and gave the Bucks a ten point lead.
After the field goal, the Buckeye defense began to finally contain the Minnesota offense. The gophers went 3 and out, ending on an unsuccessful screen pass that Weber tossed at the player’s feet. On the punt, Jordan Hall made an excellent move to take 4 Minnesota defenders out of the play and return the ball all the way down to the 2 yard line. It almost felt like Hall was denied a touchdown he rightly deserved, especially considering how many great returns he’s had this entire year. Unfortunately for the Bucks, Pryor tossed an interception in the corner of the endzone on the very next play. He tried to get the ball to Zach Boren, but the play was jumped by a defender that Pryor clearly didn’t see.
The interception gave the Gophers a sudden surge of motivation. The Minnesota offensive line was doing a great job of giving Adam Weber plenty of protection. Weber had lots of time on many of his throws, several times not even having to shift in the pocket before throwing the ball. The other major advantage for Minnesota was having an experienced quarterback against a severely inexperienced Buckeye secondary – particularly in the safeties. The playaction pass caused the safeties to bite repeatedly giving the Gophers several receivers in man coverage that the Buckeyes couldn’t stop early on.
The Buckeyes ran on the shoulders of Boom Herron on the next drive. Herron plowed for 25 yards through a gigantic hole opened up in the Minnesota defense by the offensive line. The Bucks continued to hand the ball off to Boom and he continued to wrack up yardage. By the end of the drive, Herron had put up more than 100 yards on Minnesota in the game. Herron plowed the ball into the endzone from 10 yards out around the left side of the line. Boom was entirely untouched on the play until moments before he walked into the endzone.
Minnesota was forced to punt with little time left in the half. The punter shanked the kick giving the Buckeyes the ball near the 50 yard line. A quick passing play to Sanzo set up a long ball into man coverage that Posey came down with for a 38 yard touchdown pass. The score took the Bucks only 13 seconds and put the Gophers down 31-7 going into the half.
The Bucks ended the half with 326 total yards, including 169 yards on the ground. Minnesota found all of their yardage on 5 passing plays as Weber was 6-11 for 122 yards to go with only 48 Gopher rushing yards. Pryor’s passing was more solid than Weber’s in the balance, going 12-14 for 158 yards and 2 touchdowns, though he did throw a short interception in the endzone.
The Buckeye defense had made some serious adjustments by the second quarter that took Minnesota completely out of their gameplan. The early defensive struggles was clearly an enigma, a weakness that Minnesota was exploiting that the Buckeyes sealed off quickly. As for the offense, they appeared nearly unstoppable after a slow start.
The Minnesota offense continued to find success in the passing game at the start of the second half. Weber found a receiver over the middle for a huge gain, again coming on a play action pass that caused the safeties to bite. Minnesota got a gift from the Buckeye defense in the way of a facemask on an incomplete pass on 3rd and seventeen. The plays resulted in a field goal for the Gophers as the drive stalled inside the Buckeye 20.
Ohio State came out swinging with the passing game. Pryor looked surprisingly shaky early in the drive, but a quick strike to Posey over the middle for a 20+ yard gain cured those ails. Brandon Saine helped the drive along with his running as Tressel gave him a few carries from the backfield. The use of Saine as a runningback was a bit of a surprise considering his switch to receiver a couple weeks ago, along with Herron and Hall’s dominance at the position. The Buckeyes were held up at the Minnesota 4 yard line after a couple of Saine runs were stuffed up the middle and Sanzenbacher was tackled 2 yards short of the first down. Instead of going for it, Tressel called for a field goal which Barclay clanged on the outside of the left upright.
Minnesota’s next drive made up for the missed Buckeye field goal. After going 3 and out, with Brian Rolle sacking Weber on a great third down play, Minnesota was forced to punt. Johnathon Newsome blocked the punt and, in fact, almost caught the ball on the block. The ball bounced backwards into the endzone and after a short scuffle Zach Domicone came up with the football for the Buckeye Touchdown.
It only got worse for the Minnesota offense on the following drive. Brian Rolle took up residence in the backfield on all three plays. On third down, Rolle smashed Adam Weber and forced a fumble that Rolle then jumped on top of to give the Bucks the ball on the Minnesota 43. The sudden emergence of Rolle as a huge player on that drive may have been because of a near injury earlier in the game to his leg. The hit may have gotten his blood up to the point where he was on vicious attack of the Minnesota offense.
Neither offense were able to show much for their troubles over the next several opportunities. Minnesota’s struggles were for no lack of trying, but simply couldn’t move the ball against the super aggressive Buckeye defense. Ohio State’s offense, on the other hand, was clearly more interested in simply closing out the game. That didn’t mean that they wouldn’t find some success eventually. Jordan Hall punched the ball into the endzone an a drive that saw him running and catching passes on just about every play for the entire drive.
That drive was the last time we saw Pryor in the game. Pryor finished with 18-22 passing for 222 yards two touchdowns and one interception. He added 55 yards and a touchdown on 5 carries to finish out the day with what is quickly turning into an average day for him. It’s certainly an embarrassment of riches to have a quarterback that can go 18-22 against any division 1 opponent, even a hapless one.
Three different Buckeyes scored rushing touchdowns in the game as Dan Herron, Terrelle Pryor and Jordan Hall all scored on the ground. Herron had the first 100 yard rushing day for a Buckeye since Saine ran for 100 against Marshall in the season opener. Herron rushed 17 times for 114 yards in the game.
DeVier Posey had a career day with 6 receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown for the receivers. Sanzenbacher did not catch a touchdown today but did get 5 catches for 67 yards. The rest of the receptions were split amongst 5 other players including Stoneburner, Fragle and Philly Brown.
The defense got in on the scoring action as well as John Simon scooped up a fumble and ran it back 30 yards for a touchdown. That gave the Buckeyes a touchdown with every single unit on the field (Running, Receiving, Special Teams, Defense).
To their credit, Minnesota refused to give up even well into the end of the ballgame. With 5 minutes left, the Gophers staged a great drive starting from their own 10 yard line. The drive ended with the Gopher’s going for it on 4th and goal from the OSU 10. Adam Weber missed Da’Jon McKnight, ending any chances of Minnesota trying to make the score respectable.
Adam Weber finished the game 9/20 for 162 yards and an interception on the day. DeLeon Eskeridge eventually managed to get a respectable 23 carries for 80 yards on the ground to flesh out the Minnesota offensive attack.
The Buckeyes out-gained the Gophers 509 to 233 overall. The Buckeye’s attack was extremely balanced, hitting 244 yards passing and 265 yards rushing. Minnesota only managed 71 on the ground, but grabbed 162 through the air against the depleted Buckeye secondary.
The Buckeyes have a much needed bye next weekend before hosting the Penn State Nittany Lions at home on November 11th.