With 48,717 in attendance, TCF Bank Stadium was a house of horrors for the home team in every phase of the game.
The 11th-ranked Buckeyes (8-1, 4-1) scored on offense, defense and special teams as they joined Michigan State in a first place tie in the Big Ten race. The Spartans suffered their first loss of the season earlier in the day, a 37-6 thumping at Iowa. The Hawkeyes and Wisconsin are both even with the leaders in the loss column at 3-1 in conference play.
Ohio State jumped on the Golden Gophers (1-8, 0-4) immediately, taking the opening kickoff and driving 54 yards for a touchdown. Terrelle Pryor capped the drive with a 1-yard quarterback sneak. The junior completed 3 of 4 passes for 38 yards on the march.
Minnesota struck back with a four-play drive that covered 74 yards, including a 35-yard pass from quarterback Adam Weber to MarQueis Gray and a 32-yarder from Weber to Tiree Eure. The latter toss set up DeLeon Eskridge’s 7-yard touchdown run, and Eric Ellestad’s PAT kick knotted the score at seven with 7:44 to play in the first quarter.
Head coach Jim Tressel’s Buckeyes responded with a 13-play drive highlighted by a 34-yard Pryor scramble that converted a third-and-11 into a first down at the Gopher 21. Four plays later, Pryor faked a handoff then threw to a wide-open Brandon Saine in the end zone for a 3-yard touchdown at the 0:22 mark of the first quarter, giving the Buckeyes a lead they would not relinquish.
After Ellestad missed a 35-yard field goal, Ohio State extended its lead to 10 with a 23-yard field goal by Devin Barclay with 8:24 left in the first half.
The Buckeye defense followed that with a quick three-and-out, and Ohio State looked poised to blow the game open after Jordan Hall returned the ensuing punt 70 yards to the Gopher 2-yard line.
Minnesota safety Ryan Collado, a Cincinnati native, had other plans, though, as he stepped in front of a Pryor pass intended for fullback Zach Boren in the end zone and picked it off.
When the Buckeyes got the ball back after another short Gopher possession, Tressel allowed little chance for another pick. Ohio State drove 62 yards in six plays, picking up every yard on the ground. One pass play was called, but that resulted in a 5-yard Pryor scramble when he could not find anyone open downfield.
Tailback Dan Herron did the rest, including a 25-yard burst through a gaping hole on the left side of the line to open the drive and a 10-yard touchdown run on which he bounced outside.
Minnesota looked like it could get to halftime trailing by only 17, but Dan Orseske’s 10-yard punt gave the Buckeyes one last chance to strike with 0:36 seconds left in the second quarter.
They would not need that much time. Pryor found Dane Sanzenbacher for nine yards on first down then tossed a pretty fade route to to DeVier Posey, who made a tough catch in the end zone for a 38-yard touchdown with 0:24 on the clock.
In the second half, the Ellestad had a field goal for the home team, but the Buckeyes tacked on three more touchdowns, one apiece from the offense, defense and special teams.
Linebacker Jonathan Newsome took advantage of a poor snap to get to Orseske for a punt block in the third quarter, and safety Zach Domicone came up with the ball in the end zone after teammate Adam Homan knocked the ball across the goal line while trying to scoop it up.
After Hall ran one in from 16 yards out, Ohio State defensive lineman John Simon capped the scoring by returning a fumble 30 yards for a touchdown with 10:16 remaining in the game. Simon scooped up a Weber fumble after the Gopher quarterback was nailed by Chimdi Chekwa on a cornerback blitz.
That was one of five sacks on the night for the Buckeyes, who outgained their hosts 507 to 232.
His interception aside, Pryor was sharp most of the night. He completed 18 of 22 passes for 222 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and the junior added 55 yards rushing despite a dearth of designed runs called for him.
Pryor became the third Buckeye to surpass 7,000 total yards for his career. He finished the game with 7,275, moving past Bobby Hoying (7,151, 1992-95) into second place behind Art Schlichter (8,850, 1978-81).
Herron led a ground game that piled up 263 yards. The junior tailback did not carry the ball in the second half but finished the day with a career-best 114 yards on 17 carries. Freshman Carlos Hyde added 32 yards on three totes, and Hall carried seven times for 30 yards while Saine picked up 23 yards on five carries.
Pryor’s top target was Posey, who amassed 115 receiving yards on six grabs, while Sanzenbacher finished with 67 yards on five catches.
Brian Rolle led the defensive charge for the visitors. The senior linebacker had a team-high six tackles, including 2 1/2 for loss and 1 1/2 sacks. He forced and recovered a fumble and shook off the effects of an early ankle injury that temporarily knocked him out of the game.
Cornerback Travis Howard and end Nathan Williams also had sacks for Ohio State, and nose guard Dexter Larimore was credited with half a sack.
Chekwa also had an interception.
The Buckeyes have next Saturday off then return to action Nov. 6 with a visit from Penn State.