We continue our look at the best Ohio State football wins against their Big Ten foes with Minnesota. The Golden Gophers started playing the Buckeyes in 1921, and it has not gone very well for the men from Minnesota.
Ohio State is 43-7 against the Gophers all time with only one loss (in 2000) in the past 30 years. The Buckeyes’ seven losses in the series are the fewest for them against any Big Ten team other than Nebraska, although that is a bit misleading because Ohio State and Minnesota have had a couple of gaps in the series that happened to coincide with some of the best eras on the gridiron for the Gophers. That includes the mid-1930s when Minnesota claims three national championships as well as 1960, when the Gophers were voted national champions by both the AP and UPI.
The series has produced many notable statistical performances but only one school record that still stands prior to the 2013 season. In Ohio State’s 34-14 win in 1994, the Buckeyes averaged 20.4 yards on eight pass attempts (five completions) to set a record that has not been matched since.
No. 10 OSU 23
To earn its first outright Big Ten title in 19 seasons, the Buckeyes had to come from behind twice to beat the perennially powerful Golden Gophers.
Minnesota was the two-time defending league champion and in the midst of a stretch that saw them win five national championships from 1934-1941. They had not lost a conference game at home since 1932, but the day would be ruled by Buckeye quarterback Don Scott. Scott threw a trio of touchdown passes, one each to Jim Langhurst, Frank Clair and fellow-All American Esco Sarkkinen, and tackle Charlie Maag kicked a 21-yard field goal to provide the rest of the Buckeyes’ points.
Scott’s last touchdown, a 34-yarder to Clair, gave Ohio State its largest lead, 23-14 in the third quarter. The Buckeyes then had to hang on. Minnesota notched a fourth quarter touchdown, but had the extra point blocked so the margin stayed at three points. The Gophers missed a potential tying field goal and Ohio State’s Jack Graf intercepted a Gopher pass at the Ohio State 5-yard line as time expired to clinch the victory.
No. 12 Ohio State 20
No. 5 Minnesota 7
In a game that was virtually even from a statistical standpoint, the 12th-ranked Buckeyes simply made the most of their opportunities against the No. 5 Gophers.
Minnesota outgained Ohio State 310-308 in total yards, including a 189-120 advantage in the second half, but could not overcome a 6-0 deficit in the turnover battle. Virtually all of the third quarter was played on the Buckeyes’ half of the field, but Minnesota, trailing 13-7, never could cross the goal line.
The Gophers moved inside the Buckeye 10-yard line twice, the second time advancing to the 1-foot line, but were turned away on downs both times. After the stop inside its own 1-yard line, Ohio State promptly punted on first down. The Gophers took over at the Ohio State 26, but fumbled on first down. After another Ohio State punt, Buckeye back Harold Daugherty intercepted Minnesota on the first play of its possession. The Buckeyes took over at midfield and drove 36 yards, from where Dick Fisher scored on a run of 16 yards over left tackle for a two-score lead.
All of Ohio State’s points in the game came as a result of turnovers. The Buckeyes led 13-7 at the half, thanks to a 1-yard run by Ollie Cline that was set up by a Minnesota fumble he recovered on the Gopher 24, and a 67-yard pass from Fisher to Bud Kessler that came one play after Daugherty’s first interception. The victory was the 300th in Ohio State history.
No. 9 OSU 23
No. 20 Minnesota 19
Coach Lou Holtz’s No. 20 Gophers hoped to use their triple option attack to spring an upset on the No. 9-ranked Buckeyes, but Vince Workman, Pepper Johnson, William White and Jim Karsatos all made big plays in the fourth quarter to deny Minnesota.
In front of what was at the time the largest crowd ever at the Metrodome, Ohio State fell behind 19-10 in the third quarter. At that point, Karsatos led a 90-yard drive that cut the deficit to two points. Karsatos capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown toss to tight end Ed Taggert on fourth down. On the following drive, White intercepted a Minnesota pass and returned it to the Gopher 47-yard line, setting up Workman. The freshman tailback from Dublin, subbing for the injured Keith Byars and John Wooldridge, scored the go-ahead touchdown from 18 yards out to culminate the ensuing drive.
With the Buckeyes leading, Johnson stuffed the Gophers’ final drive, stopping Minnesota running back Valdez Butler short of a first down on fourth-and-1 at the 12-yard line with 0:48 on the clock. Johnson’s fellow linebacker, Chris Spielman, also had a standout day, with a game-high 15 tackles, including 13 solos. The Buckeyes won despite being out-gained 360-281 in total yards.
Ohio State 41
The Buckeyes used the strong arm of quarterback Greg Frey to pull perhaps the most stunning turnaround in program history. By late in the second quarter, Ohio State faced a 31-0 deficit, but Frey passed for 362 yards and brought the Buckeyes all the way back to equal what was at the time the largest come-from-behind win in NCAA history.
Carlos Snow started the Buckeyes on the road back with a 1-yard run with 0:10 remaining in the second quarter. Frey passed to Jeff Graham for a two-point conversion, and the comeback officially commenced. Pat O’Morrow kicked a 25-yard field goal for the first points of the second half, and Frey followed him with a 15-yard scoring pass to Snow that, with an O’Morrow conversion kick, got the margin down to 13 points with 0:20 remaining in the third. Minnesota stretched the lead back to 16 with a field goal at the 11:24 mark of the fourth quarter, but Frey struck back 1:16 later with a 27-yard touchdown pass to Snow. He then passed to Snow for the two-pointer, and it was a one-possession game.
The Gophers lead went back to 11 after a 42-yard field goal, but that was the last time the Minnesota offense would be heard from as the Buckeyes kept coming. Frey scored on a 1-yard run then hit Graham for a two-point conversion to cut the lead to four points with 3:04 to go. Finally, with 0:51 on the clock, Frey found Graham from 15 yards out to complete the comeback. Frey accounted for 30 points in the game, while Snow added 278 all-purpose yards, fourth-most in school history at the time.
Frey’s yardage total remains No. 3 in school history for a single game.
Ohio State 31
Jonathan Wells lost the third-quarter fumble that allowed the Gophers to take their first lead, but made up for it with the go-ahead touchdown in Ohio State’s 31-28 win. The Gophers took the lead in the third quarter on a 52-yard run by Tellis Redmon that came one play after Wells’ fumble. At 20-14, Minnesota led for the first time since it was 3-0 in the first quarter. Ohio State did not take long to answer, however, mounting an eight-play, 56 yard drive that concluded with a Wells 1-yard touchdown run with 3:01 remaining in the third quarter to regain the lead. Not long after, Chris Vance dealt the Gophers the knockout blow, catching a Steve Bellisari pass and scampering into the end zone after the ball deflected off the hands of a Minnesota defender. Mike Nugent added a 35-yard field goal with 4:17 to play for the last of 17 straight Buckeye points.
The Gophers scored a late touchdown on a 2-yard run by Asad Abdul-Khaliq, but never regained possession of the ball.
Wells picked up 152 yards rushing on his 24 carries, and Bellisari completed 12 of 17 passes for 203 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for 66 yards. Tim Anderson and Joe Cooper led the defense. Anderson had a pair of quarterback sacks, while Cooper came off the bench to lead the team in tackles with eight.
No. 23 Minnesota 3
No. 6 Ohio State 34
The Buckeye defense ruled the day, then the offense blew open a close game in the second half.
Thanks to a short OSU punt, No. 23-ranked Minnesota had to go only 20 yards get its first points, a 24-yard field goal by Dan Nystrom, but that was about all they could muster all day. The Buckeye defense held the Golden Gophers to 53 yards rushing, 218 below their season average, and just 112 overall.
Despite the defensive domination, Ohio State had a hard time shaking the pesky Gophers until late in the third quarter. Once the Buckeye offense did get going however, it barely looked back, scoring on five consecutive possessions. After Lydell Ross capped a 70-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown run in the second quarter to give the Buckeyes a 7-3 lead, Donnie Nickey blocked a punt on Minnesota’s next possession to set up a Mike Nugent field goal for a 10-3 halftime advantage. In the third quarter, the Buckeyes outscored Minnesota 17-0 while allowing the Gophers no first downs and -6 total yards. Ohio State scored at the beginning, middle and end of the quarter. After a botched punt snap gave the Buckeyes possession on the Gopher 9-yard line, Ross scored his second TD of the day at the 12:35 mark. Seven minutes and 10 seconds later, Nugent connected on another field goal. Finally, with 1:15 remaining in the third, Krenzel lofted a pass high down the sideline that landed in the arms of Chris Vance for a 30-yard touchdown that removed any doubt about the outcome.
No. 12 Ohio State 45
The two teams’ offenses did their best to give the Metrodome scoreboard operator a workout.
Although the game began as a classic matchup of the irresistible force (Minnesota with the nation’s best running game) against the immovable object (Ohio State’s top-ranked run defense), it was a different character who stole the show at the end.
Golden Gopher Lawrence Maroney got the better of the Ohio State defense, rushing for 127 yards, but most of his damage came in the first half.
In the second half, the less-heralded running back for the Buckeyes, Antonio Pittman, took over. He ended his season-long touchdown drought by bursting through a hole in the Minnesota line for a 67-yard touchdown early in the third quarter that broke a 17-all tie and got the Buckeyes on their way to their sixth win of the season. With the Minnesota defense spread out by OSU’s three-wide receiver set, Pittman was untouched on the play, following pulling guard Rob Sims’ block through the hole and sprinting untouched to the end zone.
Troy Smith hit Anthony Gonzalez for a 27-yard touchdown later in the same quarter to push the Buckeyes’ lead to 14 points and they controlled it from there on out.
In the final quarter, Pittman added a second touchdown run, this time from four yards out, and Smith hit Santonio Holmes for a touchdown for the second time in the game.
The Buckeye defense recovered from a rough first half to slow the powerful Gopher attack after halftime.
Maroney ran for 114 yards in the first half but was held to 13 after the break.
Pittman finished with a career-high 186 yards rushing, and Smith threw for 233 yards and three touchdowns.
Minnesota quarterback Bryan Cupito, a Cincinnati native, threw for 396 yards and the Gophers finished with 578 yards of total offense, the second-most ever allowed by the Buckeyes.
The teams combined for 1,027 and both averaged better than seven yards per play.
Ohio State’s 45 points were the most scored by the Buckeyes since 2002 and the most on the road since 1998.
The game also featured a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Ted Ginn Jr.