No. 8 Ohio State’s 30-7 defeat of Minnesota may not have come as easily as expected, but if there is any day a win is a win, it was this one.
The Buckeyes combined a quick start, a sluggish second act and a solid finish to remain undefeated and extend their school-record regular season winning streak to 23 games, including 16 Big Ten contests.
Chris “Beanie” Wells ran for 116 yards and two touchdowns, but neither of his scoring runs quite qualified as his biggest of the night.
With the Buckeyes facing a third-and-6 at their own 6-yard line and 1:33 to go in the first half, Wells cut to his left behind blocks from fullback Tyler Whaley and pulling guard Ben Person for a 27-yard gain.
Minnesota safety Jamal Harris hit Wells late at the end of the run, drawing a personal foul that gave the Buckeyes possession at their own 48, and one play later Todd Boeckman went for the kill.
The Buckeye signal caller lofted a pass deep down the right hash to the end zone where Brian Robiskie skied over Harris to make a fantastic one-handed grab that pushed the Buckeyes’ lead to 20-7.
“He plays the ball in the air very, very well, and Todd Loves to throw it up in the air to those guys,” Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said. “Sometimes he gets catches and sometimes he’s gotten pass interference penalties. He’s got a couple interceptions this year, but he has a lot of confidence those guys are going to go up there and get the ball.”
Though the ensuing point-after-try was blocked, the Buckeyes took a 13-point lead into the locker room, a margin that looked much better than what could have been 14-10 or a 14-all tie.
The drive began at the OSU 2 and was set up by a Malcolm Jenkins interception that stopped a Minnesota drive at the Buckeyes’ 22-yard line.
“That was a deflating moment at the end of the half, but we went toe-to-toe with the eighth-ranked team in the country,” Minnesota coach Tim Brewster told reporters afterward the game. “I told the kids in the locker room to be proud.”
Facing a team that has outscored opponents 91-50 in second halves this season, Tressel agreed that sequence was huge.
“Third down and seven with two (tight ends) and a flanker and you convert? They blitzed, and the guy you’ve got to give a lot of credit to is Tyler Whaley. He picked up the corner, strong safety blitz, kicked it out and there went Beanie,” the Buckeyes’ head man said.
The Buckeyes shut out the Gophers after intermission.
Prior to a second-quarter lull that seemed to afflict the whole team, Wells staked Ohio State to an early lead of 14-0 with touchdown runs of 6 and 4 yards.
The first touchdown came on a drive kept alive by punter A.J. Trapasso’s 28-yard sprint on a fake punt.
The relative ease with which the Buckeyes marched to their first two scores coupled with the Buckeye defense forcing three straight three-and-outs after the Golden Gophers missed a field goal on their opening drive combined to make a blowout appear to be in the offing.
The Gopher defense, however, stiffened at its own 36 with the Buckeyes looking for more with 1:33 to go in the first quarter.
After Ohio State turned the ball over on downs, Minnesota quarterback Adam Weber led the Gophers on a 12-play, 64-yard drive that concluded when the redshirt freshman found Ralph Spry for a 4-yard touchdown pass.
Ohio State harassed Weber into 27-for-44-passing day and held him to 11 yards rushing on five carries. He threw for 232 yards with two interceptions and the touchdown to Spry.
The Gophers entered the contest averaging 487.5 yards per game but could muster just 277 against Ohio State.
The Buckeyes’ defensive effort was spearheaded by Minnesota-native James Laurinaitis, who was credited with 14 tackles, including 1.5 for loss. Fellow linebacker Marcus Freeman also reached double digits in tackles as he registered 11. Larry Grant, who had five tackles, including 2.5 for loss and a sack along with an interception, rounded out a stellar night by OSU’s contingent of starting ’backers.
On the offensive side for Ohio State, Boeckman enjoyed another quality outing as he made his first primetime collegiate start. The junior from St. Henry competed 18 of 29 passes for 209 yards and along with the 52-yard TD toss to Robiskie found Brian Hartline for a 19-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Robiskie led the Buckeyes with five catches for 99 yards while Hartline chipped in with three grabs for 36. Nine different Buckeyes caught passes.
Wells missed part of the second half with a gimpy left ankle and saw his night marred by a lost fumble on his final carry but told reporters he would be fine for next week’s showdown with fellow unbeaten Purdue in West Lafayette.
The 100-yard game is the sophomore’s fourth in a row. He and Maurice Wells were the main contributors in an OSU rushing attack that piled up 250 yards on 47 attempts.
Tressel did not sound concerned about Beanie Wells’ ankle after the game.
“I think we’ve gotten to the point where he understands he’s going to hurt,” Tressel said. “That’s what running backs do. They hurt. But they run hard, and that’s what he’s doing. He made a nice catch on a third-down conversion on a little swing screen. He’s a complete player, as is Mo Wells. I thought Mo played – I don’t want to short sell – Mo played a good football game.”
The Buckeyes enjoyed a huge rushing advantage, holding Minnesota to 45 yards on 29 attempts. The Golden Gophers entered the contest averaging almost 230 yards per game on the ground.
Ohio State’s win made the Buckeyes one of few happy members of the Top 10 this weekend.
In being upset by No. 18 South Florida on Friday night, No. 5 West Virginia started a trend that also included on Saturday No. 3 Oklahoma’s loss to Colorado, No. 4 Florida’s loss to Auburn, No. 7 Texas’ loss to Kansas State and No. 10 Rutgers’ loss to Maryland.
In addition, No. 1 USC and No. 9 Wisconsin both beat unranked opponents by three points apiece and No. 2 LSU struggled early against Tulane before pulling away in the second half.