Chris "Beanie" Wells took the handoff from freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor, darted through the Ohio State offensive line and cut to his right. There he saw some open field, with only Minnesota safety Kyle Theret standing in the way of a big gain.
Then Wells showed Theret, the 105,175 fans packed into Ohio Stadium and the rest of the nation he was healthy again.
Wells hurdled the 5-10, 185-pound Theret as the sophomore braced for impact. Wells picked up 10 more yards after landing and finished the run for a 21-yard gain. It was a big change from how Ohio State fans had gotten used to seeing Wells over the past three games – primarily waving a towel on the sidelines.
With the leap – off his once injured right foot no less – Wells announced he was back. Wells finished with 106 yards on 14 carries and the Buckeyes blasted the undefeated Golden Gophers 34-21 on Sept. 27.
“It was great,” Wells said. “All week I was walking around like a caged animal because I wanted to be out there the last three games, especially that big one, but I couldn’t help it.”
That “big one” was Ohio State’s 35-3 loss to then-No. 1 USC, which took place two weeks after Wells fell to the Ohio Stadium turf grabbing his foot in pain against Youngstown State. Wells missed contests against Ohio University, USC and Troy before finally making his return against the Golden Gophers.
“In my heart I wanted to because I wanted to help the team, but I knew my toe wouldn’t allow me to,” he said of his absence. “It was real tough. It was something that brought me to tears, I wanted to be out there so bad.”
Ohio State opened its defense of its Big Ten title by riding the duo of Wells and freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor. The Buckeyes rushed for 279 yards and had 414 yards of total offense. Pryor and Wells contributed most of it – 273 overall. Pryor passed and threw for a combined 167 yards and made three trips to the end zone.
The Buckeyes (4-1, 1-0 Big Ten) wasted little time getting on the scoreboard. Pryor moved OSU 75-yards in just five plays before calling his own number on a 33-yard keeper around the right end with 12:47 remaining in the first quarter.
Minnesota (4-1, 0-1) could not answer, but the Gophers got the ball back quickly when Wells fumbled on the ensuing OSU possession. Minnesota drove to the OSU 15-yard line before Ohio State forced the Gophers to settle for a 33-yard field goal by Joel Monroe to make it 7-3 with 7:01 left in the opening quarter.
Ohio State senior kicker Ryan Pretorius answered Monroe’s boot with a pair of field goals of his own in the second quarter. He made a short 22-yarder at the 9:45 mark and later added a 44-yard boot with 4:10 left before halftime to push the score to 13-3.
The Buckeyes took a 20-3 lead into the break thanks to an 8-yard touchdown pass from Pryor to senior receiver Brian Robiskie. The drive was highlighted by Wells’ leaping run over Theret.
Minnesota had the first scoring threat of the third quarter, driving to the OSU 10 before the Buckeye defense clamped down. Monroe cut into the deficit with a 28-yard field goal to make it 20-6 with 10:40 left in the third quarter.
It did not take the Buckeyes long to answer the score. Ohio State responded with a 74-yard drive that took just six plays and less than three minutes. Pryor burst around right end on a perfect 1-yard bootleg run for a touchdown that put OSU ahead 27-6 with 7:37 remaining in the third quarter.
Quarterback Todd Boeckman then provided one of the highlights of the game when he led a scoring drive a week after being booed by the Ohio Stadium faithful. The senior lost the starting job to Pryor after the loss to USC and was booed in his next home appearance against Troy when the lone pass he threw in relief of Pryor skipped in front of his intended target.
But those boos turned to cheers against Minnesota when Boeckman directed a touchdown drive and another drive that resulted in a missed Ryan Pretorius field goal. He completed 5 of 9 passes for 65 yards and added 8 yards on an option keeper. The highlight of his performance came on a picturesque 31-yard touchdown pass to Brian Robiskie on the first play of the fourth quarter.
“It’s just always nice to be back out there,” Boeckman said. “I felt good about myself today. I thought it was a pretty good performance overall and I’m happy with it.”
The Gophers made the final score more respectable with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns. Minnesota quarterback Adam Weber found Ralph Spry for a 3-yard touchdown pass with 8:24 remaining in the final frame. Then Weber struck again with 1:13 remaining when he connected with receiver Da’Jon McKnight for a 22-yard score. Senior backup quarterback Mike Maciejowski, a product of Upper Arlington High School in suburban Columbus, came on and completed a two-point conversion pass to Eric Decker to set the final score.
Weber completed 23 of 36 passes for 187 yards and a touchdown, but the junior also lost a fumble and threw an interception. DeLeon Eskridge led the Gophers’ rushing attack with 76 yards on 18 carries.
Robiskie led Ohio State’s receivers with eight receptions for 90 yards. Defensively, senior linebacker James Laurinaitis had a game-high 12 tackles. Junior linebacker Ross Homan added 10 and had a fumble recovery. Marcus Freeman recorded OSU’s lone sack. Homan, senior cornerback Malcolm Jenkins, junior safety Kurt Coleman and senior defensive end Curtis Terry also had tackles for a loss.