You gotta admit... the offense played pretty darn good tonight.
Minnesota hung around and hung around, but in the end, they didn't have enough to counter the Buckeyes as the OSU offense controlled the game on route to a 31-28 win. The Buckeyes racked up 468 yards of total offense, led by 152 yards rushing by Jonathan Wells and 203 yards passing and 66 yards rushing by Steve Bellisari.
Minnesota opened the game with a long, time-consuming drive that consisted of 19 plays. The Gophers looked poised to go into the end zone, but OSU was able to hold them to a field goal to make it 3-0. On the ensuing drive, OSU moved the ball down the field just as effectively, going 85 yards on 13 plays and punching it in on a Wells 2-yard TD run. Minnesota's next drive was stalled by a penalty and a couple of busted plays and was forced to punt. OSU started the next drive on their own 32 but was able to successfully move the ball again down the field, eventually resulting in a Bellisari TD pass to Darnell Sanders to make it 14-3.
It seemed at this point like OSU had control and could be close to running away with the game. But on the next drive, OSU became victim of a running quarterback yet again as Minnesota QB Asad Abdul-Khaliq escaped a sack on third down and made a huge run down the field for a 42 yard gain. Minnesota was managing to hang in there, and they were able to punch it in on a Thomas Tapeh 3-yard run. On the next drive, OSU drove well once again, but the Bucks had to settle for a 48-yard field goal attempt, which was missed by Mike Nugent. Minnesota took over with just 42 seconds left in the half, but with the help of a big run by Marion Barber, the Gophers were able to add a 44-yard field goal to make the game 14-13 at halftime.
The Buckeyes took the second half kickoff and once again marched down the field deep into Gopher territory, but this time, when fourth down came up, the Bucks elected to go for it instead of attempt another field goal, and the Bucks failed, turning the ball over to Minnesota on downs. But Mike Doss would come up big on the next drive as he stopped Minnesota's drive with an interception. However, on the second play of OSU's next drive, the ball was knocked loose from Jonathan Wells' hands by a Gopher helmet, and the Gophers recovered on the OSU 48. On the very next play, Minnesota RB Tellis Redmond took the handoff and ran 52 yards for the TD, giving Minnesota a 20-14 lead.
However, the Bucks would not fold. Maurice Hall took the ensuing kickoff to the OSU 44, and from there, OSU rumbled down the field on a drive that featured some good runs from Bellisari and punched it in on a 1-yard run from Wells. The OSU D held Minnesota to 3 and out on the next drive (the only 3 and out of the night for either team), and then OSU passed the ball down the field for their next TD, a 36-yard pass that was tipped and wound up in Chris Vance's hands for the TD, giving the Bucks a 28-20 lead. Minnesota's next drive resulted in a turnover on downs, and then OSU was able to take it down for their final score, a 35-yard field goal from Mike Nugent. Minnesota was able to drive down on the next drive and punch the ball in on a Abdul-Khaliq run and get a 2-point conversion, but the onsides kick failed, and OSU ran out the clock and gained a 31-28 win.
The story of the night was the OSU offense, which played (along with the Northwestern game) their finest game of the year. Coming into the game, the Buckeyes were expected to have success on the ground against a weak Gopher run defense, and they did just that, gaining 265 yards on the ground. Jonathan Wells carried most of the load and looked good in doing it, but Steve Bellisari also came up with some big gains on the ground. Lydell Ross also chipped in 45 yards. Minnesota was small up front on defense, and it showed as the Bucks gained big chunks on the ground tonight. When the Bucks took to the air, they were effective in the short passing game. Bellisari got the job done tonight, going 12-17. Chris Vance led the way receiving, catching five passes for 101 yards, while Michael Jenkins joined in with 50 yards on 3 catches, and Darnell Sanders had 2 for 28.
On defense, OSU once again gave up some big plays and some yardage, as the Gophers gained 366 total yards, with 246 of those coming on the ground. But on a night where the OSU offense was rolling, all the OSU D needed to do was step up a couple of times, and they did. Perhaps the story could be told in the number of punts: Minnesota 2, OSU 0.
This was a big, big win for Ohio State. With the season closing out with games against Purdue, Illinois and at Michigan, the Bucks needed to win this one in their quest to become bowl eligible (sure, UM losing brought new life to OSU's Big Ten title hopes, but let's worry about one game at a time). The Buckeyes now have the momentum needed to head into this tough three game stretch. Keep it rollin', Bucks!!!
Scary moment: A very scary moment took place just before halftime when Cie Grant fell backwards and hit his head hard on the turf. He was motionless on the turf for a short time, and Buckeye players were noticeably concerned. Thankfully, Cie just seemed shaken up and walked off under his own power. His status is not currently known.
Old Friends: Glen Mason and Jim Tressel seemed to be quite friendly with one another tonight, and the coaching storyline did not seem to be an issue. Also, Cris Carter was on the sidelines tonight. He was seen giving advice to Steve Bellisari. In addition, a familiar name to you recruiting fans came back tonight as one-time OSU commitment Darrell Reid started at DT for Minnesota. Reid had committed to OSU, but after the firing of his recruiting coach Shawn Simms, OSU's interest in him seemingly cooled, and he switched to the Gophers...
Trash Talkers: Minnesota's trash talkers were shut up tonight. Big mouth Antoine Burns was held without a catch. Ben Utecht had two catches for 19 yards and the 2-point conversion.
If the Gloves fit...: ESPN's broadcast pointed out how Minnesota's players were all wearing gray gloves, presumably to make it easier to blend in with OSU's uniforms, making it harder to determine holding.