Five Answers: Ohio State at Minnesota

Ohio State did not enjoy a laugher as they did one week earlier, but they got a lot of things done en route to a 23-point win over Minnesota. We look at how the Buckeyes fared against the vaunted Gopher offense, who got the better of the big-play battle and what the OSU offense was able to accomplish, among other things.

1. Can Minnesota quarterback Adam Weber hurt the Buckeyes?

Weber completed 27 of 44 passes, a completion percentage of 61.3 that bettered his season's average of 58.6, for 232 yards. He threw a touchdown pass and two interceptions, and it was the first of those picks that was particularly crippling.

Weber had the Golden Gophers on the move late in the second quarter, having completed 3 of 5 passes for 57 yards while getting into position for at least a field goal that could have cut his team's deficit to 14-10.

But a throw into the teeth of a zone defense was intercepted by Ohio State's Malcolm Jenkins near the goal line, and when the OSU offense responded with a 98-yard touchdown drive, the severity of the error was compounded significantly.

"I threw it behind the receiver," Weber said. "There was a touchdown to be had there, and we missed out on that opportunity."

Despite the error, Weber can brag of having thrown for more yards against Ohio State this season than any of the Buckeyes' previous opponents.

2. Will the Golden Gopher running game pose problems for Ohio State?

While the Golden Gophers got a nice contribution from the passing game, Minnesota never got anything going on the ground.

Weber was virtually nonexistent as a running threat. He was held to 11 yards on five carries, far below his averages in both categories through the first four games when he rushed it 15.5 times per contest for 64.2 yards.

Minnesota's leading rusher was freshman Duane Bennett, who started and scooted for 34 yards on 16 attempts.

Overall, the Gophers finished with 45 yards on 29 carries after picking up 229.8 yards per game entering the contest.

"They have some great athletes on defense, that we may not see the rest of the year," Weber said. "I think we were ready today and played well. They were able to mix it up, hide their blitzes and they put a lot of pressure on us."

3. Is another fast start in the cards?

A.J. Trapasso's 28-yard scramble on a fake punt was a key to the Buckeyes' opening drive and led to the first touchdown of the game.

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel acknowledged afterward that the trickery helped make sure his team was awake after a long day sitting around in the hotel.

"Maybe it was a message to us that we're going to do whatever we've got to do," the coach said. "And not be afraid to go out and get this victory."

The start was not the problem for Ohio State. The Buckeyes grabbed a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and had a chance to give themselves a three-score lead after Brian Hartline set the offense up at its own 47-yard line with a 21-yard punt return.

However, that drive stalled 17 yards later when Todd Boeckman's fourth-and-3 pass went incomplete, opening the door for Minnesota to creep back into the game, if only briefly.

4. Which way will the big plays go?

Boeckman's 52-yard touchdown pass to Brian Robiskie late in the second quarter was a crucial blow for the Buckeyes. Not only did they withstand a challenge from the Gophers deep in their own end zone, but Boeckman and Co. dropped the hammer on Minnesota when it had the chance.

That drive also featured a 27-yard run by Chris "Beanie" Wells, the Buckeye tailback's longest of the day.

"There was about a 10-point swing there," Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster said. "It could have been a 14-14 game or at worst a 14-10 game and it ends up a 20-7 game at the half. We didn't get as much done in the second half as we needed to."

The Gophers' longest run of the day was a 15-yarder by wide receiver Ernie Wheelwright on a reverse. That play came on Minnesota's lone touchdown drive and represented 1/3 of the home team's rushing total for the game. The inability of the Gophers to gash the Buckeyes with big runs – something Washington did in the one game Ohio State has given up more than seven points this year – contributed greatly to the overall ability to move the ball.

"Our defense does a great job of keeping the ball in front of you and not giving up big plays," Tressel said. "Our defense gets tougher and tougher the closer you get to their end of the field. To hold these guys to seven points I think is pretty darn good."

5. How will the Ohio State offense continue to develop?

The Buckeyes might have entered the Metrodome hoping for more than the 459 yards of total offense they left with given the overall leaky nature of the Gopher D, but Ohio State did some good things.

While Chris Wells led all rushers with 116 yards, he missed a chunk of the second half nursing an ankle injury. In his absence, Maurice Wells had one of his better stretches as a Buckeye. The reserve turned in 52 yards on 15 carries.

Boeckman enjoyed good protection and spread the ball around to nine different receivers, and though he hooked up with his favorite target – Robiskie – for the third touchdown of the game for a little breathing room, it was second option Hartline with whom Boeckman connected for the Buckeyes' last touchdown. That score, a 19-yarder that featured a precision throw and impressive aerial catch, put the game on ice completely in the fourth quarter.

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