Five Answers: Minnesota at Ohio State

Turnovers turned out to play just as big a role as anticipated, and the Ohio State running game proved to be quite an effective weapon as well. Then there is the little issue of the Minnesota spread offense and the continuing education of Terrelle Pryor. All is covered in this week's edition of The Five Answers.

1. Can the Buckeyes get off to a faster start on offense?

Yes and no.

When Terrelle Pryor sprinted around end 33 yards for a touchdown 2:13 into the game, the Buckeyes had their earliest score of the season.

With Chris Wells running one way and Pryor running the other, it appeared the Buckeyes were off and running.

However, the following drive lasted just one play because Wells fumbled, and Ohio State's third time with the ball was a three-and-out that gained just three yards.

The Buckeyes finished the first quarter with just one score, but they were headed for another. On the first play of the second quarter, Pryor sprinted 38 yards to the Golden Gopher 20-yard line on a drive that eventually concluded with a Ryan Pretorius field goal.


2. How will the Buckeyes handle this spread?

Minnesota finished with respectable totals of 21 points and 268 total yards, but most of both came after Ohio State had opened up a 28-point lead and began to sub in some younger defensive players.

Although they sacked Minnesota quarterback Adam Weber just once, the Buckeyes got a fair amount of pressure on him on a regular basis, including his one interception, an awful throw picked off by Donald Washington.

Ohio State also kept the Golden Gopher running game under control, allowing 81 yards on 28 attempts, a 2.9-yard average.

Weber was 13 of 21 passing for 92 yards and an interception in the first three quarters but finished 23 for 36 for 187 yards and a touchdown.

His favorite target, Eric Decker, caught three passes for 34 yards in the first three quarters and ended up with five catches for 52. The latter total is less than half the conference-leading 113.5 yards per game he entered the contest averaging.

"As much as they try to get him the ball, I think we did (handle him)," said Ohio State cornerback Malcolm Jenkins. "He did what his offense asked him to do. I think we contained him pretty well."


3. Which team will win the turnover battle?

The importance of this statistic turned out to be as advertised, Saturday looked more like 2007 than 2008.

The Golden Gophers entered the contest having committed just two turnovers in four games lost two fumbles and gave up an interception to the Buckeyes.

All three Ohio State takeaways resulted in points, two in particularly important situations.

First they turned Washington's interception, which he returned to the Ohio State 48, into a field goal to extend their lead to 13-3. On the ensuing drive, Jack Simmons fumbled in a scrum and Anderson Russell recovered for Ohio State at the Gopher 35. Just more than two minutes later, Pryor hit Brian Robiskie for an 8-yard touchdown pass and Ohio State's lead had swollen to 20-3 just before halftime.

"We knew they had killed opponents on the turnover margin coming into the game," said Ohio State safety Jermale Hines of Minnesota's pregame turnover margin of plus-11. "We just wanted to win the turnover margin, and that's what we went out and did."


4. What will Terrelle Pryor do for an encore?

The frosh didn't wait long to take the breath away from 105,175 fans.

On the fifth play from scrimmage, he faked a handoff to Boom Herron going left then ran around right end and past a couple of Golden Gophers on his way to the end zone, where he extended the ball over the goal line just before being hit by Kyle Theret.

Pryor finished the day 8-for-13 passing for 70 yards, solid numbers his coach wants to see improve in the future.

"I just didn't feel as if we progressed in the pass game up to that point and I don't know how many more he got to throw, he got to throw a couple more and he obviously needs as much experience as he can get," Tressel said after re-inserting Pryor in the game in the fourth quarter after Todd Boeckman led a couple of series.

There wasn't much not to like about Pryor's running, though.

Despite losing eight yards total on two sacks, Pryor finished with 97 net yards on eight carries, an eye-popping 12.1-yard average.

He also offered a fitting exclamation point to a chippy bunch of Gophers by chucking a Minnesota defender to the ground near the sideline on a fourth-quarter run.

"Beanie always says, ‘Let me see that shoulder go out. Let me see you run someone over,'" Pryor said. "So I saw the chance coming and I was thinking in my head while I was running, ‘All right Beanie, this is it.' "


5. Can the running game take off?

As mentioned, the combined threat of Pryor and Wells together for the first time for an extended period of time in the same backfield was impressive.

Wells ran for 106 yards on 14 carries to go with Pryor's totals, and Herron added 50 yards on 10 attempts.

Wells and Pryor both had long runs out of a spread formation, answering pregame questions about how well their skills might mesh.

"You see what kind of trouble it causes for the defense," said Ohio State cornerback Malcolm Jenkins. "Most of the time when you account for the run, you account for everybody but the quarterback, and when you do account for the quarterback, it's with a linebacker, but with (Pryor's) speed, sometimes a linebacker is a mismatch, so unless you get a defensive back or someone who can run, it's going to be pretty hard to stop him."

Added Wells, "It's incredible to have a guy like Terrelle on the football field at all times. Him being a dual threat at quarterback is great. I love it."

In full, the Buckeyes finished with a season-high 279 yards rushing on 37 attempts. Ohio State had not run for that many yards in a single game since a 317-yard performance against Northwestern late in the 2005 season.


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