Ohio St. stomps Minnesota, 45-15

Michael Dougherty

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Sometimes post-game comments are a bit misleading.
Ohio State coach John Cooper said he was embarrassed after his top-ranked squad thumped the Gophers 45-15 Saturday. One week ago, Penn State coach Joe Paterno said his team’s play frustrated him following a 27-17 victory.
Embarrassed and frustrated are not the first words that come to mind after two victories, but when powerhouse opponents like the Buckeyes and the Lions play the conference also-rans and win less-than-spectacularly, opposing coaches like Cooper and Paterno don’t stand for it.
Therein lies the difference between programs like Ohio State and Minnesota.
After the Gophers 45-15 loss to the Buckeyes in front of 93,183 homecoming fans at Ohio Stadium, the common theme in the Minnesota locker room seemed to be, “Well that wasn’t so bad” — acting almost like a person who just left the dentist office with only one cavity instead of needing a root canal.
“We hung in there and we kept battling,” Gophers coach Glen Mason said. “I think the final score was a little lopsided as far as indicating how the game went.”
Mason said he was disappointed the Gophers (3-3, 0-3 in the Big Ten) didn’t score a touchdown when cornerback Trevis Graham blocked a punt in the fourth quarter which went out of the end zone for a safety.
Cooper, meanwhile, said it was inexcusable that his team allowed that blocked punt, adding it embarrassed him.
Ohio State (6-0,3-0) had twice as many total yards as the Gophers, out-gaining them 586-271, and Buckeyes wide receiver David Boston had a career high 191 yards on 10 receptions and two touchdowns.
Ohio State running back Michael Wiley carried the ball only 12 times but gained 119 yards and scored on a one-yard plunge in the third quarter helping the Buckeyes to jump out to a 31-3 lead in the second quarter.
With the seemingly insurmountable lead, Cooper was afforded the luxury of allowing both Wiley and Boston to spend considerable time on the sidelines.
Both of the superstars played barely half the game, which is an indication of how bad the score could have been had they been in there all of the time.
Gophers quarterback Andy Persby, making his second collegiate start, threw early and often, completing 19-of-42 passes for 213 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
That Minnesota threw so often was surprising because the Buckeyes are considered to have one of the top pass defenses in the country. But the obvious lack of a Minnesota running game forced offensive coordinator Steve Loney to go to the air.
“I don’t think right now we have a chance running the football,” Mason said. “We need to run the football better and we can’t do it.”
One good thing that came as a result of the increased reliance on the passing game was the emergence of wide receiver Luke Leverson as a legitimate offensive threat. The junior had 12 receptions for 108 yards, putting his season total to 38 receptions for 508 yards and five touchdowns.
“I showed what I could do against what was supposed to be the best in the nation,” Leverson said. “We saw in films that they play off a lot and we thought we could get the out-routes and we did.”
Mason said he thinks his offense is improving, adding it’s hard to get healthy against some of the top teams they’ve been playing.
In the three non-conference games, it seemed like the Gophers defense was chugging along while the offense was stumbling. But during this three game losing streak, the defense has been reeling and the offense is slowly emerging.
The defense, which has allowed an average of nearly 400 yards per game, prides itself on stopping the run. Minnesota was ranked eighth nationally in rushing defense, giving up only 84 yards a game.
But Ohio State gained almost three times that average, and Buckeyes quarterback Joe Germaine lit up the secondary for 339 yards in three quarters of work.
The fact remains that Minnesota continues to insist on putting eight men on the line of scrimmage to stop the run, and they get burnt repeatedly.
Two weeks ago Purdue’s Drew Brees threw for a career-high 522 yards against the Gophers, and last week Penn State’s Kevin Thompson also recorded a career high when he threw for 246 yards.
“We lead with our chin,” Mason said. “We play a lot of eight man fronts. I thought our defense played a little tentative, we usually play more aggressively.”
Gophers defensive end Curtese Poole, who occasionally dropped back in pass coverage in an attempt to fool the Buckeyes’ offense, said the stunts were done to “try to influence the offense to try and throw the ball.”
It is apparent, however, that most offenses that play the Gophers need no influencing when it comes to passing the ball. Their soft secondary is influence enough.

GOPHERS BOX SCORE
PASSING: Persby 19-42-1 213, 1 TD. Cockerham 3-7-1 12.
RECEIVING: Leverson 12-108, Henderson 4-54, Johnson 3-43, Hamner 1-9, Evans 1-9, Bruce 1-2.
RUSHING: Cockerham 6-22, Evans 4-21, Hamner 10-20, Bruce 3-2, Persby 4-(-19).