Buckeyes dominate as Minnesota drops to 1-8

John Hageman

For a few minutes, there was hope that the Gophers could at least stay competitive with one of the best teams in the country and maybe, just maybe, shock the world with an upset.

But by halfway through the first quarter, the GophersâÄô glaring weaknesses started to emerge, and by the time the dust had settled on Ohio StateâÄôs 52-10 romp Saturday night at TCF Bank Stadium, there wasnâÄôt much left for the Gophers to hang their hat on.

âÄúThey dominated everything we tried to do,âÄù Gophers interim head coach Jeff Horton said. âÄúThey were obviously the better football team on the field.âÄù

Ohio State proved HortonâÄôs statement in almost every way possible, forcing three turnovers, blocking a punt, more than doubling the number of Minnesota first downs and racking up more than 500 yards of total offense.

But for a few minutes, it looked as though the Gophers were, at the very least, hanging tough with Goliath.

On the gameâÄôs opening drive, the Gophers gave Ohio State a fight, nearly completing a goal-line stand, but Terrelle PryorâÄôs one-yard dive into the end zone on third down gave the Buckeyes an early lead.

The Gophers answered quickly thanks to two passes by senior Adam Weber of 30 yards or more on the following drive. The four-play, 74-yard dash ended with a DeLeon Eskridge seven-yard touchdown run.

âÄúI knew that on that play, basically, I wanted to try my hardest to get in,âÄù Eskridge said. âÄúI didnâÄôt want to leave any extra plays or chance for us not to score.âÄù

But much like when the Gophers took a 12-second lead over then-No. 18 USC, the GophersâÄô early momentum and the crowdâÄôs excitement were rapidly extinguished.

Ohio State running back Dan Herron led the Buckeyes 92 yards on the ensuing drive, chewing more than seven minutes off the clock and wearing down the Gophers defense. Brandon SaineâÄôs three-yard touchdown catch gave Ohio State a 14-7 lead.

It looked like the Gophers were going to respond again on the next drive, but after lumbering 42 yards into BuckeyesâÄô territory, Minnesota kicker Eric EllestadâÄôs awkward kick on a 35-yard attempt ricocheted off the left upright.

From there, it was all downhill for the Gophers.

âÄúFootballâÄôs a game of momentum,âÄù Horton said. âÄúWhere we are as a football team, we got to take advantage of every opportunity we get. And now youâÄôre playing a team like Ohio State and you donâÄôt, you got no shot.âÄù

MinnesotaâÄôs next four drives combined for 13 plays, three of them ending in punts and one in an interception with seconds left in the half.

By the time the Gophers tacked on a field goal early in the third quarter, they were already down by 24.

âÄúThen it just started getting away from us,âÄù Horton said. âÄúAnd once it did, we just couldnâÄôt stop it. ThatâÄôs the bottom line.âÄù

Although Ohio State proved to be the better team, gaffes on both sides of the ball and on special teams further doomed the Gophers.

The Buckeyes received a gift in the form of a poor Dan Orseske punt when, with just 36 seconds left in the half, the ball bounced off the right side of his foot and sailed out of bounds just 10 yards ahead of the line of scrimmage. Ohio State took advantage of the prime field position, using just two plays and 12 seconds to go 47 yards, adding yet another touchdown.

Midway through the third, long snapper Ryan ColemanâÄôs snap skipped across the ground before Orseske grabbed it, only to be met by Jonathan Newsome, who blocked the kick before it was picked up by a teammate in the end zone.

The Buckeyes sacked Weber five times, two of them resulting in fumbles with one returned 30 yards by John Simon for a touchdown.

But despite the number of Gophers mishaps, Horton maintained that the loss was not due to a lack of effort: His team was simply overmatched.

âÄúI donâÄôt think there was one area where we did well at all, but [the Buckeyes] were the biggest reason for that,âÄù Horton said. âÄúI donâÄôt think it was from a lack of want to.âÄù

But itâÄôs quickly becoming clear that with just three games left on the schedule âÄî two of them against ranked opponents âÄî the Gophers can âÄúwant toâÄù all they want, but salvaging a win will require a lot more.

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