As Ohio State’s football team congregated in the locker room following its comeback win over Minnesota, a security guard manned the door to ensure only players and coaches entered the locker room.
“Is that everyone?” the guard asked.
“One more, one more,” shouted Buckeyes running back Michael Wiley from down the tunnel.
With only 121 yards in the Buckeyes’ first three Big Ten games, Wiley had become Ohio State’s forgotten man.
So there was no way he was going to miss out on the team celebration — not after his turnaround in the second half.
The Gophers defense shut down Wiley in the first half, holding him to 19 yards on six carries.
But Wiley broke out in the final two quarters for 99 yards on 16 carries, including a 44-yard touchdown scamper in the third which gave the Buckeyes a 14-10 advantage.
He finished the day with 118 yards on 22 rushes, but perhaps his biggest play was a 28-yard throwback pass to sophomore quarterback Steve Bellisari that set up the game-tying field goal and shifted the momentum to Ohio State.
Buckeyes coach John Cooper said the pass might have been the spark Ohio State needed.
“That play gave us a little bit of momentum,” Cooper said. “We put that in this week and it got us a big first down.”
Although his completion percentage was 100 percent, Wiley joked that he doesn’t plan to make the switch to quarterback.
“That was a hard pass and hopefully we won’t use it too many more times,” Wiley said. “But it worked today.”
Wiley had been fairly quiet this season for Ohio State. Cooper said he thinks that changed Saturday.
“No question I thought (Wiley) was the best back on the field today,” Cooper said.
The best back in the second half at least, and Gophers coach Glen Mason said Ohio State’s post-intermission success was because his defense was tuckered out.
But Minnesota defensive end Karon Riley didn’t want to blame the defensive letdown on fatigue, but rather Wiley’s ability to take over a game.
“He stepped up,” Riley said. “That is what big time players are supposed to do.”
Germany in la la land
Down 10-7 with nine minutes remaining in the third quarter, Cooper yanked Bellisari, who was 6-of-9 for 40 yards and had ran seven times for minus-5 yards. He was replaced by fellow sophomore Austin Moherman.
Moherman’s first pass was a 15-yard completion to receiver Reggie Germany, who was hit hard on the helmet by Gophers linebacker Astein Osei and cornerback Willie Middlebrooks.
“I think it took away from their passing attack,” Middlebrooks said of the big hit, “and that hypes the defense up when they see the secondary making plays and knocking people around.”
Germany suffered a concussion on the play and did not return to the game.Diggs doesn’t dig Gophers
Buckeyes’ linebacker Na’il Diggs was asked if he thought the win was an upset since his team was a three-point underdog.
“The word is that we upset Minnesota,” he said. “We’ve never had to upset Minnesota. I don’t even see us as underdogs. I played Minnesota two years before this and I know what kind of players they got.”
Diggs entered the game with 59 tackles and 11 tackles for loss. But he only had three tackles against the Gophers.
Diggs lack of respect for the Gophers wasn’t exactly the same for the entire Buckeyes team. And based on the post game celebration Mason said he witnessed, the Buckeyes should be grateful for the win.
“When’s the last time you saw Ohio State run around and jump up and down with their coach pointing, ‘We’re number one,’ to the fans in the stands?” Mason asked. “They’re lucky to get out of here with a win, and they know that.”
ù The win gives Ohio State a 35-6 all-time record against the Gophers, including 16 straight wins over Minnesota.
The Gophers have not beaten the Buckeyes since a 35-31 win in 1981 at Memorial Stadium. Ohio State is 9-0 at the Metrodome against the Gophers, and since Cooper took over as coach in 1988 he is undefeated (10-0) against Minnesota.
ù Defensive end Karon Riley had two sacks to give him 12 for the season. Although he has only played in seven games for Minnesota, he is fourth on the school’s career list. Ben Williams (1988-91) is third with 13. Linebacker Ben Mezera, who has eight this season, is second with 16. Lamanzer Williams (1994-97) is the career leader with 23.5.
ù Saturday’s attendance was 50,842. An erroneous news report Saturday indicated only 2,000 tickets remained, but Gophers media relations representatives spent the morning putting out the word that plenty of tickets were available. Walk up sales ended up being about 3,000.
ù As of Sunday, about 39,000 tickets have been sold for Saturday’s game with Purdue.
— Staff reporter Michael Dougherty contributed to this report