Gophers trampled at the Horseshoe

The Buckeyes led the entire game and nearly held Minnesota scoreless.

Gophers trampled at the Horseshoe

Marco LaNave

COLUMBUS, Ohio âÄî The Gophers were in position to ruin homecoming at Ohio State, but they ended the game as the wounded ones on Saturday. After trailing 7-0 at halftime, Minnesota (2-3 Big Ten, 4-4 overall) played the entire second half without its best offensive player and stumbled to a 38-7 loss by allowing a season-high 509 yards to the No. 18 Buckeyes (4-1, 6-2) before a crowd of 105,011 at Ohio Stadium . Gophers senior wide receiver Eric Decker injured his left foot in the first quarter and did not play the final three quarters of what was nearly the second straight shutout loss for Minnesota. Decker had three receptions for 27 yards, but his left foot hit the ground awkwardly as he caught a 16-yard pass along the Ohio State sideline with 2:02 remaining in the first quarter. He jogged off the field and had his foot examined on the Gophers sideline. He returned to the field for the ensuing third-down play, but he appeared unable to run and left the game for good. At the start of the second half, Decker came to the Gophers sideline in street clothes with crutches and a boot on his left foot. Gophers head coach Tim Brewster said he was told Decker had a sprained left foot and that he would know more about his status on Sunday. âÄúItâÄôs other guysâÄô opportunities to step up and make a play,âÄù Brewster said of the injury to Decker, who had been limited to four receptions for 92 yards in the two games prior to Saturday . âÄúIâÄôm disappointed that we didnâÄôt make more plays at the receiver position, because certainly the opportunities were there.âÄù The Gophers receiving corps combined for 10 receptions for 120 yards after the first quarter but also dropped several passes. âÄúIt was pretty obvious that other receivers had to step up, and we had a couple dropped balls,âÄù said sophomore wide receiver Troy Stoudermire , who led the Gophers with four receptions for 47 yards. âÄúIt wasnâÄôt enough, and to play against a team like Ohio State, you canâÄôt have that many mistakes.âÄù Stoudermire was at the center of MinnesotaâÄôs biggest momentum-swinging gaffe. Minnesota had prevented Ohio State from extending its 7-0 lead when senior safety Kyle Theret intercepted a pass just inside the goal line with less than a minute to go before halftime. Minnesota was set to receive the second-half kickoff, but a short kick forced Stoudermire to run up to the GophersâÄô 32-yard line, where he muffed the kick, giving the Buckeyes the ball. âÄú[The ball] was floating; the wind caught it, and it took it a different direction,âÄù said Stoudermire, who dropped each of the next two kickoffs and was subsequently relieved of his kick-returning duties by true freshman Bryant Allen . StoudermireâÄôs fumble was the first of MinnesotaâÄôs four second-half turnovers that led to 24 points by Ohio State, which was burned by its own five turnovers in an Oct. 17 loss at Purdue . âÄúItâÄôs a recipe for disaster to go on the road in the Big Ten and turn the football over,âÄù said Brewster, who fell to 5-16 in Big Ten games and 0-7 against ranked opponents as MinnesotaâÄôs head coach. The Buckeyes capitalized on nearly every Gophers miscue. It was a scoreless game in the second quarter when a personal foul penalty on Gophers senior defensive tackle Eric Small gave Ohio State an extra 15 yards. On the next play, Buckeyes quarterback Terrelle Pryor threw a 62-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver DeVier Posey , who was open 10 yards beyond the Minnesota defense because of a coverage mishap. âÄúWhen one guy messes up âÄî unless someone else compensates for it âÄî theyâÄôre going to score,âÄù said senior linebacker Lee Campbell , who led the Gophers with 13 tackles. Pryor later ran for a 15-yard touchdown off of StoudermireâÄôs fumble and found Posey again for a 57-yard score with 2:59 remaining in the third quarter. The subject of criticism and controversy after a four-turnover performance against Purdue, Pryor rushed for 104 yards on 15 carries and completed 13 of 25 passes for 239 yards. Posey finished with a career-high 161 receiving yards. The Gophers were gashed by the BuckeyesâÄô scoring drives, each of which took less than two minutes. For the second consecutive week, the Gophers allowed a season high in total yards. They also allowed an opponent to convert at least half of its third-down chances for the fifth consecutive game . The defense had little room for error because of the continued offensive struggles. The Gophers converted a season-worst one third down in 10 chances . After DeckerâÄôs final reception put the Gophers at the Ohio State 47-yard line at the end of the first quarter, the offense didnâÄôt reach Buckeyes territory again until the final two plays of the third quarter. By that time, Ohio State had built a 28-0 lead. âÄúObviously, losing Deck hurts; heâÄôs like that guy we can always go to,âÄù senior tight end Nick Tow-Arnett said. âÄúRight now, I think our offense just has to find that rhythm, I think thatâÄôs what weâÄôve been lacking the last couple games.âÄù