Gophers downed by Buckeyes

Minnesota has now lost its last three games and falls to 4-5 on the season.

Quarterback Mitch Leidner runs toward the Minnesota sideline after scoring a touchdown at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday Oct. 31, 2015.

Image by Liam James Doyle

Quarterback Mitch Leidner runs toward the Minnesota sideline after scoring a touchdown at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday Oct. 31, 2015.

by Melissa Steinken

Minnesota was able to keep it close on the road against No. 1 Ohio State, but a lack of offensive production limited the team, which lost its third game in a row against the Buckeyes 28-14. 
Ohio State was up a touchdown with two minutes left on Saturday, but a 38-yard touchdown run by redshirt junior quarterback Cardale Jones clinched the game.
“When you play the No. 1 team in the country, and you are on the road, the margin for error is so small,” interim head coach Tracy Claeys told reporters after Saturday’s game. “We talked about that all week and just made one or two mistakes that we didn’t counter with our own big plays in the first half.”
Minnesota (4-5, 1-4 Big Ten) was down 14 points late in the fourth quarter but brought the game within one score after a six-play, 78-yard touchdown drive. Redshirt junior quarterback Mitch Leidner capped off the drive with a 10-yard pass to freshman wide receiver Rashad Still.
The Gophers then unsuccessfully attempted an onside kick, and Ohio State scored just three plays later on the Jones run.
“It was good to see us battle back in the second half, especially when things weren’t exactly going our way offensively,” Leidner told reporters after Saturday’s game. “I give our defense credit for giving us the opportunity to get back on the field and get a few drives together, and it was good to see the offense battle back.”
The game was scoreless late in the second quarter, but Ohio State reeled off two touchdowns at 3:59 to make the score 14-0 at the end of the first half.
The first touchdown of the game came on a 16-yard interception return for a touchdown by Ohio State junior safety Vonn Bell. The play was originally called back for targeting by senior linebacker Joshua Perry on Leidner, but officials reviewed the penalty and picked up the flag.
“After replays showed it wasn’t targeting, they picked up the flag, which I understand,” Claeys told reporters. “It’s part of the game … next play mentality, move on. I don’t have any control over it, so we’re moving on.”
The Gophers went three-and-out after the interception return, and Ohio State scored again on a drive that included a 44-yard pass by Jones and a 15-yard touchdown run by junior running back Ezekiel Elliott.
Elliott finished the game with 114 rushing yards and the touchdown, but it was Jones’ running abilities that shined in Saturday’s game.
Jones had a 19-yard run on third-and-18 to keep the Buckeyes scoring drive alive late in the first half. He finished with 65 rushing yards in the game.
“We’ve been known to struggle with scrambling quarterbacks in the past,” redshirt senior cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun told reporters after Saturday’s game. “I’m not sure if it was the call or if he was just there ready to make a play when a gap opened up.”
Leidner struggled for most of the game but had a strong fourth quarter and ended the game with 281 passing yards on 44 attempts with two touchdowns and one interception.
Leidner has the three highest passing totals of his career in the Gophers’ last three games.
Leidner threw his first touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter to finish a 10-play, 77-yard drive for Minnesota. The touchdown went to senior wide receiver KJ Maye, who finished with 116 receiving yards. 
Minnesota’s running game struggled against Ohio State, with only 33 yards on 26 carries. First year running backs Shannon Brooks and Rodney Smith both missed time in the game with injuries.
The Gophers were held scoreless in the first half for the second time this season and dropped their second road game of the season.
“We have to find a way to get some points on the board in the first half, finish one or two drives out to get some points, and then you’re in a lot better shape,” Claeys told reporters. “They’re a good football team, and we battled with them foot-to-foot and had a chance to have our opportunities.”