Pittman sparks second-half roll for Ohio State

Matt Perkins

Minnesota’s football team’s offense rolled up the numbers Saturday against Ohio State.

Running back Laurence Maroney had 16 carries for 114 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Bryan Cupito completed 13 of 17 passes for 198 yards and a touchdown. Wide receiver Jared Ellerson had four catches for 69 yards and a touchdown.

And the Gophers tallied 335 yards of total offense against one of the best defenses in the country.

But that was just through the first half.

The score was 17-17 at halftime before sophomore running back Antonio Pittman helped the Buckeyes win by rushing for 134 yards in the second half on just 13 carries.

Pittman, who is fourth in the Big Ten with 882 rushing yards this season, hadn’t seen the end zone all season before Saturday’s second half.

“We were always joking around with him about it,” Ohio State wide preceiver Anthony Gonzalez said. “He could have well over 1,000 yards rushing and no touchdowns.”

But the jokes ended when Pittman broke a 67-yard touchdown run right up the gut of the Gophers’ defense in the third quarter. The score gave Ohio State a 24-17 lead.

It was a play that Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel said changed the game, and Gophers’ coach Glen Mason said was inexcusable.

“Well, we gave up that long run,” Mason said. “I don’t want to take anything away from Pittman or Ohio State, but we gave up that run right up the middle of our defense. That shouldn’t happen.”

Ohio State made the adjustment at halftime to try to pinpoint an area of the Gophers defense they could run the ball at more effectively.

They found it – staring right at them.

“They come out in the second half, and they see something they can exploit,” Minnesota linebacker John Shevlin said. “They ran right up the middle. And it worked.”

Pittman wasn’t doing anything fancy either, he was simply running.

His 67-yard burst up the middle involved no cuts and little contact from the Gophers.

Yet Minnesota was still in the game heading into the fourth quarter trailing 31-24.

Then Pittman struck again.

A 4-yard touchdown run by the Akron, Ohio, native saw the Buckeyes take a 14-point lead.

Ohio State’s end-of-the-game rushing attack stood in stark contrast to the Gophers’ inability to run the ball in the second half. The Gophers rushed for 45 yards in the second half compared the Buckeyes’ 154 yards.

And Pittman made all the difference.

“Pittman is a good football player,” Mason said. “But they have a lot of good football players. It’s tough to be the marquee player on that team because they have guys waiting in line.”