Gophers run past Ohio

Minnesota’s Barber took 104 yards, 18 carries and four touchdowns.

Aaron Blake

The option was supposed to be Ohio University’s play. On Saturday, though, Minnesota and Marion Barber III came to the Bobcats’ house and stole a page out of their playbook.

Barber’s 104 yards on 18 carries and four touchdowns – which tied a school record – paced Minnesota’s 42-20 win over the Bobcats (1-2) in front of 20,227 at Peden Stadium. Barber’s first three scores came on options.

He now has eight touchdowns in three games. No other Gophers

running back has made more than one. Also, it was the first time any of the Gophers running backs accumulated 100 yards in a game this season.

“We just worked all week lining up against their defense,” Barber said. “With the way our line blocked today, it’s just great to have such a great push for all the runs.”

Quarterback Asad Abdul-Khaliq was 9 for 14 for 146 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He also contributed an eight yard rushing score in the fourth quarter before being pulled from the game in favor of backup Benji Kamrath.

Terry Jackson II had 67 yards rushing, and Thomas Tapeh added 61 with his feet, mostly on one 35-yard scamper late in the game. As a team, Minnesota gained 269 total yards on the ground.

“I don’t care at the end of the day who’s the leading rusher,” Minnesota coach Glen Mason said. “(Barber) just happens to be the guy (scoring the touchdowns). It’s not by design, I promise you.”

Quarterback Fred Ray led Ohio with 93 yards rushing and three touchdowns. He also threw for 123 yards, completing his first nine passes to keep his team afloat.

Gophers linebacker Ben West, who injured his left knee in the second quarter, recorded 12 tackles, three for loss, and a third down sack early in the game with Ohio driving in Minnesota territory.

“It wouldn’t have mattered if we were up a ton or down,” West said. “I just wanted to play. It was hurting a little bit, but they gave me a nice brace and it was pretty good after that.”

The Gophers got on the board first. An option pitch to Barber capped an 80-yard drive which took only 2:55 on the first possession of the contest.

On his first snap of the game, Ray rolled left and ran the option play Minnesota (3-0) had been preparing for all of last week. Gophers linebacker Kyle McKenzie penetrated the Bobcats offensive line instantly and popped Ray from behind, forcing a fumble recovered by defensive tackle Anthony Montgomery on Ohio’s 28-yard line.

Minnesota then gave the ball to Barber on five consecutive plays, culminating in the Gophers second touchdown of the game on an appropriate option to the left.

The Gophers were leading 14-0 before the Bobcats ran their second offensive play.

After Barber’s second score, Ohio drove to the Minnesota 22 when West’s sack forced a missed field goal attempt by Ohio’s Greg DiMarino.

The Bobcats scored on their next possession when Ray plunged in from two yards out to bring them within 14-7.

The Gophers answered quickly when Abdul Khaliq found wide receiver Aaron Hosack in the rear of the end zone. Ohio again retaliated in the form of an 8-yard scoring run by Ray.

Abdul-Khaliq was hit from behind and intercepted by Rashad Butler late in the first half to give the Bobcats the impetus. But Barber’s third score of the game on fourth and goal as time ran out made the score 28-14 and slowed the pulse of Ohio’s upset bid.

“That definitely put an exclamation point on things,” Abdul-Khaliq said. “Those guys had their confidence going. They were kind of rallying. We wanted to put a downer on those guys, and that option touchdown actually did it for us.”

The defenses owned much of the third quarter. The Bobcats recovered the ball when Barber fumbled a punt. Trailing 28-14, they had a chance to come within a touchdown, but Ray’s pass into the end zone on fourth and two was knocked down by Ukee Dozier.

Barber’s final touchdown on the ensuing drive put the game out of reach with just over one minute remaining in the period.

Ray’s third score on the ground would be but an afterthought, as Minnesota avenged a 23-17 loss to the Bobcats at the Metrodome in 2000.

“I thought we took control in the second half,” Mason said. “From an offensive standpoint we really buckled it down.”