Defense hopes to stop losing streak at Ohio St.

How long has it been since Minnesota last beat Ohio State at the Horseshoe?
Put it this way: Bernie Bierman was still the coach of the Gophers football squad. Bill Thiele called the signals for Minnesota. And the Big Ten was still the Big Nine.
It was Oct. 15, 1949, when the Gophers last defeated the Buckeyes at Columbus — in a 27-0 rout.
“I wasn’t even born then,” Gophers coach Glen Mason said.
Since then, Minnesota has made 15 trips to Ohio State and walked away from the Shoe a loser each time.
Saturday, the Gophers (4-2, 2-1 Big Ten) will get shot No. 16 to knock off Ohio State.
This time won’t be any easier.
The Buckeyes come into the 2000 meeting the sixth-ranked team in the nation — which is quite an improvement over last year’s squad.
The 1999 season was a bad one in Columbus. The Buckeyes had their worst record in 11 years, finishing at 6-6 (3-5). Through five games this season, Ohio State (5-0, 2-0) has almost equaled the number of wins it managed a year ago.
“They’re winning,” Mason said of the Buckeyes worthiness of being ranked so high in the polls. “They didn’t win as many games last year.”
The Buckeyes were able to muster a ‘W’ in 1999 when they beat Minnesota at the Metrodome, 20-17.
Although the Gophers were ranked 24th at the time, they were actually a three-point favorite over No. 22 Ohio State.
So when the Buckeyes ran off the field in pointing their index fingers in the air, they appeared to be celebrating an upset victory.
But after the game, Ohio State linebacker Na’il Diggs had a different view.
“The word is that we upset Minnesota,” Diggs 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’ve got.”
Mason clearly felt Diggs was wrong.
“When was the last time you saw Ohio State run around and jump up and down with their coach pointing ‘We’re No. 1’ to the fans in the stands?” Mason asked during last year’s postgame press conference. “They’re lucky to get out of here with a win, and they know that.”
With that said, it will be the Gophers who will be lucky to escape with a win this time around.
Under Mason’s direction, Minnesota is 0-1 on the road against his alma mater. In 1998, Minnesota suffered a 45-15 thumping at the hands of the Buckeyes.
Hamiltion a finalist
Gophers All-America center Ben Hamilton has been selected a finalist for the Lombardi Award, given to the nation’s top lineman, offensive or defensive.
Hamilton, Wisconsin defensive tackle Wendell Bryant and Michigan offensive guard Steve Hutchinson are the three Big Ten players on the list of 12 finalists.
The award will be announced Dec. 6 in Houston.

John R. Carter and Sarah Mitchell cover football and welcome comments at [email protected] and [email protected]