The Minnesota Golden Gophers welcome the Ohio State Buckeyes to TCF Bank Stadium this week. The Gophers are 7-2 and locked in a tight race for the Big Ten West, and they're coming off of a dominant 51-14 performance against Iowa last week. Ohio State, of course, took care of Michigan State on Saturday to establish themselves at the top of the Big Ten East.
The Buckeyes hold the all-time series lead against the Gophers, and it isn't close. The Buckeyes have won 42 of the teams' 49 matchups over time. Ohio State dominated the Gophers from 1982-1999, establishing a 16-game winning streak over Minnesota in that timeframe. The 1989 contest, however, very nearly broke the streak.
The Buckeyes were coming off of their first losing season since 1966 and had jumped out to a solid start in 1989. They traveled to Minnesota to face the Gophers with a 4-2 record. Minnesota punted after the Buckeyes forced a three and out on the Gophers' first possession in the Metrodome, but things quickly went south for the Buckeyes as Rich Huffman muffed the punt and Minnesota recovered on the Buckeyes' 28-yard line and promptly scored two plays later.
The Buckeyes just couldn't get anything going. After a sack that resulted in a Greg Frey fumble that was recovered by the Gophers on the Ohio State 22-yard line, Minnesota extended their lead to 10-0 -- and it got worse from there. The Gophers' pass rush consistently disrupted Frey, turnovers and missed opportunities haunted Ohio State, and at the end of the first quarter Ohio State had eight yards of total offense and trailed 17-0. The Gophers piled on, taking advantage of Buckeye mistakes and extending their lead to 31-0 with 4:29 remaining in the first half. Things were looking grim for the Buckeyes.
But it only takes one mental mistake to swing the momentum of a game, and Minnesota was penalized for having 12 men on the field during an Ohio State punt, giving the Buckeyes a fresh set of downs on their own 35-yard line. A pass interference call against the Gophers gave the Buckeyes another boost, and after the Gophers held them on third down, giving Ohio State a fourth and one at the Minnesota one-yard line, Carlos Snow was able to roll it into the end zone for the Buckeyes' first points of the day. A two-point conversion attempt was successful, cutting Minnesota's lead to 31-8. On their next possession the Buckeyes added a field goal, making it a three-possession game with plenty of time remaining.
The Buckeyes forced a fumble - Minnesota's first of the 1989 season -- and recovered on the Minnesota 23, but then promptly threw an interception. The defense forced a Gopher punt that was downed at the one-yard line, and the Buckeyes took it all the way down the field to score. By the end of the third quarter they had narrowed the deficit to 31-18. The game was within reach with a quarter to play.
The Gophers added a field goal and extended their lead to 16 with 11:24 remaining in the game, but the Buckeyes were undeterred. On their next possession, another Carlos Snow touchdown and a successful two-point conversion, also from Snow, made it 34-26. The Buckeyes defense, surely energized by the offensive turnaround, forced a three-and-out, but a miscommunication between center Greg Beatty and Greg Frey resulted in a fumbled snap, Ohio State's sixth turnover in that game, and the Gophers recovered. Another Minnesota field goal extended their lead to 37-26.
On the Buckeyes' next drive, a holding call negated a touchdown pass and the Buckeyes found themselves in a third-and-goal situation from the 18 yard line. A 17-yard pass put the Buckeyes on the one-yard line, and head coach John Cooper decided to go for it on fourth down. Frey scored on a quarterback keeper, and another successful two-point conversion brought the Buckeyes within three points of the Gophers.The defense forced a three-and-out on the most critical series of the game, forcing the Gophers to punt and giving the Ohio State offense a little under two minutes to secure a win.
And that's precisely what the Buckeyes did. They drove down the field and added a touchdown, and with the successful PAT, established a four-point lead over the Gophers. Minnesota had 15 seconds remaining to try to get the win, but they were unable to do so. At the time, the Buckeyes erasing a 31-point deficit was tied for the biggest comeback win in college football history. The Buckeyes finished the 1989 season 8-4.