After jumping out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, the Buckeyes threatened to put on a clinic in beating a good team on the road for the playoff selection committee. Instead, thanks to two critical turnovers, including a fumble out the back of the endzone robbing Jalin Marshall of a would-be touchdown, the Buckeyes gave a textbook lesson in how to lose a road game. Despite putting up a commanding 341-133 yardage advantage in the first half, running for 210 yards, Ohio State only led 17-14, before a more stout defensive effort in the second half paved the way to a 31-24 win.
J.T. Barrett struggled a little throwing the football, and wasn't bailed out by his wideouts, who dropped a few passes, but was exceptional running the football, finishing the game with 189 yards and a touchdown. David Cobb paced the Gophers, getting the rock early and often, rushing for 96 yards on 16 caries and two touchdowns in the early goings. Cobb would call it a day with 145 yards and three touchdowns.
Ohio State thought they flipped the script on Minnesota's opening drive with a Doran Grant pick-six, but it was called back on a questionable pass interference call, and the Gophers were nearly able to tie the game, but their 52 -yard field goal went off the uprights. The Buckeyes were able to take advantage of the field position, finishing a drive with a 22-yard strike off a blown coverage to Michael Thomas, giving the Buckeyes a comfortable lead again, and J.T. Barrett the Ohio State touchdown record. Two interceptions helped stall Minnesota drives to make sure Ohio State kept the lead. Only a Marshall fumble on a punt return gave the Gophers their final score, where they started a drive inside the Buckeye red zone.
3 things we learned
1) J.T. Barrett is more than just an arm. A lot has been made of Barrett's ability to distribute the football and his accuracy in the passing game, and rightfully so. You don't set the Ohio State single season record for touchdowns responsible for in a season if you aren't a great passer. But Barrett was electric on the ground today, including doing a capable impression of Braxton Miller for an 8-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, setting the record for longest run by a Buckeye QB. Barrett's misdirection was Ohio State's best play on offense, and set the table for anything else they wanted to do. He might not have blistering footspeed, but he's plenty fast enough to grab 189 yards. That's a lot. It's also a school record.
2) The only thing that can stop Ohio State's offense is Ohio State. Against a very capable defense, and with lousy weather conditions, the Buckeyes were still able to move the ball very consistently, and probably should have blown out the Gophers early in the game. What stopped them? Dropped balls by wideouts, penalties putting the Buckeyes off schedule, and two backbreaking turnovers, including a fumble in the end zone by Marshall that very literarily took seven points off the board. Ohio State was good enough to withstand those mistakes against Michigan State and Minnesota, but imagine how good this unit could be if their feet weren't riddled with bullet holes.
3) This run defense still needs a little bit of work. Minnesota's strategy isn't exactly a mystery. They want to run all over you, ideally right up the middle, with a heavy dose of David Cobb. And yet, Ohio State wasn't able to slow him down enough, as Cobb was able to run for over 100 yards, three scores, and more than five yards a carry. Cobb did enough to force Ohio State to respect the play action passing game, and opened up Minnesota's playbook. Despite all the talent on Ohio State's defensive line, the Buckeyes have had an only average rush defense this season, and Navy and Michigan State were able to find success there. Ohio State will face an excellent running back next week against Indiana, and will likely face either Nebraska or Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game. The Buckeyes will need to shore up that unit if they want to leave Indianapolis as champions.