Not a Chance: Gophers Overwhelmed by No. 1 Ohio State
Saturday, October 28, 2006

Jack Nicklaus dots the iThe outcome was predictable in Columbus. The Ohio State Buckeyes came into the game with an 8-0 record and a number-one ranking in the nation. The Minnesota Gophers came in with a 3-5 record (0-4 in the Big Ten), their previous game a victory in score only as they beat Division I-AA North Dakota State, 10-9.

Much of the pre-game focus was on Ohio State’s Cleveland connection of quarterback Troy Smith and flankers Ted Ginn, Jr. and Antonio Gonzalez. Heisman candidate Smith came into the game with a completion rate of 67.9 percent to go with 21 touchdown passes and only two interceptions. Ginn and Gonzalez, although return threats on special teams, had combined for 79 catches between them, each averaging around 15 yards per catch.

It was the Ohio State defense, however, that dominated in the Buckeyes’ 44-0 win on a cold and windy day before a homecoming crowd of 105,443. They held the Gophers to 182 total yards, 47 on the ground. James Laurinaitis—a graduate of Wayzata High School in Minnesota and the son of pro wrestler “Animal” of the Road Warriors tag team—was involved in 11 tackles, including a sack of Gophers quarterback Bryan Cupito.

On offense, the Buckeyes eschewed the big plays and moved the ball methodically on their opening drives. Following a 35-yard kickoff return by Ginn to start the game, the Buckeyes stuck mainly to the ground in covering 57 yards in eight plays. Pittman had 37 of those yards, including the final 10 for a touchdown.

The Gophers defense toughened a bit on ensuing Buckeye drives, holding Ohio State to a 42-yard field goal by Aaron Pettrey on its next drive, which made the score 10-0. The Buckeyes’ next possession took them into Minnesota territory, but Beanie Wells fumbled and the Gophers Mario Reese recovered on the 9.

After forcing a third straight Minnesota punt, Ohio State fumbled on its second consecutive play from scrimmage, Smith having the ball knocked loose by Steve Davis as he scrambled. Neel Allen recovered at Ohio State’s 38. However, the Buckeye defense stopped Amir Pinnix on a fourth-and-one and took possession. The Buckeyes then mixed passes and runs on a 10-play, 71-yard drive. Smith capped the drive by lofting a pinpoint pass over Minnesota cornerback Jamal Harris to Brian Robiskie in the back corner of the end zone. With Pettry’s conversion, the Buckeyes led 17-0.

Things got worse for the Gophers in the second half. On their first drive, Bryan Cupito was hit on a pass attempt with the ball floating into the arms of cornerback Antonio Smith, who returned it to Minnesota’s 23-yard line. On a third-down play, Smith scrambled and then headed up field, first going to his left, then cutting back to his right, then stutter-stepping to shoot past linebacker Deon Hightower, leaving a clear path to the end zone for a 21-yard touchdown run.

Pressure forced another interception on the Gophers’ next drive. Being chased toward his own goal line by linebacker Curtis Terry, Cupito turned and launched an off-balance pass that was picked off by safety Jamario O’Neal, giving the Buckeyes the ball at Minnesota’s 41. The Buckeyes were moved back by a penalty, but on third down Smith hit Brian Hartline for a 32-yard pass. On the next play, Pittman ran for his second touchdown of the game from 13 yards out. The Gophers blocked the conversion attempt, but the Buckeyes still had a 30-0 lead.

Fourth-quarter scoring runs by backup running back Beanie Wells and backup quarterback Justin Zwick completed the Ohio State scoring.

The only blemishes on the game for the Buckeyes were three lost fumbles, two of them in their own territory. However, the Ohio State defense remained strong enough for the Gophers to capitalize on any of the turnovers.

For the Gophers, Pinnix ran for 46 yards on 14 carries. Jack Simmons, playing in place of injured tight-end Matt Spaeth, was the team’s leading receiver with five catches for 48 yards. Pittman ran for 116 yards on 21 carries while Wells ran 15 times for 90 yards. Smith added 43 yards on the ground to go with 14 completions in 21 attempts for 183 yards and a touchdown.

While James Laurinaitis had 11 tackles for Ohio State, a pair of Minnesota linebackers had as many or more. Mario Reese had 11 tackles and Deon Hightower 13. Of course, they had more opportunities to tackle as Ohio State had 67 plays from scrimmage to 51 for the Gophers. Minnesota cornerback Dominic Jones had seven tackles with one in particular standing out. He made a tremendous hit on Ray Small, who had just taken a pass in the backfield. The Buckeyes lost three yards on the play. Small held onto the ball although he suffered a concussion on the play and had to be helped off the field.

Quiet day: Buckeyes punter A. J. Trapasso was not called on as Ohio State went the entire game without punting. In addition, Minnesota placekicker Jason Giannini never got on the field as the Gophers never produced an opportunity for a point-after and didnít try a field goal. Joel Monroe had only one occasion to be on the field, and it was for the opening kickoff. The Gophers, in not scoring, did not kick off again. He was involved in more than just kicking the ball, however. Monroe made the tackle on Ted Ginn, who had been slowed up by Logan Payne, preventing a touchdown on the play.

Dotting the i: An invitation for the Ohio State Marching Band’s greatest honor, being chosen to dot the i as the band spells Ohio at halftime, was extended to Buckeye alumnus Jack Nicklaus, only the fifth invitation extended to a non-band member in 70 years. Other honorary dotters have included comedian Bob Hope and former Ohio State coach Woody Hayes.

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