Ohio State Beats Gophers 30-7
Saturday, September 29, 2007

There was little debate as to which team would win the game between Ohio State and Minnesota. The only question seemed to be how bad the carnage would be for the so-called Gopher Nation. When it was over, even though the Buckeyes prevailed 30-7, the consensus among the Minnesota fans was that it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

In fact, the game remained competitive until late in the first half, causing Minnesota coach Tim Brewster to say that the “loss hurts more than other games.” If not for what Brewster identifies the keys to any game, explosive plays and turnovers, the Gophers may have been tied rather than down 13 at halftime.

Ohio State, ranked eighth in the country and coming off a 58-7 win over Northwestern, had beaten the Gophers 44-0 last year in Columbus. Both teams lost significant players following the 2006 season. The difference is that Ohio State had much more left over, including junior linebacker James Laurinaitis of Wayzata, Minnesota, the recipient of the Nagurski Award as the country’s top defensive player.

Although they have a new quarterback, Adam Weber, the Gophers still feature a strong offense with their premier runner, Amir Pinnix, and key members of their offensive line returning. But the Gophers strong point would have to go against an even stronger point of the Buckeyes, who came into the game second in the nation in total defense, allowing an average of only 117.8 points per game.

The Ohio State offense, even without its 2006 Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, Troy Smith, running back Antonio Pittman, and receivers Anthony Gonzalez and Ted Ginn Jr., remain a force considered to have an overwhelming advantage over the Gophers weak point, its defense, particularly the secondary.

Brian Robiskie, a sophomore last year, is now the top Buckeyes receiver, averaging more than 100 yards a game while Troy Boeckman, Smith’s successor, led the Big Ten in passing efficiency. Chris “Beanie” Wells, who carried 15 times in last year’s win over Minnesota, is averaging 106 per games after taking over as the team’s premier running back this year.

Combined with the fact that the Gophers have beaten the Buckeyes only twice in the last 41 years, no one was expecting the Gophers to have much of a chance. A group of Delta Upsilon fraternity brothers from the 1960s flew in from around the country for reunion and to take in the game. One, however, said he was going to skip the game because he didn’t have the stomach to witness such punishment, adding that he would regret it for his remaining years if the Gophers pulled off an upset that would be more monumental than the Gophers’ loss two weeks before to a still-fledging program from Florida Atlantic.

He needn’t have worried even though the Gophers kept it close through most of the first two quarters. After receiving the opening kickoff, Minnesota moved downfield, starting with a 13-yard pass from Adam Weber to Ralph Spry. Duane Bennett, starting in place of Pinnix, who had limited playing time because of a bad toe, ran for a first down. Weber then connected on a third-and-12 play with a pass to Tray Herndon, good for a 24-yard gain to the Ohio State 30. The drive stalled at that point, but it left them with a chance to take the lead with a 42-yard field goal. However, Joel Monroe was wide to the right with his kick, and the Buckeyes took over on their own 26.

Ohio State got a first down, but was stopped on its second series. However, the Buckeyes opted for a fake punt on fourth-and-six from its 40. Punter A. J. Trapasso was overanxious on the play, starting to his right before securing the snap, which he dropped and then picked up before finally taking off. With a block from Marcus Freeman on Minnesota’s Nathan Triplett, Trapasso was able to make it 18 yards for a first down to the Gophers 42. “He dribbled it once,” is how Ohio State coach Jim Tressel characterized the play after the game. “He got a little excited, and he was back to his tailback days [from high school].”

After Chris “Beanie” Wells was stopped for no gain by Minnesota defensive end Willie VanDeSteeg, Boeckman went over the middle to tight end Jake Ballard for 20 yards. The Buckeyes faced a third-and-six when Boeckman hit Dane Sanzenbacher for 10 yards and a first down on the 6. On the next play, Wells cut to his left and went untouched into the end zone for a touchdown and, with a conversion, a 7-0 Ohio State lead.

In the second quarter, the Buckeyes needed only four plays to reach the end zone after starting from their own 46. Wells dodged tacklers for 15 yards, and split end Roy Small took a pitch on a reverse and streaked down the left sideline for a 37-yard gain before being knocked out of bounds at the Minnesota 2. Wells was tackled for a two-yard loss but then ran four yards for a touchdown that put the Buckeyes ahead 14-0.

Ohio State got the ball back after another Minnesota punt, but turned the ball over on downs at the Gophers 36. From here, Minnesota put together a sustained drive, helped by a defensive holding penalty, a 15-yard run to Ernie Wheelwright, and a nine-yard bootleg by Weber on fourth down that put the ball on the Ohio State 3. After Bennett was corralled by safety Kurt Coleman for a loss of one, Weber rolled right and hit Ralph Spry, who hurtled into the cone in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown.

The Gophers had cut the lead to 14-7 and one series later were on the move again. Passes to Bennett for 18 and Eric Decker for 30 yards got Minnesota to the Ohio State 19. Pinnix came in and got two yards before being crushed by Laurinaitis, and a false start by guard D. J. Harris moved the ball back to the 22. Wheelwright had a pass over the middle go through his hands, leaving a third-and-12. Weber then threw behind Decker and had his pass intercepted by Malcolm Jenkins, ending the drive and giving the Buckeyes, after a penalty for an illegal block on the runback had been assessed, the ball on their own 2.

Backed up as they were, the Buckeyes stayed on the ground and faced a third-and-six after a two-yard sneak by Boeckman and a two-yard run by Wells. The Gophers took a time out with 1:33 remaining in the quarter, hoping to stop the Buckeyes and get the ball back. Minnesota blitzed on the third-down play, but Ohio State fullback Tyler Whaley had a key block that sprung Wells for a 27-yard run before being knocked out of bounds at the 33. Minnesota cornerback Jamal Harris was flagged for a late hit on Wells, adding another 15 yards to the gain. With more room to operate, the Buckeyes aired it out, Boeckman flinging a long pass to Robiskie, who was covered by Harris as the ball floated down toward the goal line. Robiskie leapt and made an acrobatic one-handed catch for a 52-yard touchdown. “He plays the ball in the air very, very well,” said Tressel of Robiskie, and Todd loves to throw it up to those guys.” Even though Ryan Pretorius’s point-after attempt was blocked, the Buckeyes were able to go into the locker room with a 20-7 lead.

The second half was a game of field position. Ohio State’s offense stayed on the field for the majority of the final two quarters. When it didn’t score, it moved the Gophers offense back. After giving up 199 yards from scrimmage in the first half (47 on the ground and 152 in the air), the Buckeyes’ defense held the Gophers to 78 yards in the second half.

Ohio State got a 43-yard field goal from Pretorius in the third quarter and capped the scoring on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Boeckman to Brian Hartline with two-and-a-half minutes left in the game.

Boeckman completed 18 of 29 passes for 209 yards in the game while Weber was 27 for 44. Robiskie led all receivers with 99 yards on five catches, and Beanie Wells ran for 116 yards. Laurinaitis led all tacklers with 14 (6 solo and 8 assisted).

”We did what we had to do to get a Big Ten road win, but we know we’ll have to do better than this a week from now,” said Tressel, referring to the Buckeyes’ upcoming game against 5-0 Purdue in West Lafayette.

While his Gophers fell to 1-4 overall and 0-2 in conference play, Brewster said, “The plan is working.”

Going for the Gold: The Gophers came out in gold jerseys, a tribute, Brewster said, to the 1967 co-Big Ten champion Gophers, who were in attendance. Never mind that the Gophers did not wear gold jerseys in 1967.

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