Ohio State Holds on for 31-24 Win over Minnesota
November 15, 2014

The Minnesota Gophers battled and fought back but fell to eighth-ranked Ohio State 31-24 in the final home game of the season on a cold day, with light snow falling and the game-time temperature 15 degrees.

Both teams were coming off big victories. Minnesota had raised its record to 7-2 (4-1 in the Big Ten) with a 51-14 win at home over Iowa. Ohio State, on the road, racked up 568 yards on offense as it beat seventh-ranked Michigan State 49-37 to raise its record to 8-1 (5-0 in the Big Ten). The performances vaulted the Buckeyes into the top 10 in the rankings and Minnesota into the top 25.

Ohio State is led by freshman quarterback J. T. Barrett, who had to step in after a season-ending injury to Braxton Miller before the season started.

At a press conference during the week, Minnesota coach Jerry Kill had been asked if Barrett was the best quarterback in the conference. Kill didn’t give a definitive answer, noting that the Gophers had not yet seen him play. By the end of the game, Kill was in a position to extol the talents of the freshman while also commenting on how good Miller was.

“They do a pretty good job recruiting,” said Kill of the Buckeyes’ ability to get two quarterbacks of this caliber. Regarding the one the Gophers faced, Barrett, Kill said, “The dude can run.”

The first half featured big plays on offense by Ohio State and big plays on defense by Minnesota.

On its second possession Ohio State faced a third and one on its 14 when Barrett demonstrated his multi-threat skills. On a keeper, he weaved through traffic and outran a group of pursuers, making a final directional change to open up room on an 86-yard touchdown run. Although he showed it on this play, after the game Barrett said, “I don’t have crazy breakaway speed.”

The Buckeyes followed this up with a 57-yard scoring pass from Barrett to Jalin Marshall, who took the pass and escaped Cedric Thompson, running the final 40 yards untouched to the goal line.

Barrett was in control, but he faltered late in the quarter when, from the Ohio State 44, he overthrew Corey Smith. Briean Boddy-Calhoun intercepted the pass at the Minnesota 5 and returned it 56 yards. David Cobb then went to work, taking five rushes to cover 39 yards into the end zone to cut the Buckeyes lead in half.

Later in the quarter Barrett kept a drive going on third down with a 38-yard run to the Minnesota 34. The Buckeyes drove to the 7. Marshall took a pass and headed for the goal line. He was a yard short when Boddy-Calhoun knocked the ball loose and into the end zone where Minnesota’s DeVondre Campbell recovered for a touchback.

The Gophers again converted the turnover into a score, keeping the drive alive with a fourth-down conversion and setting up a game-tying 30-yard touchdown run by Cobb with 1:24 left.

Curtis Samuels returned the ensuing kickoff from the goal line to the Ohio State 38, and the Buckeyes were able to get to the Minnesota 5 with 2 seconds left. Sean Nuernberger kicked a field goal to put Ohio State back in front, 17-14, as the half ended.

At the half, Barrett had rushed for 168 yards and Cobb for 98. Ohio State had a large advantage in yards from scrimmage, 354 to 133, but the turnovers kept Minnesota in the game. Mitch Leidner completed only two passes in the half for Minnesota. His big target, tight-end Maxx Williams, had only one reception for five yards.

The Gophers received to start the second half and had a chance to tie the game again; However, Ryan Santoso’s 52-yard field-goal attempt bounded off the left upright.

Ohio State struck again as Barrett took advantage of blown coverage with a 30-yard scoring pass to a wide-open Michael Thomas in the end zone. Kill had an interesting explanation for the coverage mishap. From upstairs, defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys wanted a time out. However, Kill’s headset was frozen, and he missed the message. “That’s a first in my career,” said the coach after the game.

The Buckeyes looked to have the game put away early in the fourth quarter. After Vonn Bell intercepted a Leidner pass, Ohio State drove and took a 31-14 lead on a screen pass to Evan Spencer, who followed blockers and dodged traffic for a 22-yard score.

The Gophers, forced to punt on their next possession, got another break when Marshall called for a fair catch but dropped the ball on his 11. Miles Thomas of the Gophers recovered on the 10. One play later, Cobb ran 12 yards for a touchdown.

Minnesota, down by 10, used all of its time outs on the Buckeyes’ next possession, which ended at the Minnesota 46 and brought a punt into the end zone with 2:34 to play.

The Gophers reached the Ohio State 17 and stopped the clock with 1:23 left. On first down, Kill elected to have Ryan Santoso put them within reach of a touchdown by kicking a 34-yard field goal.

The Gophers chances came down to an onside kick, but the Buckeyes’ Jeff Heuerman covered it, and the Buckeyes ran out the clock.

“On the road and with turnovers, we still win,” said Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, who added that his team had not shown great execution.

In the other press conference, Kill said, “We made three or four critical errors, and, against Ohio State, you just can’t make them.”

One of the other critical errors was an illegal-formation penalty in the fourth quarter when the Gophers faced a third and inches from their 38. Moved back five yards, Leidner passed and was intercepted by Bell, setting up Ohio State’s final touchdown.

The Buckeyes fell short of their offensive total against Michigan State, but still had 489 yards from scrimmage against the Gophers, who had 303. Barrett carried 17 times for 189 yards and completed 15 of 25 passes for 200 yards. Jalin Marshall had 5 catches for 95 yards, although his two turnovers kept the Buckeyes from pulling away. Joey Bosa had 7 tackles, including 1 sacks for a loss of 12 yards.

For the Gophers, Cobb carried 27 times for 145 yards. Leidner was 7 for 19 in passing for 85 yards with 2 interceptions.

The Gophers complete their Big Ten season with games at Nebraska and Wisconsin. These three teams were tied for first in the West Division. Wisconsin beat Nebraska to take a one-game lead over the Cornhuskers and Gophers.

Of the loss to the Buckeyes, Kill said, “No hangover. Back to work Sunday. We control our own destiny.”

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