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The Buckeyes got just about everything they wanted out of Saturday's game with Minnesota. Chris Wells started and finished the game healthy...and rushed for 106 yards in between. Terrelle Pryor got his first Big Ten start, and demonstrated a growing grasp of the offense. And even Todd Boeckman got a measure of redemption in the 34-21 OSU win in front of 105,175 fans at The Shoe. The quest for another Big Ten title is on. Buckeye Dan previews the win.
The Buckeyes got just about everything they wanted out of Saturday's game with Minnesota. Chris Wells started and finished the game healthy...and rushed for 106 yards in between. Terrelle Pryor got his first Big Ten start, and demonstrated a growing grasp of the offense. And even Todd Boeckman got a measure of redemption in the 34-21 OSU win in front of 105,175 fans at The Shoe. Ohio State led 20-3 at the half, and 34-6 just a few seconds into the fourth quarter, and they cruised home despite giving up 15 late points to the Gophers.
The Buckeyes got off to a 1-0 start in Big Ten play, and they also got some help from Ann Arbor and Happy Valley of all places, as they began the defense of their Big Ten championship. Two of Ohio State's challengers,
, went down to defeat in week one of league play. Both of those teams get to host their games with the Buckeyes this season, so hanging a conference loss on both of them this early helps Ohio State in the long run.
Pryor had another scintillating performance, rushing for two touchdowns and throwing for one, before retiring to the sidelines with the Buckeyes in command 27-6 in the third quarter. He and Wells wasted no time getting rolling early. After a first down run by Pryor brought the ball to the OSU 39 on the game's third play, Wells bolted off the left side for 28 yards down to the Gophers' 33 yard line.
On the very next play, Pryor optioned right, got the corner, and turned on the speed to the goal line for his first touchdown. Just 2:13 into the game, the Buckeyes had unveiled their two-headed rushing monster. Before it was over, the two would combine for 203 rushing yards. Boom Herron contributed 50 more to the rushing total of 279 yards for the team. Coming into this game, Ohio State was averaging only 163.5 yards per game on the ground.
Pryor left the game after his 1-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter, and finished with 97 yards rushing on the afternoon. The freshman QB had a 38-yard run to open the second quarter to go along with his 33-yard touchdown dash earlier. He was 8 of 13 passing, for 70 yards and one touchdown. That score came on a nice touch pass on a fade to Brian Robiskie from eight yards out, with just 33 seconds left in the half, pushing the OSU lead to 20-3.
Robiskie had by far his best game of the season, grabbing 8 passes for 90 yards and two touchdowns. Just as important as the TD's for Robiskie were a couple of key third down receptions, one each from Pryor and Boeckman, as the Buckeyes seemed to add some precision to the passing attack. Boeckman also connected with Robiskie on the Buckeyes' final touchdown, a 31-yard pass to the back of the end zone where Robiskie laid out and snagged the ball about a foot from the ground, and cradled it for the score.
Beanie looked like he was 100%, running hard and cutting without hesitation. After his 28-yard burst on the first drive, he added a 21-yard dash up the middle that featured a complete vault of a Minnesota defender....enough to assure worried Buckeye fans that he was confident in his physical health. He came to the sidelines a couple of times with just a hint of a limp, but kept coming back in, without any apparent discomfort.
And it was good to see Tressel give Boeckman an extended opportunity in this game. The senior, who is probably the only team captain in college football who isn't a starter, entered the game in the third quarter and completed his first pass attempt, a confidence-building six-yard quickie to Robiskie. He played well overall, and the 31-yard TD pass to Robiskie was a great throw. He was 5 of 9 passing for 65 yards and the one TD, and he added an 8-yard rush.
Defense Stops the Run
Minnesota answered the early Buckeye touchdown with a first quarter field goal, after Wells was stripped of the ball and gave it up on the Ohio State 24-yard line on the first play of their second possession. The defense held the Gophers to three points, and then successfully prevented the big play by the Gophers all day. Minnesota actually had more time of possession than the Bucks, but that advantage came as they mounted a couple of fourth quarter scoring drives when the game was out of reach.
On the afternoon, the Gophers were only able to muster 81 yards rushing, with no run longer than 10 yards. Their longest play of the day was a 22-yard pass completion on their final drive of the day. Minnesota quarterback Adam Weber was pretty impressive despite the lack of big numbers. He was 23 of 36 passing, for 187 yards and one touchdown, and he only took one sack for the game, though he was harassed by Buckeye rushers throughout. As the Buckeye defense did last week against Troy, they held the Gophers to just over 5 yards per passing attempt on the day, forcing Weber to throw the ball away a number of times.
James Laurinaitis led the OSU defense with 12 total tackles, and linebacker Ross Homan chipped in with 10. Homan, who leaves the field in favor of Jermale Hines when OSU goes to their 'nickel' package, made the very most of his time on the defense against the Minnesota spread. A couple of other bright spots on defense were having five different Buckeye defenders with tackles-for-loss, and free safety Anderson Russell forcing two fumbles and recovering one of them.
Freshman defensive end Nathan Williams made another positive impression in his limited action, showing a relentless bull-rushing style, and putting some consistent pressure on the quarterback. Donald Washington had a second quarter interception of Weber that he returned for 34 yards to set up one of Ryan Pretorius' two field goals. And cornerback Chimdi Chekwa is another Buckeye defender who had a good game, at least from where I was sitting.
The two late scoring drives for the Gophers are cause for concern, if not alarm. Minnesota's QB Weber has to get the lion's share of the credit for the late surge. He showed a lot of field presence, and threw the ball very well. But on the whole, the tackling by the Buckeye defense could still be a lot better, and the pass rush needs to "finish" a higher percentage of the time. The safety play was improved this week, but the defensive line still seems to be playing below their potential.
The 4-1 Buckeyes will travel to (previously #9) Wisconsin this week to take on a Badger team stinging from their loss at Michigan, and beating themselves up for letting a 19-0 halftime lead get away. When they take the field against the Bucks, Wisconsin will find themselves out of the Top Ten national rankings, and a full game behind the leaders in the Big Ten race. It's always tough to play at Camp Randall, and a night game venue, and national TV audience await the Buckeyes. Now add to that a host team fairly desperate to avoid a second conference loss before October, and you've go the makings of a really compelling game.
For now though, the big win for OSU in the conference opener followed the preferred script almost perfectly for Coach Tressel and his staff. The team came out of the game pretty healthy, and tied for first place in the Big Ten. The young superstar QB flashed his stuff, and then exited after two and a half quarters, with his team in command. And the Big Toe survived to play another day. Bring on the Badgers!
OSU Athletic Dept. Official Game Stats
Sep 27, 2008 7:00 PM
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