With J.T. Barrett suspended, the Ohio State offense mostly sputtered on Saturday night. The Buckeyes defense dominated until it faltered in the fourth quarter, but then allowed Minnesota back in the game. Yes, Ohio State caused more anxious moments than there should have been in a 28-14 victory over the Golden Gophers.
With J.T. Barrett suspended, the Ohio State offense mostly sputtered on Saturday night.
The Buckeyes defense dominated until it faltered in the fourth quarter, but then allowed Minnesota back in the game.
Yes, Ohio State caused more anxious moments than there should have been in a 28-14 victory over the Golden Gophers.
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"Not what we would expect," coach Urban Meyer said. "We expect to play better."
But the Buckeyes won, and at this point in the season, that's what it's all about. Unlike a year ago, when an early loss to Virginia Tech meant that Ohio State needed help to reach the College Football Playoff, the Buckeyes control their fate for getting one of the four invitations.
Ohio State (9-0, 5-0 Big Ten) has won 22 straight games, the longest streak in the country.
"It wasn't pretty at times, but we got our ninth win and continued that streak," offensive coordinator Ed Warinner said.
"It was a grinder. Not every win is going to be as beautiful as you'd like. But wins are wins, and that's a good win against a well-coached, good football team."
How good Minnesota (4-5, 1-4) is is open to question, but the Gophers do play rugged defense.
As Buckeyes opponents have tended to do, Minnesota stacked the line and dared Ohio State to win through the air. With Barrett suspended because of his OVI charge, Cardale Jones was back at quarterback.
Too often, Jones was off-target or reacted too slowly, either in sensing pass-rushers or cutting loose with his throws. He completed 12 of 22 passes for 187 yards with one touchdown.
He was candid in his self-assessment.
"Below average," Jones said.
The Buckeyes gained only 55 yards on their first 21 snaps. Their first four possessions ended in punts.
"It was all self-inflicted wounds," Jones said.
It took Ohio State's defense to provide the jump-start. After 25 minutes of scoreless play, safety Vonn Bell intercepted a pass and returned it 16 yards for a touchdown.
"They'd run that play earlier," Bell said. "They knew we were in (man-to-man coverage), so they were going to try to pick me. I took a picture in my head and said they were going to run that play again, and I jumped in front of him and made a play for the guys."
Ohio State's offense finally got rolling on its next possession to make it 14-0 at halftime on a weaving 15-yard run by Ezekiel Elliott. The junior gained 112 hard-earned yards to extend his streak of 100-yard games to 14.
When Michael Thomas caught a 4-yard touchdown pass to make it 21-0 in the third quarter, the Buckeyes seemed safe. But they blew additional scoring chances when Jones fumbled and Jack Willoughby missed a 35-yard field-goal attempt.
Ohio State's defense, which didn't allow the Golden Gophers to gain more than 9 yards in eight of their first 10 possessions, then had some breakdowns. When Rashad Still caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Mitch Leidner with 2:10 left, Minnesota trailed only 21-14.
After a failed onside kick, Jones clinched the victory with a 38-yard touchdown run on third-and-9.
"We have to make sure we finish games," linebacker Joshua Perry said. "We don't want to survive; we want to thrive around here.
"We know how serious it is in November. We've got tough games coming up. We know you can't really achieve your goals at the end of the year if you're not playing well in November. We definitely have things to work on, but I do think we have some momentum going."
Barrett watched the game from the Ohio State coaches' press box and delivered a halftime pep talk.
It seems likely that Barrett will be the quarterback this week against Illinois, though Meyer wouldn't commit to that on Saturday.
With Barrett, and the zone-read threat he adds, the Buckeyes had gotten on a roll. But even if Ohio State lacks style points, victories are all that matter now.