#8 Ohio State Outlasts #25 Gophers 31-24
MINNEAPOLIS -- J.T. Barrett threw for three touchdowns and ran for an Ohio State quarterback-record 189 yards and another score, helping the eighth-ranked Buckeyes overcome three turnovers and wintry weather to beat Minnesota 31-24 on Saturday afternoon.
Barrett completed 15 of 25 passes for 200 yards and one interception, another stellar performance for the freshman following last week's rout of Michigan State.
Barrett's rushing total topped Braxton Miller's 186 yards against Nebraska on Oct. 6, 2012, and Ohio State stayed on track in pursuit of a place in the College Football Playoff.
Jalin Marshall had 107 total yards for the Buckeyes (9-1, 6-0 Big Ten, No. 8 CFP), but he lost two fumbles to give the Gophers (7-3, 4-2, No. 25 CFP) a chance to come back.
David Cobb ran 27 times for 145 yards and three touchdowns, but Minnesota didn't quite do enough to avoid a 37th loss in 39 games against Ohio State since 1966.
Briean Boddy-Calhoun forced two turnovers for the Gophers in the coldest kickoff, 15 degrees, in six seasons at TCF Bank Stadium. The lowest temperature in more than a half-century for a Buckeyes game featured snowflakes collecting on coach Urban Meyer's uncovered head on the sideline.
Whether in wintry or summer-like conditions, though, Ohio State has the fastest team in the Big Ten. The 12th-ranked Spartans and their otherwise-dominant defense learned that lesson last week.
On third-and-1 on the second possession for the Buckeyes, Barrett kept the ball on a read-option play and burst through the line into a wide-open secondary for an 86-yard run, the longest by an Ohio State quarterback.
Minutes later, on third-and-7, Barrett slide-stepped to his left to elude the rush and put an off(equals)balance throw in stride for Marshall sprinting across the middle as safety Cedric Thompson dived to break up the pass and missed. Marshall turned up the field for the 57-yard untouched score.
Barrett has accounted for 38 touchdowns, 34 since the loss at home to Virginia Tech on Sept. 6.
The Buckeyes were driving again when Minnesota reversed the momentum. Like a center fielder, Boddy-Calhoun caught up to a long pass at the 5 before whirling around and weaving his way for a 56-yard return of the interception. Five punishing carries by Cobb later, the Gophers were in the end zone.
Then midway through the second quarter, Marshall caught a shovel pass on a sweep from the 7 and was on the verge of another touchdown when Boddy-Calhoun lowered his shoulder at the goal line and popped the ball out. DeVondre Campbell covered it in the end zone for the touchback.
The Gophers went 80 yards the other way, converting a fourth-and-3 and then scoring on a display of confidence in their power running attack with a 30-yard rumble by Cobb on third-and-15 that tied the game at 14 with 1:24 left before halftime.
For Minnesota's shivering fans, waiting so long for a breakthrough in the Big Ten, this proved to be the peak of the afternoon. The Buckeyes, aided by a pass interference penalty, hustled in position for a short field goal by Sean Nuernberger on the last play of the half.
Given another break when Doran Grant's interception return for a touchdown was negated by his pass interference infraction, the Gophers watched a 52-yard field goal try by Ryan Santoso soar through the snow with plenty of distance but bounce off the left upright.
Barrett responded by finding Michael Thomas wide open for a 30-yard score, and Mitch Leidner was picked off on consecutive possessions. The Buckeyes followed the second one with a 22-yard catch and run by Evan Spencer on third-and-12 to push the lead to 17 points.
Marshall's fumbled punt return gave Minnesota the ball at the 14, and Cobb returned to the end zone to bring the Gophers closer as the clock moved under 8 minutes remaining.
But Barrett helped the Buckeyes make sure the Gophers didn't get closer, roaming right for 6 yards on third-and-5 during the next drive to put the Gophers in a big hole.
Santoso made a 34-yarder with 1:19 left to make it 31-24, but Ohio State recovered the onside kick.
Grant and Vonn Bell had the interceptions of Leidner, who finished 7 for 19 for 85 yards.