MINNEAPOLIS – This was Ohio State's message to the College Football Playoff committee: Winning at Minnesota in the wintry weather was a tough task.
The Gophers refused to resign themselves to resume-builder status.
They just want a rematch.
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 cold conditions to beat Minnesota 31-24 on Saturday afternoon.
"We'll see them again in three weeks," linebacker DeVondre Campbell said, referring to the Big Ten championship game.
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.
The Gophers were impressed, sure, but they were more upset by the opportunities they missed. This was the coldest game, 15 degrees at kickoff, in six years at TCF Bank Stadium.
"When you play a team like Ohio State with great athletes, you can't make many mistakes or they'll beat you," said David Cobb, who ran 27 times for 145 yards and three touchdowns. "They did their job. They found a way to win."
Barrett's rushing total topped Braxton Miller's 186 yards against Nebraska in 2012, and his 86-yard score in the first quarter beat Miller's mark of 81 yards against Indiana in 2012. Barrett, with 38 touchdowns this season, also broke Miller's record of 36 in 2013.
Jalin Marshall had 107 total yards for the Buckeyes (9-1, 6-0, No. 8 CFP), but he lost two fumbles to give the Gophers (7-3, 4-2, No. 25 CFP) a chance to come back.
One was at the goal line in the second quarter with Ohio State leading 14-7, a fumble forced by Briean Boddy-Calhoun that DeVondre Campbell recovered in the end zone.
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 with 1:24 left before halftime.
"Frowns turned into smiles. It gave us a little juice. It gave us a little confidence. And if guys didn't believe in it, they definitely believed it when it was 14-14," Cobb said.
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.
Ryan Santoso's 34-yard field goal with 1:19 left cut the lead 31-24, but Ohio State recovered the onside kick and Minnesota took its 37th loss in 39 games against the Buckeyes since 1966.
"Ohio State was probably the second-best team we've played this year, behind TCU. I think TCU was a lot better. So it kind of helped us prepare a lot more, knowing coming into this game that we played a team that was similar to how they played," Campbell said.
The Gophers lost 30-7 at TCU on Sept. 13. They finish by playing at Nebraska and Wisconsin, knowing full well if they win both they'll be West Division champions and likely play the Buckeyes again in Indianapolis on Dec. 7.
"I think we have a great chance to beat Nebraska and Wisconsin. We've just got to get back to the lab tomorrow, correct our mistakes from today and I think we'll be fine," Campbell said.
Boddy-Calhoun also had an interception for the Gophers, but Mitch Leidner, who finished 7 for 19 for 85 yards, was picked off twice. Leidner played without starting wide receivers Drew Wolitarsky, who has a sprained ankle, and Donovahn Jones, who was to be held out for disciplinary reasons for two series but also reported an illness.
The Gophers were frustrated by three glaring second-half mistakes.
After Santoso's tying 52-yard field goal attempt hit the left upright, preserving a 17-14 lead for the Buckeyes in the third quarter, a blown coverage on the next possession during a moment of confusion by the Minnesota defense left Michael Thomas wide open for a 30-yard touchdown catch. Coach Jerry Kill said the cold contributed to a headset malfunction and that he wanted to call timeout.
Then in the fourth quarter, an illegal formation penalty negated a successful sneak for a first down by Leidner. Forced to pass on third-and-6, he was intercepted by Vonn Bell. Then Barrett responded with a 22-yard completion to Evan Spencer for a score that pushed the lead to 31-14.
"We didn't make enough plays when we needed to, and coach Kill is responsible for all of it," Kill said.