Coming off an emotional loss to Michigan, some wondered how Minnesota would play against Ohio State.
The Gophers didn't wilt, playing Ohio State tough, but in the end made too many mistakes in losing 28-14.
Minnesota's offense finally awoke late in the game, with Matt Leidner passing for 281 yards, but it would be too little too late as Ohio State, up seven, kept the ball after a failed onside kick and put the game away with a late touchdown.
Interim head coach Tracy Claeys and the Gophers certainly aren't into moral victories, but that's the only win Minnesota would get on this Saturday -- yet again.
A recap of Saturday's game:
-- Minnesota's run game was hampered with a battered offensive line -- left tackle Ben Lauer missed the game due to a concussion -- and never could get going. It didn't help that Shannon Brooks had to leave early due to a neck injury, although he only had 27 yards on 11 carries before exiting. The Gophers ran for only 33 yards on 26 carries -- and that includes only one sack.
-- The last time Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott didn't run for 100 yards was against Minnesota. The Gophers would have liked to have repeated that effort, but weren't helped with defensive tackle Steven Richardson out with an injury. Elliott did get his 100-yard game -- 114 to be exact -- but had to work for it, averaging just 4.4 yards on 26 carries. Elliott entered the game averaging 6.8 yards per carry.
-- A key early play occurred late in the second quarter when Mitch Leidner threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown. He had to rush the pass and was hit after the throw by Ohio State's Joshua Perry, who was called for targeting. However, the review by the referees indicated Leidner was not hit in the head area and the flag was picked up. Replays did show Leidner's head snapping back and the quarterback admitted after the game there was some pain in his neck.
-- Leidner had averaged 309 yards passing in the previous two games and had 281 against Ohio State. For the third time this season he had over 40 pass attempts (44).
-- Leidner had to leave for one play after taking a hard hit from Ohio State's Joey Bosa. Demry Croft had to come in with the Gophers facing a 3rd-and-9 and threw an incomplete pass.
-- Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett was suspended for this game meaning it was Cardale Jones' show. He was inconsistent and Minnesota did a pretty good job containing him, but Jones had some big plays and finished 12-of-22 passing for 187 yards with a touchdown and 12 rushes for 65 yards (which includes four sacks). Braxton Miller also saw time at QB, but was held to 11 yards on five carries.
-- We can't do it justice here, but Minnesota ran the longest executed onside kick, with a number of shiftings and running back and forth, before finally kicking the ball with it going out of bounds.
WHAT IT MEANT
Minnesota showed some grit against a tough team, but the end result is another loss. As we mentioned last week, the Gophers have an uphill climb to become bowl-eligible and that path gets bumpier with every loss. Minnesota has three games left, all against teams which currently have a winning record, and will need to win two of them.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
K.J. Maye Is Minnesota's top receiver and he stepped up in a big way, grabbing 10 catches for 116 yards with a touchdown. Among his big grabs were a first-down catch on 4th-and-4 and a 57-yard reception to set up the Gophers' second touchdown and give Minnesota some hope, albeit short-lived.
DON'T FORGET ABOUT ME
Several Gophers had a good game on defense including Cody Poock (10 tackles, .5 TFL) and De'Vondre Campbell (9 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack), but Jack Lynn had the biggest impact. Among his seven tackles were 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack, and he also forced a fumble.
Cardale Jones did not have a great game, but he had two killer plays. In the second quarter, with Ohio State up 7-0, the Buckeyes had a 3rd-and-18 and Jones ran for 19 to keep the drive alive. He then would connect with John Marshall for a 44-yard gain and Ohio State would score on an Ezekiel Elliott run to make it 14-0. Late in the fourth quarter, with the Gophers down 21-14 and looking to get the ball back, Minnesota had Ohio State with a 3rd-and-9 play only to see Jones ice the game with a 38-yard touchdown run.
60 -- percent completions by Minnesota passers, tied for the highest percent Ohio State has allowed this season, and that came in the opener against Virginia Tech (which threw 20 fewer passes than the Gophers). In fact, in Ohio State's first eight games, only three teams had completed more than 50 percent of its passes. Minnesota also had the most yards passing against Ohio State this year, 281. Only Indiana (226) had thrown for 200-plus yards.
THEY SAID IT
"When you play the No. 1 team in the country and you're on the road, the margin for error is so small." -- Claeys
"I think he (Jones) was sacked four times and that's a credit to their scheme. They outsmarted us sometimes." -- Elliott
From one road night game against an undefeated team to another as Minnesota (4-5,1-4 Big Ten) travels to Iowa (9-0, 5-0).