Sometimes the toughest games to win should be the easiest.
After a 26-18 loss to Purdue in a contest in which Ohio State was favored by 13 points, the Buckeyes (5-2, 3-1) now welcome underdog Minnesota (4-3, 2-2) to Columbus.
The one-sidedness in the teams’ history can’t be ignored; OSU has won 22 of its last 23 meetings with the Golden Gophers.
But as coach Jim Tressel emphasized a week ago, the Buckeyes can’t take lightly any opponent deemed inferior.
“We’ve got to do a good job of making sure we really, really know what it takes to win,” Tressel said.
Overall, OSU has won 41 of the 48 contests between the two schools, the best record of any Big Ten team against the Gophers. The Buckeyes hold a 21-3 advantage at Ohio Stadium.
Last season, a late Minnesota spurt molded a 34-3 mauling into a more respectable 34-21 loss to OSU.
In the victory, the Bucks piled up 279 yards on the ground, including 97 yards on just eight carries by quarterback Terrelle Pryor.
Pryor has struggled to find such success lately. His four turnovers paved the way for Purdue’s upset, as the OSU offense has sputtered in consecutive weeks. Still, Tressel firmly maintained that Pryor wouldn’t be benched for his subpar play.
Minnesota didn’t fare much better last week either, losing 20-0 in blustery, snowy Beaver Stadium to Penn State.
Despite the loss, Gophers coach Tim Brewster contends that facing such upper-tier competition has been good for the team.
“We’re a battle-tested football team,” he said. “We’ve been in battles against really good football teams, against outstanding football teams. And I think that’s a benefit for our team.”
Brewster doesn’t consider the Buckeyes vulnerable, despite Purdue putting an end to OSU’s 16-game conference road winning streak.
“Ohio State is Ohio State,” he said. “I think once you establish who you are as a football team, and what I mean by that is, you’re going to play hard every week, you’re going to get their best shot every week, and I don’t think that there’s going to be extended motivation because of the loss last week against Purdue.”
In the letdown against the Boilermakers, the Buckeyes were victimized by nine penalties, five turnovers and little boost from an inconsistent offense. Tressel said the team will continue to search for answers about the struggle to score points, but will continue to focus on each individual doing his specific job.
“The question I think you have to ask yourself in the mirror, is there something we’re doing that is contributing toward not being good in a critical situation, just like if you had the ongoing discussion about the guys up front?” Tressel said. “Well, the cardinal principle there is, you can’t miss an assignment because what that can do to the rest of the world, well, then you know he didn’t want to miss an assignment, he didn’t go out there with the intention of missing an assignment, so what is it we had him thinking about or we didn’t work on enough that would have led to us missing an assignment.”
While the Buckeyes hunt for solutions, the Gophers will try to mimic the success that Purdue enjoyed last week. Brewster said the team has reviewed the Boilermakers’ upset strategy and taken several pointers in preparation for Saturday’s meeting at The ‘Shoe.
“I thought [Purdue] really played really good defense,” he said. “They did a great job rushing the passer, forcing Terrelle Pryor to make some decisions, some quick decisions, some decisions under duress. Purdue did a great job in their secondary. They really made some plays. And the game is about, you know, play makers, players making plays. Purdue had a couple of guys step up and make big time plays in that game to really help their cause.”
Minnesota will attempt to replicate Purdue’s success when the Buckeyes and Golden Gophers clash at Ohio Stadium Saturday at noon.