MINNEAPOLIS — Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett broke multiple school records as the Buckeyes held on for a 31-24 win against Minnesota.
The redshirt-freshman broke the OSU single-season record for total touchdowns when he found redshirt-sophomore wide receiver Michael Thomas in the third quarter for his 37th touchdown on the year. He also set school records for the longest run by a quarterback with an 86-yard touchdown in the first quarter and the most rushing yards by a quarterback with 189.
Co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman said after the game that Barrett is a player the Buckeyes can “lean on when the game gets tight.”
Coach Urban Meyer said the performance continued to show what kind of player the Wichita Falls, Texas, native can be after he entered the season relatively unknown.
“Early in the season, we had no idea who J.T. Barrett was. We have a very clear picture now,” Meyer said after the game.
Injured senior quarterback Braxton Miller previously held all three records.
Regardless of any records he set, Barrett said the outcome of the game was the only thing on his mind.
“My mindset all the time is to win games. Individual accolades have come with that,” he said after the victory. “But I focus on winning the game.”
Despite Barrett’s big day, three turnovers — two fumbles and one interception — by OSU (9-1, 6-0) kept Minnesota (7-3, 4-2) in the game down to the wire.
Herman said the Buckeyes can’t turn the ball over to achieve their ultimate goals, but praised the team for finding a way to hang on.
“You can’t take those turnovers away. They are what they are, and that’s what made the game close,” he said. “But I was proud of our guys to continue to battle back and continue to make plays.”
Despite struggling at times, Meyer called OSU’s performance a “great team win.”
“Not great execution, but great team win,” he said. “It was a tough environment against a very good team that we have a lot of respect for.”
After the Golden Gophers responded to an early deficit, OSU bounced back with 10 unanswered points to take a 24-14 advantage into the final 15 minutes Saturday afternoon at TCF Bank Stadium.
Heading into the game, OSU was ranked No. 8 in the College Football Playoff standings while Minnesota was No. 25.
Senior cornerback Doran Grant had praise for the Golden Gophers after the game, but commended his team for finding a way to come out on top.
“We’ve gotta give them credit,” Grant said after the game. “They were prepared, they’re tough, we just came out victorious.”
Senior defensive lineman Michael Bennett said the Buckeyes’ ability to respond to mistakes and swing momentum back in their favor helped prove the quality of their team.
“I think that’s a championship team,” Bennett said after the game. “Not just the ones that can do well during the good parts, but actually overcome adversity.”
OSU sophomore safety Vonn Bell intercepted Minnesota redshirt-sophomore quarterback Mitch Leidner early in the fourth quarter, giving the Buckeyes the ball in Golden Gopher territory.
On the ensuing drive, Barrett found senior wide receiver Evan Spencer from 22 yards out for a touchdown, making it 31-14 with 10:08 to play.
Spencer credited his teammates for springing him to a catch-and-run score.
“After I caught it, everybody cleaned up everybody and it was just a clear path to the end zone,” he said after the game.
OSU forced a punt on the ensuing drive, but redshirt-freshman H-back Jalin Marshall fumbled after signaling for a fair catch, giving the Golden Gophers the ball in the red zone. Two plays later, senior running back David Cobb scored his third touchdown of the day to bring Minnesota within 10.
All three Minnesota touchdowns came on drives following OSU turnovers.
OSU punted on the ensuing drive, and the Golden Gophers drove down to the Buckeyes’ 17-yard line. Minnesota converted on a 34-yard field goal on second-and-10, but OSU recovered the onside kick and ran down the clock to seal the seven-point victory.
The Buckeyes threatened to pull away early in the first half, but a pair of turnovers led to two Minnesota touchdowns, making it 14-14 with 1:24 on the clock.
Benefited by a 12-yard run on third-and-10 by Barrett and a pass interference against Minnesota, OSU found itself at the Golden Gophers’ 21-yard line with 16 seconds to play in the half. A personal foul against Minnesota led to a 22-yard field goal by freshman kicker Sean Nuernberger with two seconds on the clock. The kick gave OSU a 17-14 advantage heading into the locker rooms.
The Buckeyes originally had a 14-0 lead in the first quarter after Barrett scored on an 86-yard touchdown run and found Marshall for a 57-yard score. But a Barrett interception and Marshall’s first lost fumble led to two touchdowns from Cobb.
Despite taking just a three-point lead into the break, OSU outgained the Golden Gophers, 354-133, in the opening 30 minutes.
Spencer said the final scoreline would have looked much different if the Buckeyes had simply held onto the ball.
“We cut out those turnovers, it’s a completely different ball game,” he said. “But I feel as a team we had a really good team win, and that was a really great team that we just played.”
In addition to his 189 yards on the ground, Barrett had 200 passing yards and four total touchdowns. Sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliott totaled 91 rushing yards while Marshall led the Buckeyes with 95 receiving yards.
Barrett’s three passing touchdowns give him 29 on the season, just one away from tying the OSU record set by Troy Smith during his Heisman Trophy winning season in 2006.
While he put up 389 yards of total offense, Herman said Barrett could have played better, especially when it comes to the passing game.
“He didn’t throw the ball very well — obviously the conditions had a little to do with that,” he said. “I was disappointed with the way we threw and caught the ball in the first half.”
Cobb totaled 145 rushing yards while Leidner had just 85 yards through the air. In all, the Buckeyes outgained the Golden Gophers, 489-303.
With the temperature at 15 degrees for opening kick, the game was the coldest in TCF Bank Stadium history and the coldest for OSU in the past 50 years.
Spencer — a Chicago native — said the weather didn’t play a huge role, especially after players got warmed up.
“Maybe at first, but once the game started, we’re all playing football,” he said. “That’s just an element that we got to deal with, and nobody really tries to think about it too much.”
After capping off a two-game road trip, the Buckeyes are scheduled to return to Columbus on Nov. 22 to play Indiana at Ohio Stadium. The game’s start time has not yet been announced.