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Football: No. 3 Ohio State survives defensive struggles, defeats Minnesota 30-14

Ohio State redshirt senior wide receiver Terry McLaurin (83) catches a 41-yard touchdown in the first quarter of Ohio State’s matchup against Minnesota. Ohio State won 30-14. Credit: Amal Saeed | Assistant Photo Editor

The Ohio State defense came out showing it may have learned from its mistakes from the week before.

After allowing 22 yards on three plays, including a 13-yard reception by Minnesota junior wide receiver Tyler Johnson, redshirt freshman quarterback Zack Annexstad took a shot, something Indiana did many times against the Buckeyes’ press man coverage.

Instead of another reception on a 50/50 ball by the offense, Ohio State redshirt junior cornerback Kendall Sheffield picked the ball off, recording his second interception of the season.

The Sheffield interception could have been a launching point for the Ohio State defense. However, when the dust settled, the shock of the interception wore off, the defense struggled in some of the same ways it had before in the first half.

However, after shutting out the Golden Gophers in the second half, No. 3 Ohio State  had enough to defeat Minnesota 30-14 for the Buckeyes’ seventh-straight win.

After the Sheffield interception, the Minnesota offense had its way with the Ohio State defense. Utilizing an offensive line that pushed the Buckeyes defensive line around up front, allowing no pass rush and creating holes for the backs, the Golden Gophers recorded two touchdown drives in the first half, taking over nine minutes off the clock on a combined 20 plays.

Minnesota redshirt freshman running back Mohamed Ibrahim took advantage of the room to run, recording 105 yards on 14 carries with two touchdowns in the first half. He finished the game averaging 7.3 yards per carry, with 146 yards on 20 carries.

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer was not pleased with the performance of the rush defense and saw similar problems in the passing game, especially in the first half.

“That player, their back had 160 yards rushing against us, and that’s not acceptable,” Meyer said. “And like you said, he was only 13 of 23, but I see the same thing, those slants, and we are — we’re a team that challenges every throw, and when you get beat, that’s a problem. So that’s something that’s not a strength right now.”

Despite allowing 149 yards in the second half, with backs averaging 4.6 yards per carry, Ohio State did not allow a Minnesota score in the second half, something Meyer said, along with the turnovers, was the difference in the game. 

Offensively, the storylines for Ohio State stayed the same from its victory against Indiana.

Despite the increased awareness of run blocking by both the offensive line and tight end positions in the days leading up to Saturday’s win, Ohio State still struggled, averaging 2.9 yards per carry.

Redshirt junior running back Mike Weber led the team with 13 carries, averaging 3.9 yards per carry. Sophomore running back J.K. Dobbins added added 35 yards on 10 rushes, averaging less than four yards per carry for his third straight game.

However, the running game did not keep Haskins from continuing his success in the passing game from last week.

With a 7-3 deficit in the first quarter, Haskins found redshirt senior receiver Terry McLaurin for a 41-yard score, McLaurin’s seventh of the season and his third in two games.

McLaurin wasn’t Haskins’ main target, though. Beginning the game with a 42-yard reception in the first drive, redshirt junior K.J. Hill was the go-to for the redshirt sophomore quarterback.

Hill erased Ohio State’s 4-point deficit in the second quarter. After Haskins overthrew him, the redshirt wide receiver brought the ball down on a one-handed catch, running it in for the 36-yard score.

“It shows just more trust in the quarterback that, you know, if I can catch it one hand, I’ll definitely catch it two hands,” Hill said. “As a team, you know, I feel like that gave us momentum. I just tried to make a play and give us a spark.”

Hill finished the day with a career-high 187 yards receiving on nine receptions, extending his streak of 27 consecutive games with a reception. He added another touchdown in the fourth quarter, a 27-yard touchdown pass from Haskins.

Haskins finished the game completing 33 of 44 pass attempts for 412 yards, his second straight game of at least 400 yards through the air, with three touchdown passes.

As the first quarterback in Ohio State history to ever throw for 400 yards twice in a career, Haskins said the Minnesota defense proved to be a tough challenge for the offense, but will use their performance as something to grow from.

“The offense, not everything’s going to be pretty,” Haskins said. “There’s going to be adversity no matter who we play, especially a team like Minnesota. They’re a great defense. We just had to fight through adversity, made the plays when they mattered, and that’s a good learning tool for next week.”

Annexstad continued to move the ball against the Ohio State offense in the fourth quarter. But after starting the drive with a 41-yard completion after a double-reverse, the redshirt freshman quarterback threw a prayer into the endzone, which was intercepted by sophomore safety Isaiah Pryor, securing the victory for the Buckeyes.

Redshirt senior kicker Sean Nuernberger was sidelined from the game Saturday after suffering what Ohio State called a “minor strain.” In his absence, sophomore kicker Blake Haubeil connected on three field goal attempts, making a 47-yard field goal in the third quarter.

Junior defensive end Jonathon Cooper and junior linebacker Malik Harrison also did not play in Ohio State’s win over Minnesota, both sidelined with concussions. Meyer also said redshirt junior cornerback Damon Arnette and redshirt junior defensive lineman Robert Landers suffered injuries in Saturday’s win over Minnesota. 

Sophomore left tackle Thayer Munford left the game with an injury in the third quarter and did not return. Meyer said, after the game, Munford rolled his ankle and has “a little bit of a hip issue,” but expects him to be ready to play next week. 

No. 3 Ohio State will try and continue its winning streak as the Buckeyes travel to West Lafayette, Indiana to take on Purdue at 7:30 p.m next Saturday.

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