MINNEAPOLIS — Ohio State turned in another well-rounded victory, staying unbeaten while several other top-ranked teams couldn’t.
Chris Wells rushed for 116 yards and two touchdowns, and the Ohio State defense didn’t budge in a 30-7 win at Minnesota on Saturday night.
The eighth-ranked Buckeyes (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten) have allowed only 34 points in five easy victories, making life much easier for new quarterback Todd Boeckman. He wasn’t great, but he threw for two scores and didn’t turn the ball over — leaving Wells to wear down the overmatched Gophers (1-4, 0-2).
But as No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 4 Florida, No. 5 West Virginia and No. 7 Texas were reminded this weekend in losses to unranked opponents, superiority does not ensure success.
“Some teams are outmanned. If you don’t show up, being outmanned doesn’t matter. You can still lose,” Ohio State offensive tackle Kirk Barton said.
Boeckman delivered when the Buckeyes needed him to, throwing a perfect pass to Brian Robiskie for a 52-yard touchdown with 57 seconds left in the first half that stretched the lead to 20-7. Boeckman went 18-for-29 for 209 yards, and he drove his team 98 yards for that devastating score at the end of the half.
“That’s a great confidence booster for us,” Boeckman said, as if the Buckeyes needed any.
Ohio State joined Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan in first place in the conference, with a trip to play undefeated Purdue up next — after an expected big jump in the rankings.
“You see that stuff during the day, and you kind of realize it’s a crazy game,” linebacker James Laurinaitis said, adding: “I just feel good we got a win.”
Even punter A.J. Trapasso contributed for the Buckeyes. He pinned Minnesota inside the 20 four times and also ran 28 yards for a first down after dropping the ball at the beginning of a first-quarter fake. That extended a 12-play, 74-yard touchdown drive on their first possession.
As for the Gophers? Considering the competition, they were actually better from start to finish in this game than any of their previous performances in the first month of coach Tim Brewster’s tenure.
“This one hurts me just a little bit more than maybe some of the other ones, because I really felt like we were in this game to win the game,” Brewster said.
Playing without any pressure to win and searching for any edge they could find, they warmed up in their usual maroon home jerseys and emerged for pregame introductions with garish gold tops to match their pants.
But just as in losses to Bowling Green, Florida Atlantic and Purdue, Minnesota made a handful of egregious mistakes that wiped out most of the promising plays.
The game was essentially decided in the span of less than a minute late in the second quarter, starting with the first of freshman Adam Weber’s two interceptions.
“We had a lot of missed opportunity,” said Duane Bennett, another freshman, who ran 16 times for 34 yards after passing Amir Pinnix on the depth chart this week.
Weber tossed freshman Ralph Spry his first career touchdown reception on a 4-yard corner route that cut the Ohio State lead to 14-7. The Gophers forced a punt and put together another productive drive, only to have it thwarted when Weber’s bad throw on third down was intercepted by Malcolm Jenkins right in front of the goal line.
“It’s one of those things that could’ve changed the game,” Weber said. “Fourteen-14 right there. Who knows what would’ve happened?”
Wells ran for 33 yards on third-and-6 at the Buckeyes 6, and Jamal Harris gave away 15 more yards with a late hit. On the next play, Robiskie raced up the seam and catapulted himself above Harris to make an acrobatic catch in the end zone for a 20-7 lead. The extra point was blocked.
Harris has had two rough weeks in a row. He was the guy who picked up a blocked field goal in a 14-point loss to Purdue and inexplicably dropped the ball without being touched as he neared a touchdown.
Weber completed 27 of 44 passes for 232 yards, the one score and two interceptions as Ohio State grounded the running game — yielding only 45 yards on 29 attempts. In the second half, Minnesota ran 13 times for a net of negative-2 yards.
The Buckeyes are assured of never losing in the Metrodome, which the Gophers will move out of in the 2009 season to play in a new outdoor stadium on campus. Ohio State finished 11-0 here, leaving Michigan as the only other Big Ten opponent that Minnesota hasn’t beaten at home since moving to the Dome in 1982.