Work in Sports
COLUMBUS, Ohio (Ticker) -- For the second straight year, Minnesota has tarnished another team's seemingly golden season.
Travis Cole completed 16-of-28 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns, leading Minnesota to a 29-17 Big Ten victory over previously unbeaten Ohio State in the Buckeyes' homecoming.
The Buckeyes (5-1, 2-1 Big Ten) had risen steadily in the polls after starting the season 15th, but after an impressive 23-7 win at Wisconsin last week, found themselves stunned in front of a sellout home crowd of 98,120.
The strong start helped Buckeye fans forget last year's disappointing 6-6 season, but the shocking defeat coming in the team's only home game this month could put coach John Cooper back on the hot seat.
Before today, Ohio State had defeated Minnesota 16 straight times and had won 27 of the last 28 meetings. The Gophers defeated the Buckeyes for the first time since a 35-31 decision in 1981.
"We're getting better, we're improving. We are what we are," Minnesota coach Glen Mason said. "We have a bunch of tough kids who I wouldn't trade for anybody. They're scrappy. We're going to enjoy this victory until the plane lands in Minneapolis and then we have Indiana next week."
The win had to have special meaning for Mason, who is a 1972 graduate of Ohio State and was a letterman on the Buckeyes 1970 Big Ten championship team. He spent 1978-85 as an assistant at Ohio State under Woody Hayes and Earle Bruce.
"Obviously it was a great team victory for us today," Mason said. "Sure, it is more meaningful for me. I have great feelings for this university. If Ohio State wouldn't have recruited me out of Jersey and given me a scholarship and if coach (Woody) Hayes hadn't hired me to come back and coach, I probably wouldn't be sitting here today as head coach of the University of Minnesota. I am deeply indebted to this place. I have a lot of memories, very good memories."
The Golden Gophers (5-2, 3-1 Big Ten) scored the first five times they touched the ball on the way to their first win in Columbus since 1949, when they shut out the Buckeyes, 27-0.
Last year, the Golden Gophers went to State College on November 6 and upset second-ranked Penn State, 24-23, ending the Nittany Lions' winning streak at 11 games.
Today, sophomore Dan Nystrom kicked field goals of 24, 34 and 42 yards for Minnesota, which moved into a tie for the Big Ten lead with Northwestern and Purdue. Nystrom has hit 10 straight field goals.
Whereas the Golden Gophers needed Nystrom's 23-yard field goal on the last play of the game to pull off the upset of the Nittany Lions last year, today they shocked the Buckeyes, taking charge from the opening kickoff and never letting up.
They rolled up 270 yards of total offense in the first half, and held the Buckeyes to 100.
"We were beat today by a team that outplayed us," Cooper said.
"They outplayed us on offense. They outplayed us on defense. As much time as we spend on pass protection, we relied too much on Steve (Bellisari) throwing the ball."
The Gophers took the opening kickoff and marched 71 yards on 18 plays to set up Nystrom's 23-yard field goal and then held Ohio State to a three-and-out.
"I thought the first drive of the game by our offense was very critical, very impressive," Mason said.
Minnesota blocked Ohio State's punt, and Jimmy Henry gobbled up the ball on the Buckeyes 20. Three plays later, Scooter Baugus took a two-yard pass from Cole in the middle of the end zone, and the Gophers led 10-0.
An 81-yard kickoff return by Ken-Yon Rambo gave the Buckeyes some hope, but Minnesota's stiff defense forced Ohio State to settle for a 32-yard field goal by Dan Stultz.
Cole's three-yard pass to Ron Johnson with three seconds left in the first quarter gave Minnesota a 17-3 lead, and after two field goals by Nystrom in the second, the Golden Gophers were up 23-10 at halftime.
"We were playing poorly in the first half," Cooper said. "I thought the worst thing we could do was have Minnesota score before the end of the first half. I've seen it happen too many times when you take yourself out of the game in the first half.
My thinking was let's just get out of the first half, and go back and discuss what we need to do for the second half."
Darnell Saunders pulled in a four-yard pass from Bellisari in the far right corner of the end zone with 12:24 left in the game, and Ohio State held Minnesota to get the ball back with plenty of time left.
The Golden Gophers responded, though, shutting down the Buckeyes on their next possession, and then marching 74 yards on 13 plays, capped when Tellis Redmon broke free over left from the Ohio State 20 and charged into the end zone to put Minnesota up by 12 with 4:51 to go.
Redmon finished with 118 yards on 30 carries, and Johnson caught eight passes for 163 yards as Minnesota totaled 381 yards.
Bellisari came into the game having completed 54 percent of his passes was the 12th-ranked quarterback nationally, but he was baffled by the Golden Gophers defense. He completed just 11-of-28 for 130 yards.
"We have got to bounce back," Cooper said. "We obviously weren't ready to play. That's my fault. I'm the head coach.
It seems like we were out of sync the whole day offensively."