Minnesota at Ohio State 10-24-09

October 24, 2009

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Minnesota (4-3) at (18) Ohio State (5-2)


Saturday, October 24th, 12:00 p.m. (et)


GAME NOTES: The 18th-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes will try to bounce back from a shocking loss, as they entertain the Minnesota Golden Gophers in Big Ten play this weekend in Columbus.

The Buckeyes had everything going for them heading into last weekend’s bout, including a streak of 16 straight Big Ten road wins, one shy of the conference record. OSU was even playing a 1-5 Purdue club that had lost five straight games, so it was rather unthinkable the team wouldn’t come out on top. However, when all was said and done, the Buckeyes were unable to overcome sloppy play and instead suffered a stunning 26-18 upset to the Boilermakers.

“You have to take your hat off to Purdue,” said head coach Jim Tressel. “They won the turnover margin, they did a nice a job on special teams and they did what they needed to do. For us, the true test of a team is how they handle difficult situations, and we’re in that right now.”

Prior to last weekend, OSU had won four straight games, outscoring foes 132-27 during the stretch, following an 18-15 loss to USC in the second contest of the season. The loss to Purdue dropped the program 11 spots in the rankings and things won’t get any easier down the stretch for the Buckeyes, whose last three opponents are Penn State, Iowa and Michigan.

For the Gophers, they too are coming off a poor performance, although their 20-0 loss last weekend at nationally-ranked Penn State wasn’t exactly surprising.

“Obviously, disappointed to lose the football game,” said head coach Tim Brewster. “We didn’t play well enough offensively to sustain anything really from the beginning.”

It was clearly the worst effort of the season for Minnesota, which now sits at 4-3 overall and a level 2-2 within the conference.

Saturday’s meeting is the 49th between Minnesota and OSU on the gridiron, with the Buckeyes holding a commanding 41-7 lead, including a 21-3 advantage in Columbus. OSU has won the past six encounters in the series and that takes into account a 34-21 triumph in last season’s meeting.

Last weekend, the Gophers had one of their worst offensive performances under coach Brewster, as they managed a measly 138 total yards, including a dismal 37 rushing.

“Penn State’s defense is outstanding, said Brewster. “We still, obviously, have a lot of things that we need to improve upon offensively to be a better football team, a better offensive football team.”

Quarterback Adam Weber’s poor play has certainly hurt this Minnesota offense, which is averaging only 293.7 total ypg on the year. The junior gunslinger has struggled with the pro-style offense of the Gophers and he threw for just 101 yards and a pick last weekend, one week after passing for only 74 yards and two interceptions against Purdue. Weber has thrown just six touchdowns against nine picks this season and if his struggles continue he could end up on the bench.

Despite Weber’s struggles, wideout Eric Decker has had a terrific campaign and ranks among the top receivers with 47 catches, 731 yards and five touchdowns. Minnesota’s most decorated wideout however, has been held in check each of the last two games, including a one-catch performance against Penn State.

Minnesota’s ground game is virtually non-existent, averaging just 103.4 ypg, and that has put all the pressure on Weber and Decker.

The Gophers’ defense only gave up 20 points to Penn State, but the group did very little to slow down the Nittany Lions. Minnesota yielded 464 total yards, including 177 rushing, and failed to record a single turnover or sack. The unit also spent nearly 42 minutes on the field, allowing Penn State to convert 11-of-17 third downs.

“We still have an issue on third down defense and getting off the field,” said Brewster. “We have to do a better job getting off the field on third down and the third and longs are the ones that are really hurting us as a football team.”

Opponents are converting 51 percent of the time on third downs against Minnesota’s defense and that is simply too high of a rate. The Gophers are also giving up 393.0 total ypg and that certainly won’t get the job done either.

Lee Campbell and Nate Triplett however, continue to produce for the defense and they are two of the top tacklers in the Big Ten with 77 and 70 stops, respectively.

The Buckeyes trailed 23-7 late in the third quarter and despite a valiant comeback attempt, they were unable to get past Purdue, falling 26-18 in a shocker. OSU managed just 287 yards of offense, including only 66 rushing, and committed five turnovers that ultimately made the difference.

“Any time you give them field position, especially with their kicker, you give them scoring opportunities and you can’t expect to win,” said coach Tressel of his team’s turnovers that aided the Boilermakers.

Quarterback Terrelle Pryor was heavily pressured and he didn’t respond well, losing a pair of fumbles and throwing two more interceptions. He did have 221 yards and a score through the air and 34 yards and a touchdown on the ground, but the mishaps are all anyone could remember. Pryor is certainly an elite talent that can get the job done on the ground (367 yards, four TDs) or through the air (1,169, 10 TDs), but he is prone to mistakes and has thrown eight interceptions already.

DeVier Posey is Pryor’s go-to receiver with 30 catches, 355 yards and four scores on the season, and he made nine catches for 87 yards and a touchdown last weekend.

In the backfield, Brandon Saine is the team’s top rusher with 381 yards, helping OSU average a respectable 157.0 ypg on the ground this season.

OSU’s defense was solid last weekend considering the unit was put in several bad spots due to turnovers by the offense. Despite several important stops, the Buckeyes still surrendered 361 total yards, which is above their average of 284.6 ypg allowed. The defense also spent over 36 minutes on the field, as Purdue went 7-of-18 on third downs.

On the positive side, the Buckeyes did force three turnovers, including two interceptions, and they now have 12 picks to their credit this season. The defense has also recorded 19 sacks, although the group managed only one last weekend.

Kurt Coleman accounted for that lone sack, to go with five stops and a fumble recovery. Brian Rolle though, heads the team with 61 stops on the year, as he has played a big part in the team’s ability to limit foes to a mere 87.9 ypg on the ground.

The Buckeyes are coming off a loss that takes them out of the national title picture, but they still have a good shot at the Big Ten title if they can rebound. Expect OSU to bounce back in a big way and put last weekend’s performance behind it with a trouncing of Minnesota.

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