The Gophers football team felt good at halftime of the season opener against No. 4 Ohio State on Thursday. They were singing in the rain with a 14-10 lead at a sold out Huntington Bank Stadium.
But third quarter was a nightmare as the Buckeyes outscored the U 21-7 and Minnesota’s star running back Mo Ibrahim was lost to what appeared to be lower left leg injury.
Minnesota had retaken the lead at 21-17 with 10 minutes left in the third quarter, but the Big Ten favorite Buckeyes quickly scored 14 points and kept running to a 45-31 victory.
In a flash was a one-play, eight-second touchdown drive, a 56-yard touchdown pass from new quarterback C.J. Stroud to standout receiver Garrett Wilson. On the next drive, top-tier defensive linemen Zach Harrison and Garret Haskell combined for a strip sack and score.
Harrison beat left Sam Schlueter and forced a fumble of quarterback Tanner Morgan and Garrett scoped it up and scored from 32 yards out to make it 31-21.
The rain started to soak in, fans quieted and headed for the exits.
In the end, Ohio State had six total touchdowns, each of them massive gains: 71 yards, 70, 61, 56, 38 and 32. They added a field goal on one red zone trip.
The Buckeyes extended their stranglehold on the series to 46-7. The Gophers last win was 2000 in Columbus and the last victory in Minneapolis was 40 years ago in 1981. Since 1969, Minnesota is 2-40 against Ohio State.
Ohio State coach Ryan Day is now 16-0 in Big Ten games, and he won his third game after training at the half.
The first half flipped when Gophers coach P.J. Fleck decided to go for it on fourth and 1 from his own 29-yard line when the U trailed 10-0 midway through the second quarter.
After a timeout, Gophers tight ends Ko Kieft, Brevyn Spann-Ford and left tackle Sam Schlueter opened a hole, Ibrahim made a defender miss after the line of scrimmage and busted off a 56-yard run to the Buckeyes’ 15.
“We didn’t come here to lay up,” Fleck said on KFAN at halftime.
Two plays later, Tanner Morgan found Dylan Wright for a 13-yard touchdown. Wright, a transfer from Texas A&M, high-pointed the ball in tight coverage for a stunning play he was making during fall camp, too.
On the next drive, cornerback Terell Smith was in the right place when Ohio State star Chris Olave dropped a pass over the middle. Smith intercepted it and Minnesota scored nine plays later with Ibrahim’s 1-yard rush to take a 14-10 lead.
The Gophers defense started 2021 just like they did 2020: with brutal rush defense. They didn’t set the edge, safety Tyler Nubin missed a tackle and Buckeyes running back Miyan Williams was gone on a 71-yard touchdown run.
The Gophers punted on their next drive, the Buckeyes drove into the U red zone, but the U tightened up and forced them to to kick a field goal for a 10-0 lead.