Ohio State went to Minnesota for the season opener, and played a closer game than Buckeye fans would have liked. But the Gophers fell just short, and Ohio State won by a score of 45-31.
Though Ohio State was favored by two touchdowns going into the game, Minnesota had the lead going into halftime.
The Buckeyes got a 10-0 lead to start, but the Gophers got aggressive and went for it on fourth down early in the second quarter. That move ended up paying off, and led to the first Minnesota touchdown of the game. The Gophers had all the momentum going into halftime, up 14-10.
C.J. Stroud settled in and threw two deep touchdowns in the third quarter. Haskell Garrett got a scoop and score to put the Buckeyes up by ten points, and gave the Buckeyes a lead that turned out to be insurmountable. The two teams would exchange scores for a while, but Ohio State closed the game out by the fourth quarter.
Ohio State Holds On To Beat Minnesota 45-31
Ohio State’s explosive offense blew Minnesota’s defense away. Ohio State’s shortest touchdown of the day was Garrett’s 32-yard fumble return. Chris Olave had 99 yards on his two touchdown receptions alone. Miyan Williams and TreVeyon Henderson, the two running backs, each had a touchdown of 70-plus yards on the day.
In contrast, Minnesota leaned on its offensive line and running game. The Gophers often substituted in extra linemen to pound the ball, and it nearly worked. Not only did the offensive line pave the way for the run game, but they also protected the quarterback in the pass game.
C.J. Stroud’s First Start
For the first time since J.T. Barrett in 2014, Ohio State’s starting quarterback had no previous completed passes in his career. Stroud got his first start as a Buckeye against Minnesota.
The freshman quarterback took a while before he looked comfortable, and even then still looked green. The 19-year-old Stroud completed only eight of 14 passes in the first half, with only 58 yards and an interception.
In the third quarter, he completed three of five passes for over 105 yards and two touchdowns.
The weather sure didn’t help, as the rain kept Garret Wilson and Olave from helping Stroud as much as they would have liked to.
Nevertheless, Stroud ended the game with 294 yards and four touchdowns in the Buckeyes win over the Gophers.
Ohio State Defense-The Good
Denzel Burke was pressed into service after two veteran cornerbacks were scratched from the game. He was the first player of the 2021 recruiting class to see the field, which is surprising considering how decorated the class is. But he proved himself quickly with several pass breakups and open field tackles. Defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs rotated most players on defense, but Burke stayed on for most of the game.
Josh Proctor rotated at safety last year, but has the job full time this year. He had some great tackles in the run game, and had an interception that was negated by an iffy roughing the passer call.
These two were helpful in keeping Tanner Morgan to a pedestrian box score in the passing game.
Ohio State Defense-The Bad
Because of the Gophers’ experience on the offensive line and the threat of Mohamed Ibrahim, Coombs knew the run game would be important to stay on top of. He was right, and Ibrahim had 30 carries with 163 yards and two touchdowns before leaving the game in the fourth quarter with an injury.
To help stop the run, Coombs rotated pretty much every player on defense. It’s unclear whether they were still evaluating players or if it was to keep everyone fresh, but it didn’t help much. The chemistry didn’t work, and the players’ focus took too long to lock in.
As a result, Minnesota gained 203 yards on the ground, with three touchdowns and four yards a carry.
Main Image: Courtesy AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn