Chase Complete: In Frigid Minneapolis, Ohio State Beats Golden Gophers in Sloppy Game

By Patrick Maks on February 2, 2015 at 8:35 am
Ohio State's players celebrate a win in frigid Minnesota.
Chase Complete: Recapping Ohio State's Improbable Title Run

On an exceptionally cold and snowy afternoon in mid-November —even by Minnesota standards — Urban Meyer, whose face was flushed from withstanding biting winds for the last three hours, sniffled in between sentences at his postgame press conference at TCF Bank Stadium, where his Ohio State Buckeyes had just topped the Golden Gophers, 31-24. 

"I don’t want to see this one on the schedule for a while," he said with a faint smile. "Certainly not in November.” 

  1 2 3 4 F
#8 OHIO STATE 14 3 7 7 31
#25 MINNESOTA  0 14 0 10 24

In a game where his surging squad, fresh off a monumental win against Michigan State the week before, out-gained Minnesota, 489-303, in the most unideal conditions, Ohio State committed four turnovers (two fumbles, two interceptions).

And while the contest never appeared in doubt for the eighth-ranked Buckeyes, the win lacked the sort of flair needed to effectively jockey in a fluid national picture and the rat race for a spot in the first-ever College Football Playoff.

Yet Meyer, as he pondered over the final stat sheet, offered a different perspective when asked what message his team had just sent to the selection committee who would decide its fate in a month. 

“I’d like to see anybody in the country come up here and do this, come up here in November on Nov. 15," he said. 

"I challenge any team in the country that wants to go ahead and schedule this one in November against a very good team. Have at it. That’s our message.”

Player of the Game: J.T. Barrett 

After combining for 395 yards and four touchdowns, Barrett became the school's single-season touchdown leader and found himself a throw away from matching former quarterback Troy Smith's single-season record of 30 touchdown passes. 

Barrett, who said he was unaware he had accomplished the list of feats, said his goal was to "win games. Bottom line."

"I mean, I didn’t know I was close today, glad it happened. But my mindset is all the time is to win games and all the individual accolades come second to me," he continued, "so it wasn’t something I was focused on."

Perhaps most of all, though, the afternoon provided another glimpse at the quarterback's  evolution from the wide-eyed youngster thrust into the starting lineup in place of Braxton Miller to a potential Heisman Trophy contender. 

"I think you can tell the kind of trust we have in him ... We have a lot of confidence in him. Like I said, early in the season, we had no idea who he was. I had no idea this is what J.T. Barrett is," Meyer said. "I have a very clear picture of who he is now."

Critical Play of the Game: Barrett's 86-yard run to go up, 7-0

In a game where Ohio State relied on Barrett's legs more than his arm, an 86-yard run to go up, 7-0, in the first quarter set such a tone.

On 3rd-and-1, the redshirt freshman quarterback tucked the ball and sprinted to his left before galloping the length of the field as a throng of defenders chased him from behind. 

J.T. Barrett outruns Minnesota's defense for 86 yards.

The moment offered a lighthearted exchange between Meyer and Barrett, who sat next to each other during postgame interviews.

"I feel like I have a good ability to run but I definitely don’t have crazy, breakaway speed like Braxton," Barrett said.

"Think about that for a minute," Meyer said with a wide smile. "J.T. Barrett took one 86 yards. Pretty good for a guy that runs a 5.5 40."

When asked if the coaching staff underestimated his speed, Barrett straightened up in his chair and said, "Yeah I think they did a little bit, you know what I’m saying. All season, workouts, I’m normally in front but that’s more conditioning and things like that. But when they talk about me running a 4.8, I’m like, man, don’t play me like that."

What It Meant

While Ohio State entered Minneapolis in search of critical style points to buoy their College Football Playoff hopes, they left content after winning the coldest game in the history of TCF Bank Stadium (which is saying something considering Minnesota gets really, really cold a lot). 

The Buckeyes, which committed four turnovers and struggled to stop running back David Cobb in the first half, were flawed in their performance. But it did little to knock their status in the selection committee's weekly rankings. 

“A great team win," Meyer said. "Once again, I didn’t say great execution all the time, but really in that kind of environment, not bad."

The victory also moved Ohio State one win away from clinching a return to the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis. 

Asked what it was like to be able to leave freezing Minnesota after a gutsy win, Meyer smiled and said it felt "like we’re one game away from winning the East championship, that’s what it’s like. I think they want to get the heck out of here, that’s what they want to do."

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