COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Gophers kept it close against No. 2 Ohio State in the first half on Saturday.
If they were Boy Scouts, and that moral victory were represented in the modest of merit badges, their vest was set ablaze in the second half.
After the Gophers trailed only 13-0 after 30 minutes, the Buckeyes bulldozed them in the opening 67 seconds of the second half, scoring 14 quick points in an eventual 37-3 loss at Ohio Stadium.
On the first play of the second half, running back Treyvon Henderson broke loose on a 75-yard touchdown run. On the U’s first play, quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis was strip-sacked; the Buckeyes recovered and returned it 15 yards. Three plays later, star receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. caught a touchdown pass.
The Gophers couldn’t stop, drop and roll to put out their incenration. Ohio State out-gained Minnesota 432-159.
Kaliakmanis threw an interception on the next series and it led to a Buckeyes field goal.
After Ohio State put together a 16-play touchdown drive to make it 37-0 early in the fourth quarter, many of the 104,019 fans wearing scarlet and gray headed for the exits.
No. 2 Ohio State (11-0, 8-0) might have started slower in a potential trap game, with The Game against fellow unbeaten Michigan coming next Saturday in Ann Arbor, but the Buckeyes shifted into high gear after the break.
The Gophers (5-6, 3-5 Big Ten) haven lost three straight games and still need one more win to reach bowl eligibility. They have one last chance in the Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe against Wisconsin next Saturday.
Minnesota avoided its first shutout since the end of the 2017 season with a 54-yard field goal from Dragan Kesich midway through the fourth quarter.
The Buckeyes offense averaged 10 yards per play on its opening touchdown drive, but didn’t have the same success on the next four drives. Minnesota forced a three-and-out on the next drive. They were stopped inside Minnesota’s 30-yard line and forced to kick two field goals to extend a 13-0 lead.
Two of Minnesota’s offense drives went inside the Buckeyes 45-yard line, but instead of go for it on two different fourth-and-5 situations, head coach P.J. Fleck opted to punt.
The Buckeyes defense came into the game allowing less than 10 points per game, but Fleck opted against looking to strike in rare opportunities in Ohio State territory.
Minnesota punter Mark Crawford had a strong first half, with all five of his punts downed inside the 20-yard line. He had two 5o-plus-yard punts, long with two inside Buckeyes territory, and all of them forced Ohio State to sustain long drives.
Minnesota has now lost 12 straight games to Ohio State since a win at The Horseshoe in 2000.