A Win And A Bye

Ohio State avoided a trap game last night.  They waxed the struggling Minnesota Golden Gophers, 52-10, in Minneapolis.  The Buckeyes now get a week off to heal and prepare for the last three games of the regular season, against Penn State, Iowa, and Michigan.

The Buckeyes played well.  They racked up more than 500 yards of total offense, and both the passing game and the running game were hitting on all cylinders (although Terrelle Pryor, who otherwise has an excellent game, no doubt wishes he could take back an ill-advised pass that was intercepted at the Minnesota goal line).  Defensively the Buckeyes gave up a few long passes down the middle but otherwise held a pretty good Minnesota offense in check.  The Buckeyes blew the game open by scoring 17 unanswered points in the second quarter, then added a special teams score and a defensive touchdown in the second half.

It’s hard to know what to make of last night’s game, because Minnesota clearly is not a very good team right now.  The Buckeyes should be satisfied with their win and will look forward to a bye week to rest up and get ready for the final push.  Currently Ohio State is one of four one-loss teams atop the Big Ten — Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Iowa are the others — and the tough, bad-weather games on tap for November will tell the tale in the battle for the conference championship.

A “Trap Game” In The Land Of The Golden Gophers

Tomorrow night Ohio State will play at Minnesota.  It is one of those “trap games”  — a game that the Buckeyes are expected to win, but also a game that poses challenges.

It has been a tough season for the Golden Gophers.  They are 0-4 in the Big Ten, having lost to Northwestern, Penn State, Wisconsin, and Purdue, and 1-7 overall.  They had an embarrassing defeat to South Dakota, and earlier this season they fired their coach.  Still, Minnesota has managed to put points on the board in its conference losses.  They are led by a senior quarterback, Adam Weber, who has thrown for 17 touchdowns, and a big, tall, receiver, Da’Jon McKnight, who has caught nine of those scoring passes.  They have two good running backs who share rushing duties.  The Golden Gopher defense, however, has been a problem all season.

You would expect Ohio State to win this game, but there is reason for Buckeye fans to be wary.  This game is a way for the Minnesota players to salvage something from an otherwise lost season.  The Golden Gophers will be playing under the lights on national TV before what is likely to be their biggest crowd of the season.  They just saw their arch-rival, Wisconsin, beat Ohio State in a night game, and they will be fired up to duplicate that achievement.  I would expect Minnesota and its interim coach to pull out every stop and use every play in the playbook to try to win tomorrow night’s game.

As I said, it’s a trap game.  I hope the Buckeyes are ready.

Paean To The Iron Men

The Ohio State men’s basketball team beat Illinois in double overtime yesterday, in their second game in two days.  Today they face Minnesota in the Big Ten Tournament championship game.  As with the Michigan game on Friday and the Illinois game yesterday, the Golden Gophers no doubt feel they need to win to make the NCAA tournament — and winning today’s game would give them an automatic bid.

William Buford and David Lighty, two of the "Iron Men"

For the Buckeyes, the first two games of the tournament have been nail-biting classics.  Evan Turner’s shot on Friday to beat the Wolverines already has entered Ohio State lore, and yesterday’s thriller against Illinois was a game of runs and cold spells where Illinois twice had the chance to win the game on a last-second shot but was unable to even get the shot off.

Whatever happens today, you have to give tremendous credit to the Buckeye starters.  Yesterday two of the starters, David Lighty and William Buford, never left the floor; they played the full 40-minute regulation game and both five-minute overtime periods without a breather.  Evan Turner, who fouled out with a minute left, played 49 minutes; Jon Diebler, who sat for a bit in the first half with foul trouble, played 40 minutes.  The box score for the game is here.  Those four are true “Iron Men” playing a fast-paced game where the players are constantly in motion and in contact with their opponents.

As a fan, I would like to see the Buckeyes win today, but I would like to see them do so with more help from their bench.  The last thing we need, with the NCAA tournament only days away, is a season-ending injury that occurs because players are fatigued.  And it would be nice if Ohio State didn’t have to play again until Friday evening, too.  Even Iron Men can use some rest now and then.