“It’s something we talked about all year is coming out in the second half and playing well,” head coach Ryan Day said. “You try to identify the areas you want to improve on, and that was an area we wanted to do a good job with. So good to see us come out like that and give us a little bit of a cushion and give us an opportunity to get some of those guys out of the game and resting up for next week.”
Here are five things to know about the Buckeyes’ improving to 11-0 overall and 8-0 in the Big Ten:
1. The No. 1 defense allowed 119 yards.
Minnesota finished with 159 total yards, the fewest for an Ohio State opponent since Indiana had 153 in the season-opener.
Forty of those yards came after the reserves took over in the fourth quarter, but a 54-yard field goal by Dragan Kesich ruined Ohio State’s bid for its first shutout of the season.
The Buckeyes logged an interception and a fumble recovery to finish with multiple takeaways for the first time since they had two against Maryland on Oct. 7, and they had seven tackles for loss despite playing a second straight game without middle linebacker Tommy Eichenberg.
2. The offense had to overcome terrible field position in the first half.
The Buckeyes’ average starting field position in the first half was their own 9.
They got the ball at the 15 to begin their first possession then began from the 3, 13, 11 and the 3 again.
That may have played a role in putting up nearly 300 total yards before intermission but managing only 13 points.
In the second half, the pendulum swung the other way thanks to a pair of turnovers that gave the Buckeyes the ball at the Minnesota 6 and 29.
Ohio State’s average starting field position ended up being its own 29.
3. The offense wasn’t as sharp as last week.
The Buckeyes set a high bar after gaining 530 yards against Michigan State, but they were hoping to build on that performance ahead of their trip to Michigan, where the nation’s No. 1 scoring defense resides.
“I thought we moved the ball well in the first half, but obviously left some points, especially in the red zone,” quarterback Kyle McCord said. “If we complete those it’s a completely different feeling. We were just off a little bit and as a result left some points on the field. The second half was cleaner execution for us. I think the biggest thing is just getting all those little errors.”
Ohio State finished with 434 total yards, including a season-high 215 on the ground.
TreVeyon Henderson had another big game, rushing for 146 yards on 15 carries, including a 75-yard touchdown run to open the third quarter.
4. McCord had a health scare.
The junior starting quarterback, who has dealt with a gimpy ankle much of the season, went down awkwardly on a sack to end the second quarter.
He limped to the locker room at halftime but did not miss a snap until the starters were pulled in the fourth quarter.
He looked a little stiff when he took the podium for postgame interviews but said he was fine.
“No, I mean obviously a little bit of a weird tackle there, but popped up and just started moving on it so I’m good,” he said.
McCord ended up completing 20 of 30 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns without a turnover.
5. The Buckeyes came out pretty healthy for The Game.
Starting safety Josh Proctor returned after missing a week with what appeared to be a head injury, but Eichenberg and starting nose tackle Mike Hall Jr. did not suit up.
Day said Eichenberg, a senior from Cleveland, could have played, but the head coach talked him into resting an arm injury for one more week.
He also sounded hopeful Hall will be ready to go, but he did not elaborate on what kept him out after he left last week’s game early.
On offense, No. 2 receiver Emeka Egbuka caught five passes for 83 yards as he continues to work his way back from a midseason leg injury.
Stat of the game
Ohio State won the turnover battle for the first time since being plus-2 at Maryland in early October. The Buckeyes were also plus-2 against the Golden Gophers.
Jack Sawyer had a game-high six tackles, including 3.5 for loss. His strip-sack in the third quarter set up Ohio State’s third touchdown and gave the Buckeyes plenty of breathing room.