Ohio State’s defense dominated until the fourth quarter, Cardale Jones did just enough to win the game if perhaps not enough to win the starting job back from the suspended J.T. Barrett and Ezekiel Elliott hit the century mark again in a 28-14 victory Saturday night over Minnesota at Ohio Stadium.
On a day that saw Nebraska upset Michigan State, the No. 3 Buckeyes (9-0, 5-0) won their 22nd straight game overall and 29th straight in the Big Ten, matching the NCAA record for consecutive conference victories. Urban Meyer became the first coach in FBS history to win 47 of his first 50 games with a program.
“Best thing about 9-0? A chance to go 10-0 with a good bunch of people,” Meyer said. “Can’t wait to go back to work tomorrow.”
The Buckeyes will play Illinois at noon next Saturday in Champaign, Ill.
This win was far from pretty, and with the game seemingly in hand in the fourth quarter, the Buckeyes suffered a scare when Wayne High School graduate Braxton Miller had to be helped off the field after catching a deep ball from Jones. Miller suffered an apparent head injury.
“I think he’s going to be fine,” Meyer said in a postgame TV interview.
The Golden Gophers (4-5, 1-4) trailed 21-0 after three quarters. Then quarterback Mitch Leidner threw two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to make things interesting in the final minutes.
Ohio State recovered an onside kick with 2:10 to play after Minnesota cut the deficit to 21-14. Jones secured the victory with a 38-yard touchdown run with 1:53 to play.
“We knew they were going to be blitzing,” Meyer said of Jones’ run. “That was a direct run. We knew they’d be all over the place. And we wanted at that point to keep the clock running.”
Jones completed 12 of 22 passes for 187 yards with one touchdown pass to Michael Thomas. Meyer did not announce after the game if Jones or Barrett wll start the next game. Jones described his performance as below average.
Elliott extended his streak of 100-yard games to 14 with 114 yards on 26 carries with one touchdown.
“(Elliott’s) an animal. I love that kid,” Meyer said. “He’s a team player. You can see how he was holding onto the ball because they were trying to strip it there at the end. And he’s excellent in pass protection again tonight. And yeah, he’s a work horse that we’re very glad he’s going to be with us for a while.”
The Buckeyes got off to a slow start. They gained one first down on their first three possessions.
Late in the second quarter, Leidner made a big mistake. Ohio State safety Vonn Bell picked him off in the middle of the field and returned the interception 16 yards for a touchdown.
After another three-and-out by Minnesota, Ohio State’s offense showed some life at last. Jones connected with Jalin Marshall for a 44-yard pass. One play after that, Elliott scored his 14th touchdown of the season on a 15-yard run.