Grading the Buckeyes: Rushing defense stars in win over Minnesota

The No. 3 Buckeyes could have big heads just like their mascot. They have won 22 games in a row and 29 straight in the Big Ten. Ohio State could think a lot of itself — and it probably does because it has won all but two games by 18 or more points — but it has seen enough evidence in its own games and in upsets across the nation to know it’s not unbeatable.

Here’s how Ohio State graded in its victory over the Gophers:

Passing offense: Cardale Jones improved to 11-0 as a starter with another frustrating performance. He did throw a touchdown pass, and he did avoid interceptions, but he failed to energize the offense the way J.T. Barrett did in the previous game against Rutgers.

Barrett had an efficiency rating of 236.84 in the 49-7 victory at Rutgers. Jones’ rating was 140.95 on Saturday. That’s very close to his season average of 141.64. He completed 12 of 22 passes for 187 yards.

Ohio State’s offensive line did not help Jones’ cause. The Buckeyes allowed a season-high four sacks. Grade: B-

Rushing offense: Ezekiel Elliott failed to break free for a long run. His longest was his 15-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.

Elliott did hit 100 yards for the 14th straight game, carrying 26 times for 114 yards. Jones added 65 yards on 12 carries. His 38-yard touchdown run sealed the victory in the final minutes. Grade: B+

Passing defense: Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner completed 27 of 44 passes for 281 yards and two touchdowns. Both scores came in the fourth quarter.

Safety Vonn Bell picked Leidner off in the second quarter and returned the interception 16 yards for a touchdown, boosting the grade for the Buckeyes in this category. Bell and linebacker Joshua Perry led the Buckeyes with 10 tackles each. Grade: B

Rushing defense: The Gophers gained 33 yards on 26 carries. That’s the lowest total by an Ohio State opponent this season.

“It’s their front seven,” Minnesota interim coach Tracy Claeys said. “We’re banged up, in our offensive front and our defensive front. My hats off to those kids up front. They did all they could. That’s as good of a front seven as there is in college football.” Grade: A+

Special teams: Jack Willoughby missed a 35-yard field goal attempt. He has made 7 of 11 field goals this season.

Cameron Johnson averaged 40.3 yards on seven punts and pinned the Gophers inside the 20 three times. Jalin Marshall had a 33-yard punt return. Grade: B+

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