OMinnesota spoiled a homecoming celebration for Ohio State on Saturday, and made Head Coach Glen Mason's even sweeter. Mason led the Golden Gophers to a 29-17 victory over his alma mater in Columbus, Ohio in front of 98,120 Buckeye faithful. It was the first time Minnesota has defeated Ohio State in Columbus in 51 years. The last victory came in 1949 when the Golden Gophers defeated the Buckeyes 27-0. Junior wide receiver Ron Johnson led the way with 8 receptions for 163 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore running back Tellis Redmon added 118 yards on the ground. It was Redmon's third consecutive 100-yard rushing performance and his fourth of the season.
Minnesota opened up the game with a controlling 18 play, 71-yard drive that elapsed 6:35 of the first quarter. A focused Johnson tipped and caught a 29-yard pass from junior quarterback Travis Cole that kept the drive alive, as Minnesota worked the ball down to the Ohio State 4-yard line. Sophomore kicker Dan Nystrom capped the time-consuming drive with a 23-yard field goal, as Minnesota jumped out to a 3-0 lead over the Buckeyes.
Determined to hold on to that lead, the Golden Gopher defense and special teams players pounced all over the Buckeye offense. After holding Ohio State to just six yards, junior Jermaine Mays tore across the Buckeye line and blocked the first punt of his career. It was Minnesota's third blocked punt this season. Junior Jimmy Henry recovered the blocked punt and returned it to the Ohio State 20.
Redmon scampered the ball inside the five, then, on second and goal, Cole hooked up with sophomore Scooter Baugus for a two-yard touchdown and a 10-0 lead. It was Baugus' second career reception, and his first career touchdown.
The Buckeyes showed life on the ensuing kickoff, as senior Ken-Yon Rambo ran the ball back 81 yards down to the Minnesota 17-yard line. Ohio State pushed the ball to the Golden Gopher six, but senior Sean Hoffman dropped OSU junior quarterback Steve Bellisari for an eight- yard sack, forcing the Buckeyes to kick a 32-yard field goal.
Ohio State looked as though they had gained some momentum, holding forcing Minnesota into a third and long situation on their own 25-yard line. Coming out of a time out, Cole looked to the sidelines and found Johnson for a 55-yard strike and a key first down on the Buckeye 20. Three plays later, the two hooked up again for the score, as Johnson pulled in Cole's three-yard pass. It was Johnson's 18th career touchdown reception, putting him first all-time in Minnesota history.
The seven-play, 78-yard scoring drive closed out a quarter dominated by the Golden Gophers. Minnesota yielded just nine yards of total offense to the Buckeyes, while tacking up 159 yards for themselves. Cole was 7- 11 for 122 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter. Johnson took credit for 105 of those yards with his five receptions.
Down 17-3, Ohio State looked to stay in the game as they started the second quarter. Bellisari's 29-yard completion to sophomore wide receiver Darnell Sanders helped them do exactly that, as the Buckeyes moved the ball into Minnesota territory. Six plays later, they found the end zone on a seven-yard rush by junior Jonathan Wells closing the gap to 17-10. Minnesota would add two more Nystrom field goals of 32 and 42 yards and go into halftime leading the fifth-ranked Buckeyes 23- 10.
The Golden Gophers slowed down in the second half, but they never let up. Both teams would trade possessions in the third quarter, and neither would allow the other to score, as only 73 yards of total offense were amassed between them. However, Ohio State would end the scoring drought with an eight-play, 44-yard scoring drive to open the fourth quarter. Bellisari's four-yard touchdown pass to Sanders - his second of the game - made the score 23-17, and brought the Buckeye fans to their feet.
On the very next drive, Ohio State forced a Minnesota punt, and returned the ball just short of midfield. But the Golden Gopher defense would return the favor by stopping the Buckeyes on their three plays from scrimmage. Then it was time for Minnesota to close the game. A team effort led by Redmon and freshman running back Thomas Tapeh, the Golden Gophers devoured nearly six minutes off the clock, as they surged down the field. Redmon sealed the victory with a 20-yard dash into the end zone making the score 29-17.
Minnesota travels to Indiana next Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. Central Time. Oct. 28 is Homecoming for the Golden Gophers. Game time is set for 11:10 a.m. versus Northwestern. Tickets for that game are still available and can be purchased by calling (612) 624-8080 or 1-800-UGopher (846-7437). Tickets are also available online 24 hours a day at www.gophersports.com.