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COLLEGE FOOTBALL / WEEK 8

Columbus Day Celebrated Late by Minnesota

Big Ten: Golden Gophers' 29-17 victory over No. 6 Ohio State is their first at Ohio Stadium since 1949.

October 15, 2000|From Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Minnesota ended 50 years of frustration. Ohio State's may just be beginning.

"It's almost unbelievable," Minnesota Coach Glen Mason said after his Golden Gophers beat No. 6-ranked Ohio State, 29-17, on Saturday. "After the game they said, 'Coach you're on top of the Big Ten.' I don't know if we can handle that. I mean, we are what we are."

Minnesota's last win in Columbus was in 1949, with Ohio State winning the last 15 times the Gophers came to Ohio Stadium. The Golden Gophers had lost 16 in a row to the Buckeyes and 28 of the last 29.

Maybe the next streak to fall might be Minnesota's number of years without playing in the Rose Bowl game--which it hasn't done since 1962 (the 1961 season). The Golden Gophers, 5-2 overall, are tied for first place in the Big Ten with Michigan, Northwestern and Purdue at 3-1.

"This program is not turned around yet," said Mason, who has a 21-21 record at Minnesota. "But we're getting better."

After the game, the entire team ran to the tiny corner of Ohio Stadium reserved for visiting fans and lined up to shake hands and wave to the cheering, clapping crowd.

Meanwhile, the Buckeyes (5-1, 2-1) had their hopes of a national championship dealt a severe blow.

"Obviously, we weren't ready to play and you can blame me for that," Ohio State Coach John Cooper said.

The Buckeyes were hurt in particular by wide receiver Ron Johnson, who had eight catches for 163 yards. He had a three-yard touchdown reception and came up with the big plays on three other scoring drives for the Golden Gophers.

The Minnesota defense, meanwhile, dared Ohio State--without leading rusher Derek Combs (ankle injury)--to run, which it did ineffectively in averaging two yards in 35 rushing attempts. The Buckeyes totaled 200 yards--only 37 more than Johnson had by himself.

"They felt they could check me with one defender and they paid the price," Johnson said.

Minnesota quarterback Travis Cole completed 16 of 28 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns, without an interception. His touchdown passes were plays of two yards to tight end Scooter Baugus and three yards to Johnson.

Minnesota built a 23-10 halftime lead by scoring on its first five possessions.

"It wasn't a surprise to us," Cole said. "We knew we could win this game."

The Golden Gophers' opening drive was highlighted by an acrobatic play by Johnson that resulted in a 28-yard gain. Johnson was well defended, but was able to get a hand on the ball. He bobbled it, but pulled it in with his left hand and picked up another 15 yards.

After Minnesota got a first down at the Ohio State four, the drive stalled and Dan Nystrom came on to kick the first of his three field goals.

Ohio State ran three plays before B.J. Sander punted. Jermaine Mays, coming in untouched from the right side, smothered the ball on Sander's foot and Minnesota's Jimmy Henry returned the ball to the Buckeye 20.

"As much time as we spend on punt protection, to have a blocked kick like that is absolutely devastating," Cooper said.

Cole's short flip to Baugus made it 10-0.

Ohio State's only touchdown of the first three quarters came on a seven-yard run by Jonathan Wells. The Buckeyes cut the lead to 23-17 early in the fourth quarter on Steve Bellisari's four-yard pass to tight end Darnell Sanders.

But Minnesota responded with a drive in which it converted four third-down situations. Tellis Redmon, who had 118 yards in 30 carries, had a 20-yard touchdown run with 4:51 left that sealed the victory.

"They just said, 'We're going to run the ball right at you' and then they ran it down our throats," Buckeye linebacker Matt Wilhelm said.

Ohio State's homecoming game was particularly sweet for Mason, who played for and was an assistant coach for the Buckeyes.

"I've got a lot of memories about this place. Good, good memories," Mason said.

Now he has one more.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Long Time Coming

Minnesota's 29-17 victory over Ohio State Saturday ended two long losing streaks to the Buckeyes and put the Golden Gophers in a four-way tie for first place in the Big Ten at 3-1. Through the years:

1949--The last year Minnesota beat Ohio State at Columbus, Ohio, before Saturday. The Golden Gophers had lost 15 consecutive games at Columbus.

1962--The last year Minnesota played in the Rose Bowl game (1961 season). The Golden Gophers beat UCLA, 21-3.

1972--The year Minnesota Coach Glen Mason graduated from Ohio State.

1981--The last year Minnesota beat Ohio State (35-31 at Minneapolis) before Saturday. The Golden Gophers had lost 16 consecutive games to the Buckeyes.

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