Friday, October 29, 2010

BUCKEYES LOOK TO RIGHT THEIR ROAD WOES AT MINNESOTA

MINNEAPOLIS — Ohio State has been an absolute juggernaut at home this season, outscoring the opposition by an average score of 47-11.

However, when the No. 11 Buckeyes stray away from the friendly confines of Ohio Stadium, they have been quite pedestrian to say the least. In the Buckeyes two road games this season — Illinois and Wisconsin — they are 1-1 and have been outscored 44-42. That's quite the contrast from playing at the Horseshoe, where the Buckeyes are 6-0 and have embarrassed the opposition by five touchdowns per game.

This Saturday night, the Buckeyes (7-1, 3-1 Big Ten) will try to right their road woes as they travel to TCF Bank Stadium — for the first time ever — to take on Minnesota (1-7, 0-4 Big Ten), a team that hasn't been able win anywhere, let alone at home where they're 0-5 in 2010.

OSU head coach Jim Tressel said the Buckeyes understand that they must pick it up away from home and are ready to right that ship come Saturday night.

"We need to go on the road and play better than we've played," Tressel said. "We head to Minnesota and it will be the first time for any of us on our team to ever have seen the stadium, let alone play in it, so that will be exciting for us."

The game against the Golden Gophers looks like it should be a cakewalk for the more talented Buckeyes. Of course, that was the same way it looked last season when the boys from Columbus traveled to Purdue to take on the 1-5 Boilermakers. The Buckeyes lost that game, 26-18, in one of the biggest upsets of the college football season.

Minnesota just fired their head coach Tim Brewster two weeks ago, and replaced him with Jeff Horton on an interim basis. The Gophers have been eliminated from bowl contention and Las Vegas is picking the visiting Buckeyes to devour them by four touchdowns.

Tressel said he knows the Gophers have absolutely nothing to lose, and when you factor in Minnesota's talented veteran quarterback, Adam Weber, a repeat of Purdue 2009 could rear its ugly head if the Buckeyes don't come prepared for battle.

"We've got to go back to work and understand that we're facing a veteran quarterback in Adam Weber," Tressel said. "We had him in youth camp and I thought he was outstanding then, and 10,000 yards later I think he's still outstanding."

Although the Gophers are struggling, Weber is still getting the job done under center. The senior signal caller has passed for 1,961 yards and 17 touchdowns this season, including at least two scoring tosses in each of the last seven games.

"He's a competitor. He's a senior," Tressel said of Weber. "You can just hear in his comments that he doesn't want to hear about coaching transition or this and that. This is still the 2010 Minnesota Golden Gophers and still the same team it was at the beginning of the year who has a passion to get some good things done, and through his leadership, you can be sure they'll never stop."

Weber also has a good crop of pass catchers in receivers Da'Jon McKnight, MarQueis Gray and tight end Eric Lair. The Gopher trio has combined for 98 receptions, 1,381 yards and 15 touchdowns this season.

McKnight is the man the Buckeyes need to pay closest attention to this Saturday night. The 6-foot-3, 209 pound junior has hauled in 36 receptions for 542 yards and nine touchdowns this season, including six in the past three games.

In last week's loss to Penn State, McKnight recorded eight grabs for 103 yards and three touchdowns. The talented Gopher receiver has had at least four catches or more in five games this season.

"(Weber) leads a young group of receivers who I think are getting better and better," Tressel said. "They've done a good job of giving you a lot of different formation looks, a lot of different personnel packages."

Dan "Boom" Herron (The Buckeye Times/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)
Bottom Line

Weber and the Gophers offense may be able to find a little bit of success against Ohio State's banged up secondary on Saturday night. But "a little bit" just won't be enough.

Minnesota's defense is atrocious this season — and that's being kind. The Gophers rank second to last in the Big Ten in total defense and worst in points allowed (31.9). They have been horrid against the run this season giving up nearly 200 yards per game, and they're also finding very little success stopping the opposition in the air, surrendering 212 yards per game.

Look for OSU quarterback Terrelle Pryor to have another record-setting day and for tailback Dan "Boom" Herron to post his first 100-yard rushing game of the season, as the Buckeyes make TCF Stadium look like the Horseshoe of the North.

Lee's Call: 45-10