OSU grade card: Defense dominates in tune-up game

A grade card on Ohio State’s 37-3 win over Minnesota that made OSU 11-0 heading into Saturday’s showdown with Michigan in Ann Arbor:


Ohio State marched through Minnesota’s defense like General Sherman going through Georgia on its first possession of the game on an 8-play, 85-yard drive that ended with the first of two touchdown runs in the game by TreVeyon Henderson. It hit a bit of a lull on the rest of its first half possessions which ended with a punt, two field goals and a sack of Kyle McCord as time ran out on the first half.

Henderson ignited a 17-point third quarter by the Buckeyes with a 75-yard touchdown run on the first offensive play of the second half. It is the longest run of his OSU career.

Ohio State had 434 yards of total offense, averaged 6.1 yards per running play and allowed only the one sack. McCord was 20 of 30 for 212 yards and threw short touchdown passes to Marvin Harrison Jr. and Cade Stover. McCord limped slightly after the half-ending sack but did not appear to be bothered by it in the second half.

Maybe the best news in the passing game to come out of Saturday’s game is that Emeka Egbuka (5 catches, 83 yards) had his best game since returning from an injury he suffered at Purdue on Oct. 14.


OSU had a dominant performance against a team ranked No. 122 nationally in total offense. The Gophers had only 159 yards of offense and only 10 first downs. Their quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis passed for only 89 yards and their leading rusher Jordan Nubin gained only 49 yards.

The high point of Ohio State’s defensive effort came on Minnesota’s first play after Henderson’s touchdown when defensive end Jack Sawyer sacked Kaliakmanis and forced a fumble. JT Tuimoloau picked up the ball and advanced it to the Gophers’ 6-yard line. Three plays later McCord connected with Harrison for a 4-yard touchdown pass, the second TD in 67 seconds for the Buckeyes.

Cornerback Jordan Hancock intercepted a pass for the second time in the last three games and returned it 40 yards. The only points scored against OSU’s defense in its last two games have come on field goals of more than 50 yards.


Jayden Fielding kicked field goals of 47 yards, 42 yards and 26 yards. The 47-yard kick is the longest of his career. Jesse Mirco averaged 48.5 yards on two punts.

The punt return team drew an unusual penalty when it was flagged for holding on a kick on which Jayden Ballard had signalled for a fair catch.


Ohio State (11-0, 8-0 Big Ten) has made progress offensively and defensively over the course of the season. Saturday’s showdown with Michigan (11-0, 8-0 Big Ten) could show if the progress is real or illusory. Michigan ranks No. 1 in the country in points allowed and Ohio State ranks No. 2. Getting off to a fast start might be a huge factor for the Buckeyes in the latest chapter in the Big Ten’s biggest rivalry.

Jim Naveau
Jim Naveau has covered local and high school sports for The Lima News since 1978 and Ohio State football since 1992. His OSU coverage appears in more than 30 newspapers. Naveau, a Miami University graduate, also worked at the Greenville Advocate and the Piqua Daily Call. He has seen every boys state basketball tournament since 1977. Reach him at [email protected] or 567-242-0414.