Oct. 29, 2005
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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Antonio Pittman rushed for two second-half touchdowns and a career-high 186 yards, springing No. 12 Ohio State to a 45-31 victory over Minnesota on Saturday in a game featuring more than 1,000 yards of offense.
Troy Smith passed for 233 yards and three scores, two to Santonio Holmes, and Ted Ginn Jr.’s 100-yard touchdown on a kickoff return highlighted a wild first quarter for the Buckeyes (6-2, 4-1 Big Ten).
The Gophers (5-3, 2-3) had an Oct. 15 win over Wisconsin – currently ranked 15th – wrapped up until the Badgers blocked a punt for the game-winning touchdown with 30 seconds left. After a week off, they returned to the Metrodome hoping to stay in the conference race – but their defense didn’t comply.
Ohio State’s speed was just too much, evidenced by Ginn’s breath-stopping, untouched return for a 17-7 lead. Minnesota surged back to tie it at 17 before the half on Jared Ellerson’s 5-yard touchdown catch from Bryan Cupito, a pretty throw on a fade route against cornerback Ashton Youboty.
Laurence Maroney, the Big Ten’s leading rusher for a Gophers team that led the nation in yards rushing coming into the game, ran for 114 yards and a score on 16 first-half carries against the stingiest rushing defense in the country.
The Buckeyes, led by linebacker A.J. Hawk, were allowing only 62.7 yards per game on the ground. They played more like that after halftime, holding Maroney to just 13 yards on nine carries. He also fumbled.
Pittman broke the tie with a 67-yard burst up the middle early in the third quarter for his first touchdown of the season. Nobody touched him.
Minnesota subsequently marched to the Buckeyes 32-yard line, but after two curious play calls the ball went right back to Ohio State. On third-and-2, Gary Russell ran right, stopped and threw softly across the field to Cupito – who was running up the left sideline. But the ball hung in the air too long, and Malcolm Jenkins nearly intercepted it.
Then on fourth down, Maroney caught an option pitch from Cupito and tried to turn up the right sideline, but Mike Kudla chased him down and dragged him out of bounds.
The fans wearing scarlet and gray in the northwest corner of the upper deck began chanting, “Let’s go, Bucks!” Pittman and Smith then drove the Buckeyes down for the clinching score – a 27-yard pass to Anthony Gonzalez.
Lost in all of this was a career-best game by Cupito, who missed the Wisconsin game because of a shoulder injury. He completed 26 of 35 passes for 396 yards and a touchdown. Cupito, from Cincinnati, is one of 16 Ohio natives on the Gophers.
Ohio State, which entered the game as one of four teams with one loss in conference play, won its third straight after a defeat at Penn State.