Ohio State trailed Minnesota, 31-0, but staged an incredible comeback and defeated the Gophers 41-37, tying the record for the largest deficit overcome by a Division I-A team.
October 29, 1989 (AP) – Even the Ohio State Buckeyes knew they had no business becoming only the second team ever to win after trailing by 31 points.
“Things like this, they can’t happen,” said Jeff Graham, who caught Greg Frey’s 15-yard touchdown pass with 51 seconds to play as the Buckeyes beat Minnesota 41-37.
“People call it luck. People call it a miracle,” Graham said. “That’s OK. I believe in luck and miracles.”
Said Minnesota’s Eddie Miles: “When you’re up 31-0, you think there’s no way possible they could come back. No way. No way.”
Only on Nov. 10, 1984 — when Maryland rallied from a 31-0 deficit to beat Miami of Florida 42-40 — had an NCAA Division I-A team ever finished such a comeback.
“It definitely was a great comeback. Had to be the greatest,” said Carlos Snow, who caught two TD passes. “It certainly was the greatest game I’ve ever been a part of. I’m proud to have been in it.”
The Buckeyes had to overcome six turnovers to beat the Gophers for the eighth straight year and the 20th time in 21 meetings since 1969.
Even though it blew a lead of historic proportions, Minnesota still had a chance to win. But Steve Rhem could only get one hand on Scott Schaffner’s 22-yard pass into the end zone as time expired.
Apparently, the Buckeyes had used up all the miracles allowed for one game.
“He had a chance for it,” Gophers coach John Gutekunst said. “It would have been a great catch, but miracles don’t happen all the time.”
In the first half, Frey completed two of eight passes for 35 yards, and his two fumbles and an interception led to 17 Minnesota points.
But in the second half, he was 18 for 23 for 327 yards. He also scored a touchdown and completed two of his three two-point conversion passes after intermission.
“Things happened so quick in the second half, I didn’t have time to worry about anything but throwing the ball,” Frey said. “I’m glad I played the way I did. I had something to make up for.”
Frey sandwiched two TD passes to Snow around a 32-yard field goal by Minnesota’s Brent Berglund, pulling Ohio State within 34-26.
It appeared the Buckeyes’ final turnover — with 7:25 left, center Dan Beatty’s shotgun snap never reached Frey and Sean Lumpkin recovered, leading to Berglund’s 42-yard kick — might do them in, but Frey led two quick scoring drives.
First, a 17-yard pass to Graham on third-and-18 set up Frey’s 1-yard, fourth-down TD run to make it 37-34.
Then, the Buckeyes’ defense forced a punt and OSU went 73 yards in five plays, as Frey survived a 15-yard sack to complete four passes for 88 yards. Graham scored the winner after getting behind Les O’Hara in the back right corner of the end zone.
“It was man-to-man coverage with the free safety,” Graham said. “He was 8 yards off me. I came off the line real hard and he bit for an inside move.”
Ohio State stopped Minnesota’s first offensive series, but a short punt hit the leg of OSU blocker Rich Huffman and the Gophers’ Scott Streiff recovered on Ohio State’s 28-yard line. Four plays later, Darrell Thompson scored from 12 yards.
Thompson rushed for 133 yards to become the first Minnesota runner ever to eclipse 4,000 career yards.
The Buckeyes’ second possession ended as Frey fumbled when sacked by Miles, with Minnesota’s Bob Coughlin recovering at OSU’s 22. Berglund’s 30-yard field goal made it 10-0.