Through two quarters, it looked as though we were going to get one heck of an upset to kick off week one of the college football season.
The Minnesota Golden Gophers took a 14-10 lead into the locker room at halftime, the crowd we so missed last season was back in full force, and the rumblings that first-year QB C.J. Stroud might not be able to match the hype were growing louder.
And then Ohio State’s overwhelming talent took over.
Minnesota simply couldn’t stop the Buckeyes from chunk plays, and fourth-ranked Ohio State moved to 1-0 on the season with a 45-31 victory Thursday night.
Stroud — a redshirt freshman — has been talked about all offseason as the next in line of great Ohio State quarterbacks. But following Justin Fields is no easy task, and the freshman struggled early on, completing just six of his 14 passes for 53 yards in the first half. Stroud also threw a costly interception in the first half.
“In the first half, my mind wasn’t right, I was kind of all over the place,” Stroud said. “I talked to my teammates, praying a lot, trying to lock back in. I don’t feel like I did terrible, but I definitely do as best as I could.”
Ohio State had no answers for Minnesota running back Mohamed Ibrahim, rushing for a one-yard touchdown late in the second quarter to put the Gophers up at the half. Ibrahim — an AP second-team preseason All-American — finished the night with 163 yards on 30 carries, but was forced to exit the game late in the third quarter with a leg injury. He didn’t return.
“Whatever it is, we’ll figure it out and we’ll row and we’ll get better,” Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck said. “We’ll make sure he’s healthy at the point we bring him back. Hopefully, it’s nothing major, but we don’t know that just yet.”
“Thirty carries,  yards, that’s what you expect of Mo,” Fleck said. “Just unfortunate he got kind of tangled up on a tackle.”
In college football, talent usually overwhelms, and Ohio State’s talent took over in the second half. The Buckeyes outscored Minnesota 21-7 in the third quarter, including passing touchdowns of 38 and 56 yards from Stroud.
“He and I had a conversation early on that we’re going to keep swinging, no matter what happens, and we’re not going to play close to the vest,” Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said. “That’s not the way we do it here. And he responded, but I really think it was the guys around him.”
A 32-yard fumble return from defensive tackle Haskell Garrett late in the third put Ohio State up 31-21, sealing the Gophers fate.
“It just goes to show you big guys can run,” Garrett said.
“I thought that was probably the difference in the game,” said Day. “Anytime you get a defensive score … that flips the scoreboard, and it’s a huge game changer.”
It wasn’t the perfect opener for the Buckeyes, but Stroud’s second half performance should give the Ohio State faithful hope that they’ve found themselves a new quarterback. Stroud finished the night 13-22 for 294 passing yards and four touchdowns.
“I have great teammates, but I think I’m a great player, too,” Stroud said. “Maybe the first half didn’t show that, but I did my best in the second [half]. In the second, I did really well. In the game of football, you have ups and downs, and they believe in me. They put me in situations to get them the ball, and that’s a big opportunity for me.”
“Coach Day, he told me no matter how I’m playing, good or bad, he has trust in me. He believes in me.”
Ohio State gets a major test next weekend, taking on No. 11 Oregon at home. Minnesota plays Miami of Ohio.
Joe Morgan is the Sports Reporter for The Daily Wire. Most recently, Morgan covered the Clippers, Lakers, and the NBA for Sporting News. Send your sports questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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