Next up for the Buckeyes (11-0, 8-0 Big Ten, CFP No. 2) is a trip to Ann Arbor to face second-ranked Michigan (11-0, 8-0 Big Ten, CFP No. 3) next Saturday. The Wolverines beat Maryland 31-24 on Saturday.
Ohio State coach Ryan Day said he “might have” watched some of his archrival’s game prior to his own game, but once Buckeyes took the field all attention was on Minnesota.
“Our team did a great job of staying focused this week,” Day said. “Not easy to do for anybody, but we did stay in the moment and played well. But the moment we got in that locker room, it’s on to next week.”
The Wolverines beat the Buckeyes the last two seasons (42-27 in 2021; 45-23 last season).
“We say we prepare for it 365 days a year and I truly believe that,” McCord said. “The guys on the team, we think about it every day, especially the way the last two years have gone.
“So, to be in kind of the same position that we were last year with a chance to right the ship, I think everybody’s definitely excited.”
Henderson turned a 13-point halftime into a 20-point lead 12 seconds into the third quarter, scoring on a career-best 75-yard run on the opening play of the half.
“He’s a home-run hitter and the more opportunities he gets, he gets to the second level,” Day said. “He’s dangerous.”
After a Minnesota (5-6, 3-5 Big Ten) turnover, the Buckeyes scored again - 55 seconds later - when Marvin Harrison Jr. grabbed a 4-yard TD pass to extend the lead to 27-0.
“They came out and hit us in the mouth,” Minnesota defensive lineman Danny Striggow said.
Harrison had three catches for 30 yards and a TD in less than three quarters. Henderson was also rested midway through the third after 15 total carries. McCord was 20 of 30 passing.
The quick start to the third quarter was critical, not only to the outcome, but looking ahead, Day said.
“It was good to see us come out like that and give us a little bit of a cushion and then it allowed us an opportunity to get some of the guys out of the game and rested up for next week,” he said.
Minnesota’s Athan Kaliakmanis completed 11 of 19 passes for 89 yards with an interception and a lost fumble.
Minnesota (5-6, 3-5) avoided a shutout when Dragan Kesich kicked a 54-yard field goal with 6:54 to play.
That didn’t matter in the big picture for Ohio State defensive end Jack Sawyer.
“Tonight was a good performance and we’re just going to build on that for next week,” he said.
The Buckeyes struggled to a 13-0 halftime lead after Henderson’s 9-yard TD capped an 85-yard drive that included five plays of 10 yards or more.
Ohio State managed only Jayden Fielding field goals of 47 and 26 yards in the rest of the first half.
“We were in the game pretty much until that huge 70, 80-yard run, whatever it was,” Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck said. “It’s just the second half, those two quick touchdowns put the game out of reach.”
Ohio State: The Buckeyes’ outburst to start the third quarter not only put the game away but allowed many of the starters to be rested early. The Buckeyes can now pay full attention to Michigan.
Minnesota: The Golden Gophers will have their fewest wins (no-COVID season) since going 7-6 in Fleck’s second season in 2018. They are a win away from being bowl eligible with one game left.
The Buckeyes should maintain their ranking heading to their showdown against Michigan with a berth in the College Football Playoff in their control.
Minnesota: Hosts Wisconsin on Saturday.
Ohio State: At Michigan on Saturday for the critical regular-season finale.
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