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Dave Thurman (8:08 pm)

In a game played in London, England, Troy Smith made his debut as the starting quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, leading them to a 24-16 victory over the Denver Broncos.  The 49ers entered the contest 1-6, but Smith led them to three fourth quarter touchdowns, coming from behind in front of a huge crowd at historic Wembley Stadium. 

Although Smith didn't put up huge numbers he did finish 12-19 for 196 yards with 1 touchdown, and 0 interceptions.  He also ran for a score while filling in for usual starter Alex Smith.  Head coach Mike Singletary would not say that Smith had permanently won the job, but considering Alex Smith's woes one would think that Troy will at least get a long look. 

Interestingly Troy is now reunited with receiver Teddy Ginn Jr. who came to San Francisco this season from the Miami Dolphins.  Teddy didn't catch any passes today, although he did have nine yards on a reverse, 89 yards on four kickoff returns, and another 15 on a couple of punt returns.  Hopefully Troy and Teddy can conjure up a little of the magic from their college days in future weeks.

Congratulations to Troy who has waited patiently for another opportunity to start!

 
 
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Dave Thurman (11:19 pm)

It was a lot more treat than trick on the night before Halloween at TCF Stadium.  Although we'll have a much more complete review tomorrow here are a few things that stood out to me:

1.  The offensive line dominated - They have taken their lumps from fans and media this year but the big guys played great tonight and opened some huge holes for the running backs, besides offering Pryor terrific protection.

2. Boom is in a groove - There is no doubt who the bellcow is now, as Boom is running hard and with tremendous confidence. On the other hand, Brandon Saine continues to play tippy-toe when he enters the game, and one wonders why he is getting carries that could be given to Jamaal Berry.

3.  Posey got his mojo back - He played pretty well last week, but looked like his old self Saturday night, catching short, intermediate and long passes.  The question is, can he do it against a good, physical defense?

4.  Brian Rolle gave us a scare and then came back with a bad attitude - Rolle left the field early with an ankle injury but came back to play the best I have seen him perform all year.  Considering how thin the Bucks are at linebacker, it was a relief to see him back on the field.  However, Devon Torrence took a knee to the head, and did not return.  Hopefully he'll be fine after the bye week. 

 
 
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Drew Thurman (12:21 pm)

Check out our Know the Opposition feature for full information on Minnesota. Below we have five things to look for as the Buckeyes head to TCF Bank Stadium tonight for the first time, trying to fix their road woes this year.

1) Watch to see how much pressure the defensive line can put on Adam Weber.

With a banged up secondary and linebacking core, the defensive line will need to bring it tonight. The task may not be as easy as we might expect though. While Adam Weber will never be confused for Usain Bolt, he is a wiley veteran that does have better mobility than many give him credit for. He also is part of an offense designed to help him get the ball out quickly to his receivers. On top of all of that, the Buckeye defensive line has struggled getting to the quarterback all year, and have helped contribute to a defense that is towards the bottom of the country in sacks. Last week the line finally broke through with three sacks though, and they will look to build off that success. So watch to see if the Buckeye defensive line can win the battle in the trenches and put pressure on Adam Weber all night. The defensive backfield will need help as they face a very tall, capable unit of Minnesota wide receivers, so this is an important matchup.

2) Watch to see if Corey "Philly" Brown's performance last week was a fluke.

The staff has been high on Brown, which showed last week as they made a conscious effort to put the ball in his hands. He had one rush for 18 yards to go along with two catches for 38 yards and a touchdown. While I wouldn't call it a breakout game, it definitely was a sign of the potential for Brown to be a contributor down the stretch. So tonight will be a good chance to see if the staff is serious about making him the No. 3 wide receiver, and also if Brown responds with another good game. The Gopher secondary has been gashed all season long, so Brown should have plenty of opportunities.  

 
 
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Mascot: Golden Gophers
Stadium: TCF Bank Stadium (50,805)
2009 Record: 6-7 (Lost to Iowa State 14-13 in Insight Bowl)
2010 Record: 1-7
Interim Head Coach:  Jeff Horton (0-1)
Lettermen Returning: 38 (22 lost)
Returning Starters: Offense - 9; Defense - 2; Specialists - 1
Base Offense: "I" formation
Base Defense: 4-3
Returning Stars: QB Adam Weber & S Kyle Theret

Notable Alumni:

Tony Dungy, NFL player, coach and analyst
Harry Reasoner, ABC and CBS news anchor
Bob Dylan, Singer/songwriter
Bronco Nagurski, NFL Hall of Famer
Walter Mondale, U.S. Vice President (1977-81)
Dave Winfield, MLB Hall of Famer
Loni Anderson, Actress (WKRP in Cinicnnati)
Herb Brooks, Coach of USA 1980 Olympic Hockey team


Cheerleading Scouting Report:
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Minnesota Preview:

Ohio State travels to Minneapolis for a night game, affording the team their first look at Minnesota's new TCF Bank Stadium. Although the Buckeyes never lost in the Metrodome it was a terrible atmosphere for college football, and they will surely be happy to move to a new venue. 

Minnesota is currently 1-7 and preparing to play their second game under interim head coach Jeff Horton following the firing of Tim Brewster.  The team has played better than their record, however, only being outgained by 20 yards per contest, and have actually earned 19 more first downs than their opponents.  The Gophers have lost a game by one point and another by three, and the only one-sided loss was 41-23 at Wisconsin.  So Ohio State might want to think twice about phoning in a victory. 

Offense is the strength of this Gopher squad, and it all starts with quarterback Adam Weber.  A four-year starter, Weber has thrown for over 10,000 yards in his career and is having a fine senior season, having passed for 1,961 yards with 17 TD's and 7 INT's.  Not known for his running ability, Weber has done a pretty good job of using his legs this season (34 carries, 111 yards).  Possessing a strong arm, you can expect Adam to throw the ball repdeatedly Saturday night, as any hopes of an upset rest squarely on his back.
 
 
Dave Thurman (5;29 pm)

Let the conversation move back to football and defeating the Golden Gophers.  This afternoon Jim Tressel made it clear that barring more injuries at linebacker Etienne Sabino will retain his redshirt status and have two years of eligibility remaining.  I think this is good news for a number of reasons: 1) It means Sabino's junior year wasn't wasted; 2) It keeps him happy which means a more positive and cohesive locker room; 3) It helps the Buckeyes in the future, since they are looking thin at linebacker for 2012 at this point; and, 4) It restores my faith in the coaching staff, who are the ones that asked Sabino to redshirt in the first place.  Had they forced him to play I would have been pretty disappointed.  

Injury Update: Coach Tressel also reiterated, this afternoon, that Ross Homan will not make the trip to Minnesota as he continues to recover, and that Dorian Bell is still being held out of action.  That leaves the following linebackers: Andrew Sweat, Brian Rolle, Jonathan Newsome, Storm Klein, Jordan Whiting and Tony Jackson.  On a positive note, tackle J.B. Shugarts is expected to travel and play on Saturday.   
 
 
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Dave Thurman (9:04 pm)

2010 was supposed to be "the" year.  Ohio State had their best offense since 2006, a bunch of veterans on their roster, and a favorable schedule (read: no USC).  Some fans had even booked their trip to Arizona for the BCS National Championship game before the first contest. Then came the Madison Massacre and everything changed.  I haven't heard about any Buckeye fans jumping from bridges or high buildings, but a lot of us were greatly disappointed. Of course if we experienced that level of letdown, imagine how the players feel, especially the seniors. All those long hours in the weight room and running gassers at dawn was done with one goal in mind.  It would be easy for them to feel like the rest of the season is somewhat anticlimactic.

To make matters worse, the Buckeyes have suffered a rash of injuries unlike anything I've witnessed during the Tressel regime.  The back seven on defense is being held together by baling wire and duct tape, with freshmen and walk-ons on alert, knowing their number may be called next.  Certainly it has to be somewhat discouraging for coaches and players alike.

So the question looms - will the 2010 edition of the Ohio State Buckeyes reach down deep and refuse to make excuses or will they phone it in?  Certainly the Purdue game was a step in the right direction.  However, that was a contest where motivation was never going to be a problem.  Not only were the Bucks coming off an embarrasing loss to Wisconsin, they also had vivid memories of the Boilermaker beat down the year before. It was an angry, focused squad that took the field last Saturday.  But what about the rest of the year?  Let's take a look game by game.

 
 
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Drew Thurman (4:55 pm)

1) Could Etienne Sabino possibly still play even though the staff planned on redshirting him this season? Since the season is halfway over and one would think it only makes sense to not waste the extra year of eligibility at this point. Well, the staff may not be seeing it that way. According to Adam Jardy, there is a chance he burns the redshirt and starts playing as of this weekend.

I guess the staff is very serious about winning out, and claiming another conference championship and BCS bowl bid. With the amount of injuries that seem to keep piling up, keeping a guy like Sabino off the field doesn't make sense anymore to them. I'm sure we will find out more about this in the coming days, if nothing else at least Saturday, but I can't say I would be a big fan of this decision. I understand the importance of winning a Big Ten Title, but why hurt Sabino's career for a coaching mistake at the beginning of the season? I just wonder what Sabino will be thinking if this really does go down.

2) Tressel's press conference was earlier this afternoon, and the big news again was injuries. Here was Tressel's updates on what is going on:

"Health-wise, Christian Bryant is still in the hospital. His foot's doing good. The effects of all the medications and so forth, still haven't released him yet. We hope here today or tomorrow, last I heard. But his foot's doing fine. I'm sure it will be six weeks or better before he can play football.

"Ross Homan, I think, will do a little land running today. He's been running in water a lot. I don't think there will be any way that he would be ready for this weekend. Who else am I missing? Corey Brown's going to be out for the year and the spring."

With Bryant out at least until the bowl game and Corey Brown done for the season, the Buckeyes have five defensive backs that have gone down for the season (Tyler Moeller, C.J. Barnett, Donnie Evege, Corey Brown, and Christian Bryant). The latest depth chart shows the effects as Hines has moved to the star, with Gant taking over at free safety. We also have Zach Domicone, Jamie Wood, and Dominic Clarke in the two deep. Any more injuries and things could get down right ugly for the defense.

Also of note, Tressel mentioned that Dorian Bell will miss this upcoming week as well.

 
 
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Drew Thurman (1:58 pm)

Everyone wanted to know how the Buckeyes would respond after being shell-shocked in Camp Randall by the Badgers. Would we see an angry team ready to fight or one still hungover knowing their dreams of a national championship were likely out the window? Well, Saturday this team responded in a huge way with a 49-0 drubbing of Purdue. While it didn't heal all the wounds from the week before, this team proved to everyone how resilient they really are.

1) "Boom" is living up to his name.

One of the few high points from the Wisconsin game was Boom Herron, who picked up right where he left off against the Boilermakers. The opening drive featured five rushing attempts for Herron (for 45 yards), while Pryor attempted not a single pass. It was an obvious statement from Tressel that he wanted to return to physical play and to establish a running game that has been MIA for much of the season when things mattered. The drive would be capped off by a 10 yard rushing touchdown around the left side as Boom dove and extended the ball across the goal line.That drive helped him have a great first half, as he saw little action in the second half and finished the day with 74 yards and two touchdowns (4.6 avg).

Right now he is running the ball with authority, and proving why he's the No. 1 tailback on this team. While I don't see him as a vocal leader (and I may be wrong), the guy leads this team with his physical running style. I think it sets a precedent for the offensive line and the rest of the offense.

All the other backs saw a little bit of action in the blowout, including Brandon Saine. In fact, this was the first time Saine looked like he could be an effective ball carrier since Marshall. He finished the day with five carries for 41 yards. Jordan Hall also saw some carries with the first team, but didn't do much with his opportunity. While he did punch in a score, he only mounted 13 yards on eight carries, and looked soft after the way we saw Boom toting the rock. Berry and Hyde also got some carries in garbage time, and as always, they made a statement for some meaningful playing time.

2) Defense and special teams make a comeback.

After one of the worst defensive and special teams performances in Tressel's tenure, both units rebounded in a commanding performance Saturday. The defense smothered Purdue all game, allowing just nine first downs and 118 total yards. This all started on the defensive line, who looked like a different group of guys than the ones we saw get pushed around in Camp Randall. Cameron Heyward (5 tackles, 1 TFL) was playing like man possessed, and John Simon and Dexter Larimore looked great on the interior. Nathan Williams, who sat out the opening series as Solomon Thomas got the start, responded by playing in a much more physical way than what we saw from him against the Badgers.

As solid at the defensive line played, it was actually a few players in the back seven that grabbed the spotlight. Ross Homan and Christian Bryant both missed the game and their replacements played as good as we could possibly expect. With the Buckeyes in nickel coverage most of the game, Andrew Sweat took over for Homan, while Hines moved over to the Star for Bryant with Aaron Gant replacing him at safety. Interestingly enough, Sweat (8 tackles, 2.5 TFL)and Gant (6 tackles, 4 solo) would lead the team in tackles. It was Gant's performance that was really the surprise of the two, as the the fifth year senior has never really put it all together. I wasn't in attendance to see how he looked reacting in coverage, but I was impressed with how sure of a tackler he was all afternoon.

As for special teams, they deserve some major props, even if it was just Purdue. Not only was the kick and punt coverage the best it has been all season, the turnover they recovered led to the Buckeyes second touchdown early in the game. From that turnover on it was obvious that Purdue was going to have zero chance of making this a game. 

 
 
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Dave Thurman (8:04 pm)

Hey didn't you used to be Kirk Ferentz the Big Ten media darling and three time conference coach of the year?  Well, not today my friend.  In a brilliant game your Iowa Hawkeyes had the ball last and a chance to win the game with a field goal.  But with 12 seconds left, after a first down you chose to use your last timeout instead of spiking the ball.  Then, after a pass that got your team in possible field goal range you watched the time tick off the clock because of boneheaded clock management. 

No Kirk, I'm not bitter that you got the hardware in 2002 even though Tress took a team that was 7-5 the year before to a 14-0 season and the National Championship.  Or the fact that you stole the award again last year when JT got the Buckeyes to rebound from Purduegate to claim their fifth straight Big Ten title. I'm not upset at all - just wondering how you do it.

In truth, Ferentz is an excellent coach but he sure blew it big time today. I can only hope he makes similar decisions in a few weeks when Ohio State heads to Iowa City.  Until then I'll take a little satisfaction in the fact that the golden boy of the conference showed he is human this afternoon. 

 
 
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Drew Thurman (2:59 pm)

Well, that didn't feel nearly as good as we hoped. Maybe it was the fact that the Boilermakers looked about as good as Eastern Michigan (and that's being gracious). Maybe we just realize what could have been had the Buckeyes not laid an egg last week in Camp Randall. Either way, the 49-0 beating of Purdue this afternoon made me realize how overrated revenge really is. It was nice to see Evil Tressel return though.

A few notes from the game:

- The Buckeyes had 490 total yards, compared to Purdue's 117.
- This is the first shutout of the year by the defense.
- Corey "Philly" Brown had one rush for 18 yards along with two catches for 38 yards and a touchdown. The staff appears to have found their No. 3 wide receiver.
- Herron continued his recent dominance with a great first half. He ended up with 75 yards and two touchdowns.
- Dane Sanzenbacher remains my favorite player on this team, and he once again led the team with 4 catches for 86 yards and one touchdown.
- Boren is a beast, and he had one of his best games of the year.
- Pryor ended the day 16/22 for 270 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions.
- One down note: Shugarts looked to be in serious pain early and then left the game in the first half


More coverage from this game later...