OSU redshirt freshman Jermil Martin rushed for 75 yards, including a 39-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
Jay LaPrete / AP Enlarge
COLUMBUS - The Buckeyes are finding out the real meaning of "depth chart" as they adjust on the fly to deal with mounting injuries at running back. Ohio State played the second half of yesterday's 38-7 win over Minnesota with two first-year players working at tailback after a possible concussion sidelined junior Brandon Saine.
Saine had been carrying the bulk of the load after an injury to sophomore Dan "Boom" Herron that has forced Herron to miss most of the past three games. Herron, who had been the starter for the first four games of the season, has been battling an ankle sprain.
When Saine took a hard shot in the second quarter against the Golden Gophers, true freshman Jordan Hall filled in and scored on an 11-yard touchdown run in the third quarter that allowed the Buckeyes to take a 21-0 lead. Redshirt freshman Jermil Martin played in the fourth quarter, and broke free for a 39-yard touchdown run.
Quarterback Terrelle Pryor led the Buckeyes in rushing against Minnesota with 104 yards, while Saine had 45 yards rushing before getting hurt. Hall rushed for 38 yards and Martin had 75.
OSU coach Jim Tressel said the Buckeyes need three or four running backs ready to go at all times.
"You never have enough tailbacks, because tailbacks take a pounding unlike any other position," Tressel said. "There's multiple people hitting them, running full speed, and they've got to protect the ball while they're getting splattered."
With Herron still on the questionable list, Saine likely to miss some time if the injury he suffered is determined to be a concussion, and highly touted freshman Jaamal Berry expected to redshirt after missing more than half of the season with a lingering hamstring injury, Tressel is down to Hall, Martin, and then K.C. Christian and Joe Gantz.
Christian is a junior from Kitts Hill, Ohio, while Gantz is a senior from Wooster. They both made the Ohio State team as walk-ons, and have played primarily special teams over the past two-plus seasons.
"Obviously we weren't excited about the prospects of playing the second half or whatever without Brandon," Tressel said. "But Jordan stepped up, which we think Jordan has done well since he's been here, and Jermil did a heck of a job."
RECOVERY PLAN: Minnesota punter Blake Haudan, a senior from St. John's Jesuit who was an All-Ohio punter for the Titans in the 2004 season and was All-City League at punter and wide receiver, kicked seven times yesterday for a 42-yard average. Haudan, a fifth-year player, said the program is continuing a rebuilding process after hitting its low point when Minnesota went 1-11 in 2007.
"We're still working our way up," Haudan said. "That 1-11 season - that's not something I would wish upon anyone. That is not for the faint of heart. People said everything bad about us, but we had to block it all out and persevere."
The Gophers went 7-6 last season, and played in the Insight Bowl.
"After an 11-loss season, you lose a lot of guys because they don't have the commitment, but the people who stay - those are the guys you want to be around," Haudan said. "We've worked so hard to get back, to build it back up, and to the guys who have been through all of that, every game, every opportunity means so much to us."
PRYOR MARKS: Terrelle Pryor had 104 yards rushing, making him the fifth OSU quarterback to rush for 1,000 career yards. Pryor has 1,102 yards rushing eight games into his second season. Ohio State's career rushing leader among quarterbacks is Cornelius Greene with 2,066 yards from 1972-75.
DEFENSIVE STANCE: The Buckeyes held Minnesota scoreless until just more than four minutes remained in the game, when the Golden Gophers got a 16-yard touchdown pass against Ohio State's backup players. The Buckeyes have allowed just seven touchdowns over the past 27 quarters of play.
"It hurts a little bit to lose that shutout, but it's all right," OSU senior safety Kurt Coleman said. "It was a good opportunity for everybody, a good learning experience."
SERIES REVIEW: Minnesota has won just once in the last 24 games with the Buckeyes. The Gophers beat Ohio State here in 2000 by a 29-17 score, but lost 16 straight to the Buckeyes before that. The two teams first met in 1921, with Minnesota winning two of the first three games, but only five of the next 46. Before the 2000 win in Ohio Stadium, the Gophers had not beaten Ohio State here since 1949.
CROWD CONTROL: The game was played in front of an announced crowd of 105,011. Ohio State has played in front of Ohio Stadium crowds in excess of 100,000 for 53 straight games.