(WSCR) – With a third of their season remaining and with their hopes of a national championship gone after a loss to Wisconsin, Ohio State still knows there is much left to play for.
And if they don’t stay focused on winning the games that remain on their schedule, their season can go from a let down to an embarrassment.
“Every game you learn something about yourself,” defensive end Cameron Heyward said. “Then you build on it. We need to do that at Minnesota.”
The Buckeyes (7-1, 3-1 Big Ten) travel to play the downtrodden Golden Gophers (1-7, 0-4) on Saturday night. Coach Tim Brewster was fired on Oct. 17 after winning just one of every three games (15-30) in 3 1/2 seasons on the job. He was replaced by offensive coordinator Jeff Horton through the rest of the season.
Minnesota quarterback Adam Weber admitted it has been a difficult transition, acknowledging the players’ allegiance to Brewster versus the understanding that changes needed to be made.
“We’re still coach Brew’s team. We’re playing for him,” he said after last weekend’s loss to Penn State. “Coach Horton has done a great job coming in here and changing up the little things, trying to get us motivated, trying to get some energy back.”
Ohio State, which dominated Purdue 49-0 on Saturday, is still wary of the Golden Gophers.
“We have to take this challenge seriously,” Heyward said. “They’ve got their backs against the wall and will play us hard. We have to be ready.”
In the Big Ten, the Buckeyes enter Saturday’s action a game behind unbeaten Michigan State (4-0), tied for second with Wisconsin. Iowa and Purdue come next at 2-1. Ohio State is trying to match the conference record by grabbing at least a share of its sixth straight title.
The Spartans travel to Iowa this week, a game that will be watched closely by Ohio State.
Quarterback Terrelle Pryor isn’t looking forward to the late kickoff time for Ohio State’s first game ever at TCF Bank Stadium.
“I hate night games – you just sit around all day,” he groused. “We need to be more focused and to make it a more businesslike trip. But no matter where you go on the road, if you play at night it’s tough.”
The public perception is that the Buckeyes seldom play well at night. They have lost several high-profile games after dark, including the recent loss at Wisconsin, several flops in bowl games and a humiliating 35-3 beating at Southern California two years ago. They’ve also lost three of their last four night games at Ohio Stadium.
But the Buckeyes have won seven of their last nine night games on another team’s home field.
“It’s a whole new atmosphere up there at Minnesota,” Heyward said. “It’s another chance to go on the road and prove ourselves.’
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