No, the generous fourth-down spot that officials gave Ohio State during a key point Saturday did not cost the Gophers an upset. The game still had more than three quarters to play, and there were plenty of chances to change the outcome.
“Even if that [spot] doesn’t happen, it doesn’t mean we win the football game,” Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said Monday, two days after his team hung with the No. 3 Buckeyes before falling 30-14 at Ohio Stadium.
Television replays showed that the Gophers stopped Ohio State running back Mike Weber short of first-down yardage on fourth-and-2 from the Minnesota 44 late in the first quarter. Weber, however, was given credit for 3 yards, extending Ohio State’s possession rather than giving the Gophers the ball with a 7-3 lead.
On the next play, Buckeyes quarterback Dwayne Haskins connected with receiver Terry McLaurin on a 41-yard touchdown pass, putting Ohio State ahead 10-7.
The spot was not reviewed by replay officials — “They told me right out, ‘No way. We’re not going to do it,’ ” Fleck said after the game about his conversation with on-field officials — but Fleck has contacted the Big Ten office about the play. He hadn’t heard back as of late Monday morning.
“You turn it in,” he said, “because it’s great teaching for the league as they continue to go forward.”
Fleck knows the outcome won’t change.
“After the fact, it doesn’t matter,” he added. “I’m not into ‘I’m sorrys.’ It’s the real world. They’re not going to go back and [say], ‘Let’s meet this Wednesday, head back to the Horseshoe and redo that down, start the game from there.’ ”
Rather than dwell on the one call, Fleck took away some positives from a game in which the Gophers twice had the lead on a College Football Playoff contender and trailed by only three points at halftime and six entering the fourth quarter.
“Loved how hard they played. Loved how hard they competed,” he said. “We had our opportunities — plenty of them.”
Smiths are uncertain
Fleck said he wasn’t yet certain if freshman cornerback Terell Smith and senior defensive tackle O.J. Smith would return to the lineup for Saturday’s game at Nebraska after they missed the Ohio State game because of head injuries.
“It’s too early to tell,” he said. “We probably won’t know that until Wednesday or Thursday.”