The speed was different. The talent level at skill positions was different. The ability to score in a blink was different.

One team is built like a race car, the other one operates like a bulldozer.

The bulldozer inflicted some damage, but the sports car is hard to contain at full throttle.

That was the cold, hard truth about the Gophers' season-opening 45-31 loss to No. 4 Ohio State on Thursday night at Huntington Bank Stadium.

The Gophers have a chance to be a good team.

The Buckeyes have a chance to be a playoff team.

"They're just really good," Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said. "But I think we have a good football team, too, and I think everybody saw that."

Opening the season against an opponent of that caliber makes it difficult to glean fact from fiction, or at least decipher the true picture.

The Gophers learned that they cannot match Ohio State's speed, but no other team on their schedule will match that kind of speed and across-the-board talent.

Positives? Yes, there were reasons to feel encouraged. Concerns? Yep, some in that category too.

Ohio State posted touchdown plays of 71, 56, 70 and 61 yards. Again, does that say more about Ohio State's cast of fleet-footed athletes or deficiencies in the Gophers defense? Maybe both.

"They make you cover the entire field with first-round draft picks everywhere," Fleck said.

The Gophers kept clawing back after every lightning-bolt score, but winning a track meet is not their formula for success. Certainly not against that opponent.

The performance revealed issues on both sides that need to be addressed, but the Gophers also found some things to carry forward — with one significant caveat: The health of workhorse running back Mohamed Ibrahim, who left the game in the second half with a leg injury.

The severity of his injury looms over everything now. Fleck had no update after the game.

Ibrahim went down as he strained for extra yards, as he always does. That young man relentlessly fights for every yard. The offense isn't the same without him, so the Gophers will be holding their breath, hoping for positive news.

It's easy to overreact to one performance, because first impressions are powerful. The Gophers gave themselves a lot to sort through as they move forward.

They made things interesting and entertaining after a gutsy call by Fleck brought his sideline and the sellout crowd to life.

Trailing 10-0 early in the second quarter, the Gophers faced fourth-and-1 at their 29-yard line. Fleck called timeout and then decided to keep his offense on the field, sending out the jumbo package of seven offensive linemen.

Ibrahim took the handoff and burst free for a 56-yard run. Everything changed at that point. If Ibrahim gets stuffed, Ohio State has prime real estate to score again, and the game is probably over.

Instead, transfer wide receiver Dylan Wright hauled in a highlight-worthy touchdown catch and the Buckeyes wobbled a bit. The Gophers led 14-10 at halftime and 21-17 in the third quarter.

The way momentum shifted, you started to wonder: Hey, maybe.

The Buckeyes proved otherwise, swiftly. One bad angle, one missed assignment, one missed tackle and … so long. They were zooming toward the end zone.

Their collection of wide receivers and running backs will make a lot of defenses look slow and out of position, but the Gophers need to tighten things up, especially in the secondary.

On offense, the Gophers unveiled some new wrinkles that look promising. The jumbo package. The unveiling of Wright as a playmaker on the outside to pair with Chris Autman-Bell once he returns from his ankle injury.

The Gophers should be past the moral victory stage in Year 5 of Fleck's tenure. Hanging with Ohio State into the fourth quarter isn't something to celebrated as a win. The Gophers lost to a superior team, but they still look capable of contending in the West Division.

Now they need some good news on their star running back.