MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Ohio State was so concerned about getting caught off guard against overmatched Minnesota that coach Jim Tressel called a fake punt in the first quarter.
Tressel even called out running back Chris Wells after Saturday's game for a losing a fumble at his own 7-yard line with about 6 minutes left. Never mind that the Buckeyes led by 23 points at the time.
``We have a habit, I guess, of making things difficult around here,'' Tressel said.
The coach was otherwise pleased, however. His team - which surged from No. 8 to No. 4 when the latest Associated Press rankings were released Sunday - took advantage of the opponent's mistakes and didn't let up on the road in a 30-7 victory over the Gophers.
Given the bevy of upsets that stung several other top teams, that was an accomplishment in itself for Ohio State (5-0, 2-0). Seven of the first 13 teams in last week's poll lost, including No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 4 Florida and No. 7 Texas to unranked foes.
This opened an opportunity for the Buckeyes to move up and remind everyone they're again a contender for the national title, though it's still September.
``Some teams are outmanned. If you don't show up, being outmanned doesn't matter. You can still lose,'' offensive tackle Kirk Barton said, later adding: ``A loss in college football ends all your dreams. It's a tough game.''
New quarterback Todd Boeckman is not as dynamic as his predecessor, Troy Smith, but he's been making mostly smart decisions and sharp throws. Wells, despite the fumble, has been productive. The defense has been downright dominant. The Gophers (1-4, 0-2) rushed 13 times in the second half for minus-2 yards, and Ohio State has allowed only 34 points in five easy victories.
``I think we're getting after it a lot more than we did last year,'' said Malcolm Jenkins, whose interception late in the first half was the turning point.
Minnesota's Adam Weber tossed freshman Ralph Spry his first career touchdown reception on a 4-yard corner route that cut the lead to 14-7.
The Gophers forced a punt and put together another productive drive, only to have it thwarted when Weber's bad throw on third down was grabbed by Jenkins right in front of the goal line.
``It's one of those things that could've changed the game,'' Weber said. ``Fourteen-14 right there. Who knows what would've happened?''
Minnesota has made plenty of egregious mistakes all season, and the talent level in coach Tim Brewster's first season is clearly down from recent years. But despite the lopsided loss to the Buckeyes, the Gophers were actually more competitive - considering the competition - in the game than any of their previous September performances.
``Definitely we're making progress. If we keep doing what we're doing in practice - we've got to keep making plays - basically Minnesota will be back on top,'' receiver Ernie Wheelwright said.
Well, the Gophers would probably settle for small progress. Perhaps a victory at Indiana next week.

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