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The Byrd Feeder: After Ohio State loss, Terps have bye week ahead before hosting Iowa

Maryland has a helpful week off before the Iowa Hawkeyes visit on Oct. 18.

Jonathan Ernst

No one in the Maryland football program seems to mind having a bye this weekend. Randy Edsall said it was coming at "a really good time for us," and several players said after Saturday's loss to Ohio State that it would offer a good chance for some rest and a reboot. The Ohio State game went awry quickly, but Maryland emerged relatively healthy and with 14 days to prepare for an eminently beatable Iowa team, which visits Byrd Stadium on Oct. 18.

What we saw last week:

  • What happens when Maryland faces a dominant defensive line. The Terps' front five on offense have been a work in progress all year, with some high peaks and devastatingly low craters. After a brutal game against West Virginia, the offensive line played a lot better – especially in pass-protection – against both Syracuse and Indiana. Against Ohio State, that wasn't so. The Buckeyes' four-down defensive line penetrated at will and had C.J. Brown and Caleb Rowe running for their lives for most of the afternoon. Defensive end Joey Bosa toyed with both of Maryland's offensive tackles in the pass rush and occupied a lot of blockers in the running game. The line contributed to a handful of decent running plays but couldn't keep its quarterbacks remotely clean. The Terps have used the same five starting linemen – Michael Dunn, Silvano Altamirano, Sal Conaboy, Andrew Zeller and Ryan Doyle – in every game of the first half of the season. Against Ohio State, just one backup, Jake Wheeler, saw any snaps at all. The Terps have a handful of high-upside or experienced backups in Evan Mulrooney, Derwin Gray and Damian Prince. It's unclear how close any of those players are to playing in games, though Prince seems unlikely to play at all this year.
  • Poor aerial defense. Maryland gave up a lot of big plays when it lost to West Virginia nearly a month ago, but in the ensuing games against Syracuse and Indiana, the secondary prevented those plays Defensive coordinator Brian Stewart said the recent success against long passes was the simple result of winning what he called "50-50 balls," where a defender and a receiver jostle for position and have to get up and come down with the ball. Well, against Ohio State, the 50-50 balls felt more like 85-15 balls for Ohio State. Sean Davis, Will Likely, Jeremiah Johnson and linebacker Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil were all beaten cleanly for big gains or touchdowns on balls they'd certainly like to have another chance at at least swatting away.
  • A solid pass-rushing effort. On the whole, the Terps won't be happy with their defensive performance. How could they be, when Ohio State posted 533 yards of offense? To Maryland's credit, though, the defensive and linebacking group did good work to get pressure on Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett. The freshman quarterback didn't drop back a lot, because the Buckeyes spent so much of the game running option plays that led to keepers or handoffs. When he did drop back, Maryland didn't give him a ton of time to throw. Andre Monroe had two of the team's four sacks on the day, and Terps did fine in forcing Barrett to make decisions quickly. Unfortunately for the Terps, those decisions were usually good ones, and the pass rush's strong day came largely in vain.
What we're looking for this week:
  • Not much. Maryland needs to rest up and hope to be as healthy as possible going into the game against Iowa. A couple of depth players missed the Ohio State game: cornerback Daniel Ezeagwu, safety Zach Dancel and long-snapper Christian Carpenter. Given the season-ending injury to cornerback Alvin Hill, the Terps could really use Ezeagwu and Dancel back in their secondary. Most important to the defense, of course, is the status of outside linebacker Matt Robinson, who has missed three games since sustaining a shoulder injury against West Virginia. With half a season still to play, Maryland could use all hands on deck.