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Grading Maryland football’s positions after its loss to Ohio State

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The Terps’ injury-depleted defense was no match for the Buckeyes.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Coming out of the gates with its best start and sweeping its nonconference opponents for the first time since 2016, Maryland football was put to the test these last couple of weeks against two of the top teams in the nation.

The most recent challenge came against Ohio State, a program that was ranked at the No. 7 spot when Maryland visited Columbus, Ohio, on Oct. 9. It wasn’t an easy game for the Terps as the newly ranked No. 6 team in the nation took its near-perfect offense to Maryland.

Maryland went on to fall 66-17 in a game where Ohio State’s offense didn’t allow the Terps to breathe all game. Now, the Terps stand with a 4-2 record heading into the bye week with their next matchup on the schedule coming against Minnesota on Oct. 23.

Let’s take a look at Maryland’s positional grades coming off of its second loss of the season.

Quarterback

Taulia Tagovailoa didn’t have nearly as bad of a performance as he did when then-No. 5 Iowa came to College Park, in which the junior uncharacteristically tossed five separate interceptions en route to a 37-point loss. Tagovailoa missed some important throws early in the first quarter, but he had a stable performance up until the final frame.

He finished with 28 completions on 39 attempts for 279 yards and two touchdowns, along with two interceptions, though the two interceptions came when the game was already out of Maryland’s reach. Tagovailoa also had to play without his No. 1 wide receiver Dontay Demus Jr. for the first time this season, and the Terps had to resort to even more depth options after wideout Jeshaun Jones went down on the first drive with a lower-body injury.

Overall, Tagovailoa played decently until the final quarter, and even without his top weapon on offense, he wasn’t necessarily the true reason as to why Maryland was unable to come away with an upset victory.

Grade: B-

Running back

Similar to its meeting with Iowa in which it conceded 31 straight points in the second quarter, Maryland's game script early on dictated how much production the team’s backs would eventually end up receiving.

Senior Challen Faamatau offered his best performance of the season, totaling a team-high 71 yards and he was tied with sophomore Peny Boone with nine carries on the afternoon. Boone chipped in with 41 yards as well, while redshirt senior Tayon Fleet-Davis, the team’s presumed weekly starter, ended with just eight carries for seven yards. Fleet-Davis and Faamatau combined to add 50 yards in the receiving game as well.

The running backs simply didn’t have much of a chance to make that great of an impact with the Terps falling behind early and often. However, with the chances they were given, they provided somewhat of a stable ground game and offered help in the passing game as well.

Grade: B-

Wide receiver

Outside of the quarterback and running back position, the wide receiver corps seemed to be lost without the dominant presence of Demus Jr., who was the clear-cut top guy out of Tagovailoa’s receiving options. Maryland certainly showed its abundance of depth at the position after Jeshaun Jones’ injury, as seven different receivers caught a pass, but none of them were able to be game-changers.

The Terps’ top receiver for the game ended up being sophomore Rakim Jarrett, who was held to just one catch for a team-high 43 yards and one touchdown. Jarrett failed to gain any kind of separation against the Buckeyes’ secondary for the majority of the game, and the rest of the Terps’ receivers fared similarly. Senior Carlos Carriere added 35 receiving yards and a touchdown, but besides him, Brian Cobbs and Darryl Jones combined for just 48 yards.

It was a sub-par audition for Maryland’s new-look receiving crew without Demus Jr., and it seems as though Maryland lacks playmakers outside of what Jarrett can bring to the table.

Grade: C+

Tight end

With the wideouts not producing a true standout performer of the week, Maryland’s best performance from a pass-catcher came from starter Chigoziem Okonkwo. The senior delivered his most efficient receiving outing to date, collecting 56 yards on five catches from Tagovailoa. It was just the second time this season that Okonkwo totaled over 25 yards in a single game. After getting just 22 yards in the first three games, Okonkwo has had 123 yards in his past three contests.

Sophomore Corey Dyches also added two catches for 15 yards to round out the rest of the tight ends’ efforts. Tagovailoa is clearly gaining a solid rapport with his tight end group, and he even went on mention his growing trust with the positional group during the postgame.

Grade: B+

Offensive line

Maryland’s offensive line was simply no match for Ohio State’s front. Tagovailoa never seemed to have time in the pocket and he was constantly scrambling in an attempt to extend plays.

As a result, the Buckeyes managed to come up with a sack on five different occasions, and the constant pressure on Tagovailoa made it difficult for the offense to produce points on the board. Ohio State’s Haskell Garrett and Jack Sawyer caused problems for Maryland all game and were the focal points for disrupting the Terps’ offense.

The offensive line was a positional group that seemed to be progressing in positive ways during the first four games of the season, but after falling apart against Iowa and then Ohio State, the offensive line’s abilities have been fairly exposed.

Grade: D+

Defensive line

Maryland’s defensive line, which has taken plenty of strides in a positive direction this season, wasn't able to generate much against Ohio State’s protection on the line of scrimmage.

Ohio State’s balanced offense came to play and the run game for the Buckeyes faced little resistance from Maryland’s front. Running back TreVeyon Henderson ran all over the Terps and ended with 102 yards and two touchdowns on just 16 attempts, while Master Teague also added 31 yards and one touchdown on the ground.

Just about every aspect of Maryland’s defense wasn’t effective, though the one sack that the Terps did have came from defensive lineman Mosiah Nasili-Kite. It wasn't a good day for the defensive line by any means, as they were visibly overpowered by Ohio State’s stellar offense.

Grade: C-

Linebacker

The absence of freshman Branden Jennings loomed large once again as Maryland was torched in the middle of the field. Ohio State attacked the Terps from just about every possible angle and the linebackers failed to make any kind of positive impact in coverage.

Ahmad McCullough led the team’s linebackers with four solo tackles, but besides McCullough, the defensive production was nowhere to be found with this group. Sophomore Ruben Hyppolite II, who has been an integral part of Maryland’s linebacker corps through six games, managed just one tackle against the Buckeyes.

There was no stopping Ohio State’s offense in this one and just like the rest of the defense, the linebackers offered little pushback to what the Buckeyes brought.

Grade: D+

Secondary

Not having Jakorian Bennett or Kenny Bennett was detrimental to Maryland’s defense and the Terps’ lack of solid secondary depth was exposed. The defensive backs who had to fill in the holes in the lineup had no response to quarterback C.J. Stroud, who went to throw for 406 yards and five touchdowns on just 33 pass attempts.

One of the nation’s top offenses absolutely shredded Maryland all game and the inability to get stops when Ohio State went through the air was a big reason as to why the Buckeyes had just one drive in which it didn't come away with points.

The deadly wide receiver trio of Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson and Jaxon Smith-Njigba torched Maryland, combining for 307 receiving yards and four touchdowns. It was just another day at the office for Ohio State’s passing game, and Maryland’s secondary will need a big bounce back against Minnesota.

Grade: F

Special teams

Coverage on kickoffs continues to be a major thorn in the side of Maryland’s special teams' efforts. Freshman Emeka Egbuka haunted the Terps on each kick return, finishing the game with four returns for a total of 166 yards. He had a long gain of 67 on a return and his average return totals out to 42 yards per attempt.

Despite Maryland’s Joseph Petrino going 1-for-1 on his lone field goal try and the duo punting crew of Anthony Pecorella and Colton Spangler having decent outings, the kickoff returns were the main story of the special teams.

It’s hard to upset a top-10 team in the country when six of Ohio State’s 11 total drives started on its own 34-yard line or better. The kickoff coverage desperately needs to improve and it was especially worse this time around considering that Maryland’s defense was already not at full strength.

Grade: C-