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Maryland football vs. No. 7 Ohio State preview

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The Terps are looking to bounce back after their loss to then-No. 5 Iowa.

Courtesy of Maryland Athletics
UMTerps

After defeating its first four opponents of the season, Maryland football ultimately fell to then-No. 5 Iowa under the lights, 51-14. Now, the Terps look to bounce back on the road against a tough opponent in No. 7 Ohio State.

“We put [Iowa] behind us yesterday at our 2:15, our three o’clock, team meeting,” head coach Michael Locksley said on Tuesday. “And once we took the field yesterday afternoon in preparation for Ohio State, we have to turn the page and turn it pretty quickly, especially when we got coming down the road here in Columbus this weekend.”

Maryland not only dropped their first game of 2021 on Friday but also lost its star receiver Dontay Demus Jr. to a season-ending knee injury. Demus Jr. is one piece of a dynamic wide receiver corps and his presence will be missed on the field as he led the team by over 200 receiving yards, recorded three touchdowns and was the No. 2 receiver in the Big Ten through the first five games of the season.

“I don’t really think you can fill the void that [Demus] left,” Jarrett said. “It’s going to take all the other receivers to step up, including myself, to collectively do it.”

Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa is coming off his worst performance of the season as he completed 16 of his 29 attempted passes for 157 yards, two touchdowns and five interceptions. However, thanks to his strong first four performances, Tagovailoa is the No. 2 passer in the conference as he is averaging 299.4 yards per game behind Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud.

The defense has been consistent for the Terps however, against the Hawkeyes, the unit struggled to keep its opponent from running up the score. That was due in part to the field position Iowa earned after making stops deep in Maryland’s territory or forcing turnovers.

Now the Terps will look forward and head on the road for the second time this season to take on Ohio State. The game is set to start at noon EST and will air on Fox.

Ohio State Buckeyes

2020 season: 7-1 (6-0, Big Ten)

The Buckeyes are led by head coach Ryan Day who is in his third year at the helm. To date, he has amassed a 23-3 record and led Ohio State to a College Football Playoff appearance in 2019.

Following a brief stint as a quarterbacks coach in the NFL for the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers, Day worked as an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Before that, from 2002 to 2014, Day held multiple positions in various college programs as a tight ends coach, graduate assistant, wide receiver coach and offensive coordinator,

The Buckeyes started off this season with a win in Minnesota but dropped their first home game of the season to then-No. 12 Oregon, 35-28. Since then, Ohio State has won three in a row to Tulsa, Akron and Rutgers as it now welcomes Maryland to Columbus, Ohio.

Players to know

Redshirt freshman quarterback C.J. Stroud, 6-foot-3, No. 7 — Despite playing in just four games this season after sitting out against Akron to rest his shoulder, Stroud continues to lead the conference in a number of stat categories. The redshirt freshman ranks seventh in the nation and leads the Big Ten averaging 323.25 passing yards a game. Stroud’s 13 passing touchdowns over four games also lead the conference and rank 10th in the nation. Most recently against Rutgers, Stroud’s first game after resting his shoulder, he completed 17 of his 23 attempted passes, threw for 330 yards and five touchdowns.

“Very strong arm, accurate thrower and has very good functional athleticism for a young player,” Locksley said. “He’s a guy that I think will continue to get better and better for them, but he’s definitely the guy that makes pretty good decisions with the football, gets it out quickly and I think he’s a mixture of both [Dwayne] Haskins and [Justin] Fields.”

Freshman running back Treveyon Henderson, 5-foot-10, No. 32 — Henderson is a key factor of Ohio State’s strong offense. The Hopewell, Virginia native has recorded 510 yards, averaging 110.4 per game which makes him the third-best rusher in the conference behind Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker III and Minnesota’s Trey Potts. He also is the No. 3 scorer in the Big Ten averaging 9.6 points per game behind Walker III and Michigan kicker Jacob Moody. Henderson had a breakout game against Tulsa when he rushed for 270 yards and ran in for three touchdowns.

Sophomore safety Ronnie Hickman, 6-foot-1, No. 14 — The Wayne, New Jersey native has been all over the field for the Buckeyes recording two interceptions, one being a pick-six, for 65 total yards. Hickman has recorded a team-leading 44 tackles, the most on the Buckeyes by 16. Averaging 8.8 per game, Hickman ranks fifth in the conference.

Strength

Offense. Ohio State has outscored its 225-106 this season. The Buckeyes have scored 30 touchdowns, 16 more than its opponents, and have hit all five of their field goal attempts. Ohio State’s passing offense falls at No. 8 in the nation and No. 1 in the Big Ten with 336.2 passing yards per game. Additionally, Ohio State’s 16.98 passing yards per completion rank sixth in the nation, the only Big Ten team to fall in the top-10 for that stat category. Ohio State’s rushing is also a factor in its offense success. The Buckeyes’ rushing offense ranks at No. 22 in the nation and third in the Big Ten. Led by Henderson who has nearly half the team’s yards on the ground with 510, Ohio State has recorded 1,097 rushing yards.

Weakness

Penalties. Maryland football is familiar with the issue of penalties as it is coming into this matchup as the Terps have had 38 against them costing them 359 yards, an average of 71.80 per game. However, Ohio State is not too far off. The Buckeyes enter the game against the Terps with 35 penalties costing them 360 yards, an average of 72.0 per game. If Maryland can draw penalties and show it has more discipline than it displayed in the last few weeks, it has the potential to capitalize on some of the penalties that may be made by the opposition.

Three things to watch

1. How will Maryland’s offense adapt without Dontay Demus Jr.? The Terps lost their No. 1 wide receiver against Iowa after Demus Jr. went down with a leg injury early in the second quarter. Ahead of the Ohio State game, Locksley announced that Demus Jr. would be getting checked out further as well as undergoing surgery later in the week ruling the receiver out for the rest of the season. The loss will impact the Terps both on and off the field and they have a tough challenge ahead in Ohio State to see if they are able to rework the offense. However, Maryland has prided itself on its depth of talent in the wide receiver room this season. Tagovailoa still has a number of weapons around him that will now presumably step up with the loss of Demus Jr. such as Rakim Jarrett, Jeshaun Jones, Darryl Jones and Brian Cobbs.

2. Can the Terps clean up their discipline issues? Maryland football struggles with penalties and those were more evident than ever this season when it faced Iowa. In the first half, the Terps had three false starts, three defensive pass interference calls along with one roughing the passer and one unsportsmanlike conduct call. Maryland finished the game with 10 penalties costing it 86 yards making it seemingly impossible for the Terps to move down the field against a tough Iowa defense.

“It’s just simple, we gotta clean up the little stuff, we gotta stop the penalties and we gotta stop beating ourselves,” Still said following the Iowa loss.

The Terps have another challenging opponent next up on their slate as they travel to Ohio and it will be interesting to see if they can decrease the flags in this matchup

3. Will Taulia Tagovailoa have a bounce-back game? Tagovailoa had been one of the top-scoring offenses in the country headed into last Friday’s matchup against the Hawkeyes however, the Iowa defense proved to be just as challenging as it has looked all season. Tagovailoa finished the game completing just 16 of his 29 attempted passes for 157 yards. Tagovailoa recorded two touchdowns and five interceptions. Through the four games before the Hawkeyes, Tagovailoa made very few mistakes and was showing significant growth having thrown just one interception.

“I’m looking forward to getting back to work, we have a big challenge ahead of us and I think I just have to get back to the basics,” Tagocailoa said.

During the 2020 season, Maryland lost its first game against Northwestern. In that matchup, Tagovailoa threw for just 94 yards, zero touchdowns and had three interceptions. However, Tagovailoa quickly bounced back against Minnesota when he threw three touchdowns, 394 yards and just one interception. Tagovailoa has shown he is able to bounce back from poor performances however, it will be a challenge to do so against a tough Ohio State team.