Halfway through the first quarter, Ohio State had a narrow 7-3 lead over Maryland with the ball. Pass, run, pass, pass, run. That’s all it took for Ohio State’s offense to go 75 yards on five plays and stroll into the end zone against an injured and struggling Maryland defense.
From there, it was the No. 7 ranked Buckeyes offensive show as they were too much for the Terps’ depleted secondary to handle as Maryland fell to Ohio State, 66-17, in Columbus, Ohio on Saturday.
“I felt we could have executed better,” head coach Mike Locksley said. “We played No. 5 and No. 7 [ranked teams in the country] and we’re obviously not there yet. We have a lot of work to do as a program.”
Last week against Iowa, Maryland’s leading receiver Dontay Demus Jr. went down with a knee injury that sidelined him for the remainder of the season. Against the Buckeyes, on the second play of the opening drive, receiver Jeshaun Jones, who was starting in place of Demus, went down with a lower-body injury and was carted off the field. A depleted receiving core became even thinner as Jones did not return the rest of the game.
Despite the injury, Maryland’s offense looked ready to bounce back on the opening drive. Tagovailoa had the offense driving until a sack on third down forced the Terps to set up for a field goal. Kicker Joseph Petrino nailed the 48-yarder to give Maryland an early 3-0 lead.
It didn’t take long for the top-scoring offense in the conference to respond. Ohio State’s quarterback C.J. Stroud led a 17-play, 88-yard drive into the end zone to take the lead, one the Buckeye’s refused to relinquish the rest of the afternoon.
Later in the first quarter, Stroud marched his squad down the field in just five plays. Running back TreVeyon Henderson punched it in from four yards out to take an 11-point lead.
Minutes before kickoff, Bruce Feldman from the Athletic reported that the Terps would be without star cornerback Jakorian Bennett and starting cornerback Kenny Bennett. Jakorian Bennett was second among all power five defenders in pass breakups through five weeks. The absence of those two was on display as Ohio State had a field day finding receivers and scoring touchdowns against Maryland.
The onslaught continued in the second quarter with another drive where Ohio State discombobulated the Terps defense, leading to a 36-yard touchdown throw from Stroud.
After a stagnant few drives and 21 unanswered points from the Buckeyes, Maryland put its best drive of the game together that went for 12 plays and 75 yards, resulting in seven points. The exclamation point came from a Tagovailoa bullet to wide receiver Carlos Carriere for the touchdown, cutting the score to 21-10.
While the offense tried to close the gap, the defense and special teams struggled. On the ensuing kickoff, Ohio State ran it back 67 yards to Maryland’s 29-yard line. Two plays later, the Buckeyes were in the end zone from Stroud’s 26-yard pass to Henderson, extending the lead back to 18.
“We weren’t getting off the field on third down,” defensive lineman Sam Okuayinonu said. “That’s important, you got to get off the field on third down.”
The Terps looked like they were going to cut the lead heading into halftime. Instead, Maryland went for it with a fourth-and-goal opportunity and muffed the snap, coming away with no points on the drive.
Ohio State easily marched down the field into the end zone once again to take a 35-10 halftime lead.
The fireworks from Stroud and the Buckeyes offense continued to open the second half. Ohio State guided down the field which led to Stroud, one of the best players in the country, throwing a beautiful, lofty ball 26-yards right into the lap of his receiver in the end zone.
What was already a blowout turned into a nightmare for the Terps in the second half, getting embarrassed by a team at the top of the Big Ten for the second consecutive week. The touchdowns through the air continued to soar as Stroud’s prolific day turned historic.
Stroud was pulled early in the fourth quarter but still tied his career-high in passing touchdowns with five and threw for the second-most passing yards in his young career with 406.
Maryland’s offense had success moving the chains in the first half and getting itself in scoring situations. However, that changed in the second half. The Terps didn’t get on the board in the second half until under a minute to go in the third period.
Tagovailoa found wide receiver Rakim Jarrett, who had been quiet in the game, for a 43-yard touchdown catch-and-run for his lone reception of the day, making the score 56-17.
The fourth period was quiet for both teams until Tagovailoa’s throw with just over three minutes to go in the game bounced off Carriere’s hands and into a Buckeye defender’s hands, who took it all the way for a pick-six. It was Tagovailoa’s second interception of the game in what was the final blow in a lopsided fight.
“I feel very confident still in this team,” Locksley said. “I really like where we are from a culture standpoint.”
Maryland will have an opportunity to reset after two brutal performances as they head into a bye week with half of its season on the other side.
Three things to know
1. The absence of key secondary players was evident. Ohio State already poses a tremendous challenge for any defense as they have the best scoring offense in the Big Ten and fourth in the country. Against a defense with key pieces of its secondary missing, Stroud and the Buckeyes moved the ball at will in the air. Both Jakorian Bennett and Kenny Bennett didn't play on Saturday, which was evident. Ohio State had 598 yards of total offense, 432 of which came in the air. It is the most passing yards and total yards the Terps defense has given up this season. Stroud finished the day on 24-33 passing, with 406 yards, five touchdowns and a 73% completion percentage.
2. Injuries continue to pile on for the Terps. Injuries have been costly for the Terps on both sides of the ball this season. The major blow came last week when Demus went down with a knee injury. This week, it was the same position group a player went down when Jeshaun Jones also injured his knee. Jones has an injury history as he tore his ACL two seasons ago. On the other side of the ball, linebacker Branden Jennings missed his second straight game. In the secondary, Jakorian Bennett and Kenny Bennett both missed Saturday’s game due to injury.
“The bye couldn't have come at a better time for us to try and get healthy and prepare ourselves,” Locksley said.
3. Maryland’s offensive discipline improved from last week. If there is any positive to take away from the collapse in Columbus, it is that Maryland was a much more disciplined football team than it had been in previous weeks. Locksley has been upset about the team’s penalty and turnover issue, all aspects Locksley puts under the discipline umbrella. While the Terps had major problems all over the field on Saturday, they only committed two penalties and turned the ball over twice, both of which were Tagovailoa interceptions.