After seemingly no one in America gave it a chance Saturday, Maryland football found itself in a fourth-quarter battle with No. 2 Ohio State.
Both sides of the ball came up large for Maryland in the fourth quarter, but Ohio State was the team that had a chance to ice the game. Trailing 33-30 with about six minutes to play, Maryland punted it away to give Ohio State the ball at its own 12-yard line.
The Buckeyes drove across midfield, and Maryland answered with two run stops — and two ensuing timeouts — to force a third-and-7 with three minutes left for all the marbles. Heisman favorite C.J. Stroud, cool and collected, dropped back to pass and found Emeka Egbuka over the middle for a gain of nine yards and the first down. The drive ended with a Noah Ruggles 45-yard field goal, which was the icing on the cake.
Ohio State did not bring its A-game, but its elite talent was too much for Maryland, outlasting it until the clock showed zeroes for the 43-30 win in College Park on Saturday evening.
“I saw growth,” head coach Mike Locksley said. “When people say, ‘Where’s the growth?’ I saw that — point to today, point to days like today, you point to games like Michigan. And again, not because they’re close, but how we competed against those teams. And to me that’s where, when we talk about taking the next step and the growth, that’s what, those are things that I’ll show and talk to our team about as we finish this 2022 campaign.”
On its first drive, the Ohio State offensive machine drove 75 yards in six plays, capped off by a 31-yard TreVeyon Henderson receiving touchdown to take an immediate one-touchdown lead.
The Terps responded with a Chad Ryland 31-yard field goal, bringing their deficit to 7-3 about six minutes into the game. Sophomore tight end C.J. Dippre got going with two receptions on the drive — including an athletic 25-yard catch and run. A face mask penalty helped Maryland enter the red zone, but Ohio State pressure led to a sack and the Terps settling for three.
Maryland put forth an impressive defensive stand thereafter, allowing it to start its second drive at its 43-yard line. Tagovailoa found four different receivers on the drive, but Maryland stalled again, converting on a 21-yard field goal to make it a 7-6 ballgame.
Remarkably, the Terps forced back-to-back three-and-outs but could not capitalize on the second, allowing Ohio State to take its 7-6 lead into the second quarter.
The Buckeyes drove 75 yards in 14 plays to start the second frame but settled for a 33-yard field goal, bringing their lead to 10-6 with about 10 minutes to play in the quarter.
But these feisty, resilient Terps — the ones that were nowhere to be found the last two weeks against Penn State and Wisconsin — just refused to go away.
Tagovailoa marched the Terps 75 yards down the field, converting on not one, not two, but three third downs en route to a 1-yard touchdown pass to Dippre. The score gave Maryland a 13-10 lead over the No. 2 team in the land with under four minutes to play in the first half.
Maryland ultimately forced another first-half punt to head into halftime with a three-point lead.
The second half did not start with nearly the same enthusiasm.
The Buckeyes sniffed out a second-down screen pass to Dippre, setting up third-and-12 for the Terps. Ohio State sent the house on third down, leading to a Maryland punt on fourth. On the punt coverage, Ohio State safety Lathan Ramson came in untouched, blocking Colton Spangler’s punt and putting the Buckeyes in business.
Two plays later, running back Dallan Hayden scooted into the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown, giving the Buckeyes a 17-13 lead fewer than three minutes into the second half.
Though Maryland went three-and-out on the ensuing possession, its defense bent but did not break. An intentional grounding flag on Stroud pushed the Buckeyes back 16 yards, but Ruggles still drained the 47-yard attempt. Ohio State’s lead was once again at a touchdown, and Maryland was down, but not out, halfway through the third.
On its next drive, Maryland once again got the ball around midfield but stalled, punting it away for the third time in three third-quarter drives.
Ohio State’s talent would not continuously be denied, as a Hayden 3-yard touchdown, his second of the game, gave Ohio State its largest lead at 27-13 toward the end of the third quarter.
Though a two-possession lead is certainly not insurmountable, it felt that way against the Big Ten’s best offense.
Still, the Terps wouldn’t disappear. Tagovailoa and company went 75 yards in just five plays, and the signal-caller capped off the drive himself with a 5-yard rushing score. Locksley made the gutsy call to go for two, and it paid off. Tagovailoa connected with wideout Jacob Copeland on a screen, converting on the conversion and cutting the lead to 27-21 with the majority of the fourth quarter remaining.
Ohio State answered with a quick touchdown drive, as a long kickoff return propelled it to just a 63-second touchdown drive. Hayden’s third touchdown gave the Buckeyes a 12-point lead, but Deonte Banks blocked Ruggles’ extra-point attempt, which Jakorian Bennett took all the way to the house to add the rare defensive two points for the Terps. Resetting after all that, Maryland trailed 33-23 with 12:36 to play.
Time and time again, the resilient Terps refused to die. Tagovailoa put together arguably the best drive of his career, which included arguably the best throw of his career. Tagovailoa dropped an absolute dime to Rakim Jarrett, connecting for 49 yards and getting inside the Ohio State 10.
The Buckeyes stood tough on the defensive end, though, forcing a fourth-and-goal at the 1. Ryland was about to come on the field again, but Tagovailoa emphatically waved him back to the sideline. On fourth down, he made magic happen. Rolling out and avoiding pressure, he somehow found Jeshaun Jones for six, and the extra point brought Maryland within just three with about 10 minutes to play.
“It was just the feel of the game,” Tagovailoa said. “Us as competitors, you always want to — especially when you’re playing against a team like that — you always want to make good use of your opportunities and stuff like that. So I felt like we always got good plays drawn up for situations like that, and we practiced that a lot in practice. So just happy it worked out and we scored.”
Ohio State’s next drive ultimately led to fourth-and-1 from the Maryland 42-yard line, where Ohio State elected to pass, not run. Stroud was looking for wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr., one of the Biletnikoff Award favorites, but his pass fell short. However, Maryland could not capitalize, going three-and-out for the third time and giving the ball back to the Buckeyes with about six minutes remaining.
The Buckeyes milked nearly the entirety of the clock, and the Terps would have to drive 84 yards in 36 seconds with no timeouts. Tagovailoa was stripped by Zach Harrison on second-and-17, and the ball fell right into the hands of Steele Chambers for the game-sealing touchdown.
Tagovailoa walked off the field hurt to end the game, and the Terps fell to 6-5.
“It’s just that small bit of margin of error that we’re like, we’re right there,” Bennett said of Locksley’s postgame message to the team. “Like it’s there, we just got to finish, that’s really it. Just finish and just focus on the details throughout the whole game.”
Three things to know
1. Maryland had about as good of a first half as possible, setting it up to compete. Heading into Saturday, the Terps were given little chance to compete as four-touchdown underdogs. Heading into halftime, the Terps not only led on the scoreboard but were out-gaining Ohio State in yardage, 211-159. While the offense was composed — Tagovailoa was nearly flawless, completing 16-of-18 first-half passes for 180 yards and a touchdown — the defense set the tone. Ohio State’s three first-half punts, which included two three-and-outs, nearly matched its season average of 3.7 punts per game.
2. Tagovailoa bounced back. After arguably the two worst games of his career — throwing for 151 combined yards and completing just 46.7% of his passes — Tagovailoa gave the Terps a chance Saturday. He finished 26-of-36 through the air, throwing for two touchdowns and rushing for another. He became Maryland’s all-time passing leader Saturday.
Tagovailoa walked into the postgame media session with a limp, but he said his knee is “good” and thinks it is just a “bad bruise.”
3. A different pedigree. Not that the Terps were expected to have any chance against the Buckeyes, but Saturday’s outcome brought them to 0-8 all-time against Ohio State. Maryland kept Ohio State well under its 59.4 points per game it has scored in seven previous meetings between the teams, but the loss still hurts. Ohio State did not vastly outplay the Terps by any means Saturday, but it still got the job done.
“Obviously, it’s about wins and losses and it’s not about how close you are,” Locksley said. “So we still got a ways to go. As I told our team, though, there’s just a, there’s a small margin of error between the great teams and the good teams in this league. And for us to take that next step, we’ve got to be able to take that step, and that step is finding a way to a win a game like this, not be close, find a way to win.”