Maryland football (4-2, 1-2 Big Ten) entered Columbus against No. 7 Ohio State (5-1, 3-0 Big Ten) looking for a bounce-back performance following a blowout loss at home to Iowa.
Instead, Ohio State’s explosiveness and speed offensively tormented Maryland’s defense throughout as the Terps lost their seventh straight meeting to the Buckeyes, 66-17.
The Terps were missing two of their top cornerbacks in Kenny and Jakorian Bennett due to hamstring injuries. Buckeyes quarterback C.J. Stroud picked apart Maryland’s defense and finished 24-of-33 for 406 yards and five touchdowns. In the first half alone, Stroud tallied 293 yards and threw touchdowns to three different players.
“We have a lot of work to do as a program and it’s good to see just how far we’ve come sitting at 4-2 at the halfway point,” head coach Michael Locksley said. “For us to see back-to-back No. 5 and No. 7 [in the nation], we’ve got a lot of work to do through recruiting, through our roster development and all those aspects to be able to compete against those types of teams and play at that level. I felt our effort was there today, the execution was piss poor.”
Ohio State’s wide receiver trio of Chris Olave, Jaxon Smith-Ngiba and Garrett Wilson combined for 307 yards and four touchdowns. Maryland’s depleted secondary looked overmatched against the Buckeyes’ prolific receiving corps.
Ohio State finished with 598 total yards, averaging 8.4 yards per play and 16.6 yards per completion. The Buckeyes scored touchdowns on eight of their 10 possessions, including each of their first five series to start the game. Seven of those eight drives took less than three minutes, highlighting Ohio State’s propensity for creating explosive plays.
“We had guys looking like they fell out of airplanes they were so wide open,” Locksley said. “I thought [defensive coordinator Brian Stewart] continues to try to protect the players as we start losing guys. Not having your top three corners and now you’re down to your fifth and sixth guy out there. We have to do a good job as a coaching staff making sure we understand our personnel and doing the things to keep us in front of the football. You can’t give up that many yards, it was like seven-on-seven out there in the first half.”
Maryland’s receiving corps was dealt another brutal blow on the opening series when junior wide receiver Jeshaun Jones was carted off. Senior receiver Dontay Demus is already done for the year. The offense struggled to find a consistent rhythm throughout. Junior quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa finished 28-of-39 for 272 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
The Terps missed a golden opportunity on their opening drive when Tagovailoa overthrew a wide open Darryl Jones for what would have been a 40-yard touchdown. The drive later stalled when Tagovailoa was sacked on third-and-3. Senior Joseph Petrino knocked through a 48-yard field goal.
From its opening possession, Ohio State’s offense had its way with Maryland defensively. The Buckeyes methodically moved the ball on their opening drive, and wide receiver Garrett Wilson beat sophomore cornerback Tarheeb Still cleanly for a 2-yard touchdown.
Wilson’s ability to separate with ease was a microcosm of how the Buckeyes carved up the Terps’ inexperienced secondary throughout the contest. During each of Maryland’s next two possessions, the offensive line struggled to protect Tagovailoa with the Buckeyes generating pressure from both the edge and the interior. Fueling off the momentum of their defense, Stroud orchestrated back-to-back touchdown drives highlighted by explosive plays.
The Buckeyes made the Terps pay for miscommunications defensively on those big plays. Beyond the lapses in communication, Maryland’s cornerbacks were consistently beaten off the line.
Now trailing 21-3 early in the second quarter, Maryland’s offense orchestrated the response it desperately needed. Tagovailoa led a methodical 12-play, 75-yard drive, with senior tight end Chig Okonkwo being the featured target. That drive ended in a 7-yard touchdown reception by senior wide receiver Carlos Carriere, trimming the Buckeye lead to 21-10 with 7:37 remaining in the first half.
However, Maryland’s special teams surrendered a 67-yard return on the ensuing kickoff, allowing Ohio State to regain momentum. Two plays later, Stroud and running back TreVeyon Henderson connected on a wheel route for a 26-yard touchdown, pushing the Buckeyes’ lead to 28-10 with 6:54 remaining in the first half. No one picked up Henderson out of the backfield, another indication of Maryland’s ineffective communication defensively.
Henderson’s touchdown reception was one of four scores greater than 25 yards. It also marked one of 12 completions 15 yards or more for the Buckeyes, who carved up Maryland’s defense throughout. From there, Maryland’s offense couldn’t find a consistent rhythm and Ohio State’s offense continued to steamroll the Terps’ defense. The Buckeyes led, 35-10, at halftime.
Maryland’s defensive struggles continued in the second half, with Stroud spearheading three consecutive touchdown drives in the third quarter. Those series featured the same defensive errors as in the first half, with Ohio State’s premier playmakers taking advantage. While Buckeyes skill players found openings, the Terps rarely pressured Stroud and allowed him to stay comfortable in the pocket.
Saturday afternoon’s blowout loss leaves Maryland with a plethora of adjustments to make heading into the bye week before traveling to Minnesota for a road matchup Oct. 23.
“We’re going to have an opportunity to get some guys healthy now after six tough weeks,” Locksley said. “The bye week couldn’t have come at a better time for us. It gives us a chance to regroup, reevaluate the things we’re doing in all three phases.”
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