Saturday served as a reminder of where Maryland football hopes to be one day and just how far the Terps are from getting there.
Head coach D.J. Durkin and his team entered The Horseshoe with a 1-0 record in Big Ten play, but No. 10 Ohio State quickly evened that record to 1-1 with a 62-14 drubbing of the Terps in Columbus.
The game was relatively close in the first quarter, but then things got ugly for Maryland, which couldn’t get anything going on either side of the ball.
To take a closer look at what went wrong and how the Terps performed, TSR gives out its football report card for Maryland’s loss at Ohio State.
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Tough to even give a fair grade to Maryland’s quarterbacks here since they collectively threw only 13 passes against Ohio State--something that likely reflects more on Terps offensive coordinator Walt Bell. The reason for the plurality at the position is that the Terps suffered yet another injury under center. Starting sophomore quarterback Max Bortenschlager exited the game late in the third quarter after taking a blow to the head while sliding at the end of a scramble. The defensive back that hit Bortenschlager was ejected from the game for targeting, but that hardly makes up for yet another loss at quarterback for Maryland. Junior Caleb Henderson had to finish the game and failed to complete his only pass attempt. Together, the Terps quarterbacks combined to go 3-for-13 passing for 16 yards. Neither provided any relief with their legs either, taking numerous sacks and combining for -45 rushing yards.
Running Back: D+
Maryland’s runners had more opportunity than its passers, but the Terps backfield was still unable to produce anything against a stout Buckeyes defensive front. As a team, Maryland ran the ball 42 times for 50 yards, an average of 1.2 yards per carry. That’s not good at all. But Terps leading rusher Ty Johnson did pick up 57 yards on 12 carries to post a respectable 4.8 yards per run. Freshman tailback Javon Leake also flashed some talent by taking one of his two carries 20 yards to the house in the fourth quarter to score Maryland’s first offensive touchdown of the game. The real concern here is Lorenzo Harrison, who looked brilliant at times as a freshman last season but has struggled to get himself going this year. Coming off perhaps his best game of the season against Minnesota, Harrison had by far his worst against the Buckeyes, running 11 times for 8 yards (0.7 yards per carry).
Wide Receiver/Tight End: D-
The offensive play calling against Ohio State made it virtually impossible for any Terps pass catcher to have an impact on Saturday. Junior wideout D.J. Moore led Maryland in receiving for the fifth straight week, but this time only needed two receptions for 11 yards to do so. Senior wide receiver Taivon Jacobs was the only other player to catch a pass for the Terps. Ohio State does have a very talented secondary that keeps many receiving corps at bay, but it’s important to keep in mind that the Buckeyes were without one of their starting defensive backs for most of the game because of a targeting call, and they lost another late in the game because of the same type of call, as well. Maryland was unable to take advantage at any point.
Offensive Line: D-
Besides a lack of balance, horrible blocking also contributed heavily to Maryland’s offensive struggles against Ohio State. The Terps offensive front was severely outmatched on Saturday and allowed the Buckeyes pass rush to tee off the quarterback. Ohio State recorded five sacks in the game and held Maryland to 66 yards of total offense. This is a unit that has looked like one of the Terps’ strongest at times, but in Columbus, Maryland couldn’t stop pressure up the middle or off the edge even a little bit. In all fairness, Ohio State has one of the best defensive lines in the nation. But the Terps didn’t play up to their competition and took a beating on Saturday.
Defensive Line: D-
Maryland was just dominated in the trenches, plain and simple. The Terps defensive line was as ineffective as a unit can be, producing no pass rush, zero sacks and allowing 281 rushing yards against the Buckeyes. Ohio State’s starting quarterback J.T. Barrett had all day on pretty much every play and was able to pick apart the Maryland defense to the tune of 20-for-31 passing, 261 yards and three touchdowns. The Terps defensive front also allowed five different Buckeyes, including Barett, to score rushing touchdowns on the day.
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It was reported just before kickoff that Terps starting linebacker Shane Cockerille did not make the trip to Columbus for undisclosed reasons. But Cockerille’s absence is not why Maryland’s linebackers played so poorly. No one in the middle of the Terps defense was able to make plays on Saturday as Ohio State’s offense constantly targeted that area of the field. Starting in place of Cockerille, Isaiah Davis recorded eight tackles but struggled to get off blocks or make his presence felt. Defensive captain Jermaine Carter Jr. had one of his worst performances ever as a Terp, registering just five tackles and finding himself out of position on many plays. Ohio State’s athleticism and speed really exposed the deficiencies of Maryland’s linebackers.
Defensive Back: C-
To be clear, the stats against this unit are not good at all. But what can be expected from a secondary that receives absolutely zero help from its front seven? The reason Maryland’s secondary doesn’t grade out as poorly as the rest of the defense is because the Terps defensive backs were the only ones to make some plays for Maryland on that side of the ball. NICKEL Antoine Brooks led the Terps with 13 tackles and also picked up a tackle for loss as he continues to emerge as one of the brightest young defensive stars in the Big Ten. Senior safety Josh Woods also played well and kept his streak of making big plays alive. Woods recorded a crucial interception at Minnesota the week prior, and against Ohio State, he was responsible for forcing a fumble that was recovered by Chandler Burkett. Freshman runner J.K. Dobbins had himself a nice game against the Terps, but Woods laid a hit on him in the second quarter that forced him to cough up the ball. Although Ohio State didn’t have to throw much in the second half of this game, which skews the numbers a bit, Maryland’s secondary still didn’t let any Buckeyes receiver gain more than 55 yards.
Special Teams: A-
You can’t blame Maryland’s special teams for the Terps offensive and defensive woes against Ohio State. It was the only phase of the game that seemingly came to play for Maryland on Saturday. A 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the first quarter by Terps running back Ty Johnson stunned the crowd in Columbus for a moment and cut the Buckeyes lead to 14-7. But Johnson’s big play was Maryland’s last, until the special teams came through again by blocking an Ohio State field goal attempt later in the quarter. Ohio State’s kicker, Sean Nuernberger, also missed a 29-yard field goal later in the game, which was not blocked but Maryland got penetration that led to a rushed attempt. Nuernberger also missed an extra point in the first quarter thanks to a bad snap.
Overall Offense: D
When you gain only 66 yards or total offense throughout an entire game, there’s no way around a bad grade. This honestly could be even lower but Maryland’s offensive players also seem to have fallen victim to some poor play calling in this one. Balance was never even close to established for the Terps, who continued to try to run the ball even when faced with a huge deficit. The biggest factor, though, was Maryland’s poor blocking, which needs to show it can actually perform against solid defenses.
Overall Defense: D
Continuous three-and-outs by the offense put Maryland’s defense in a bad position throughout the game, but the Terps didn’t do themselves any favors with a vanilla defensive game plan that didn’t phase the Buckeyes even a little bit. This is another grade that could potentially be lower, but we’re grading player performances here, not coaches, and Terps defensive coordinator Andy Buh just didn’t seem to have his guys prepared to play on such a big stage. Getting creative with some blitzes or at least moving some guys around the secondary a little bit might have been able to produce a few positive plays here and there for Maryland’s defense, but Ohio State’s offense had no problem moving the ball with ease against the Terps.
Overall Team: D+
Maryland’s special teams seems to be trending upward while the rest of the team took a giant step back in the other direction. The Terps were out classed and out coached on Saturday and now have a gauge on how much ground they have to make up to compete with Big Ten Blue Bloods like Ohio State. Maryland seemed demoralized by the second half, which wasn’t even as apparent in a blowout loss at home to UCF, but the Terps aren’t the first opponent the Buckeyes and head coach Urban Meyer have done that to. Maryland will have to lick its wounds and regroup after this one, as the Terps get set to host a reeling Northwestern team in College Park next weekend.