Ohio State hosted Maryland for homecoming and the Terrapins had redemption on their minds after getting blown out at home to derail an undefeated start to the season. The Buckeyes were expecting the Terps’ best shot at the Shoe. I don’t know that they got it, but I’m here to tell you about the things that had me grinding my teeth in Ohio State’s 66-17 win on Saturday.
Law of Averages is Broken
Ohio State is 1-5 in the coin toss this season after Maryland won the opening flip. I’m not sure it counts as “losing” the coin toss if the other team gives you what you want anyway (i.e. receiving the second-half kickoff), and there are much bigger things that can fail to go your way, but anytime something that is supposed to occur about half the time only happens 17% of the time, it’s annoying.
Taulia Tagovailoa rolled to his right on the first Maryland drive and chucked a pass downfield, overthrowing a wide-open receiver in the end zone. But the referees bailed him out with a free 15 yards. Javontae Jean-Baptiste was flagged for roughing the passer on the gentlest possible instance of “roughing.” The OSU defensive end had jumped to try to defend the pass and when he landed, he was right on top of the quarterback. He put his hands in front of him and made no contact with Tagovailoa’s head and the result was simply a bump. The quarterback sprawled out and got his free 15 yards. Jean-Baptiste helped Tagovailoa draw the flag by putting his hands up in the universal “I didn’t do anything” signal that always makes people think you did something. Players should keep their hands down, turn around, and get lined up. Then, the bad call will be entirely the referee’s fault instead of only mostly the ref’s fault.
I would have been OK with Maryland’s similar — but slightly later and slightly rougher — hit on CJ Stroud on Ohio State’s ensuing drive not being called had they not given Tagovailoa a ridiculous amount of extra protection, which helped Maryland get into range for the opening field goal. But the rule of Ball Don’t Lie went into effect when Stroud hit Garrett Wilson in the end zone for a touchdown to finish his first drive.
Stroud delivered a perfect ball on the first drive to Jeremy Ruckert and he dropped it. Future NFL tight ends can’t be expected to make every catch but the perfect ones that hit them in the hands should be snatched out of the air. Whether Ruckert was worried about the impending collision or simply took his eyes off the ball, those are the kinds of balls that must be caught in the Year of the Tight End. At least his teammates bailed him out by converting and going on to score a touchdown.
Emeka Egbuka fielded the kickoff after Maryland’s lone first-half touchdown, cut from right to left across the field and headed up the left sideline. Ohio State hasn’t scored on a kickoff return for more than a decade and all Egbuka needed was a couple of blocks to wipe that stat out of the game notes. Unfortunately, it appeared that Ryan Watts missed a block and allowed Maryland to force Egbuka out of bounds.
Can’t Find the Gear
The running game struggled against Maryland throughout the first half. Ohio State’s offensive line failed to open up holes and freshman tailback TreVeyon Henderson wasn’t able to avoid the first man or break tackles near the line of scrimmage to break into the next level of the defense, where he can be so dangerous. The Buckeyes had more success when they broke out the sledgehammer and gave Master Teague some carries near the end of the second quarter. Teague managed 25 yards and a touchdown on three carries (8.3 yards per carry), eclipsing the 17 yards and a touchdown on nine attempts (1.9 ypc) that Henderson put up. At least the freshman was a devastating weapon in the passing game, and the second half was much better, but there will be better defenses on the schedule and Ohio State will have to run the ball more effectively in those games.
Ohio State increased its lead to 56-10 and decided to substitute a lot on defense for Maryland’s next possession. The Terrapins marched right down the field and scored a touchdown a bit too easily, thanks in large part to help from a poor tackling second unit for the Buckeyes. The game was out of reach at that point but that wasn’t the way to show the coaching staff that some of the other guys deserve more playing time.
There were far more positives than negatives on Saturday as Ohio State won comfortably over the Terps. That really cuts down the grump factor this week. I had written a section about not keeping the turnover streak going and then Watts and Craig Young each got an interception. Deleting stuff I’d written is particularly aggravating but I’ll let it slide.
Ohio State has a week off to get better ahead of the trip to Bloomington to play the Indiana Hoosiers. Your friendly neighborhood Grumpy Old Buckeye will take the week off with the Buckeyes and come back fresher in two weeks.