Maryland football suffers defensively and falls victim to potent No. 7 Ohio State offense

(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.)

Cornerback Tarheeb Still was physically and athletically outmatched by Chris Olave. With his back turned to the ball and Olave set to catch his second touchdown, Still opted to extend the drive and commit pass interference. 

Even with the clear penalty, Still failed to interfere enough and Olave came down with the 30-yard reception while falling backward and illegally draped. The Buckeyes jumped to a 49-10 lead with the score. 

The depletion of the Maryland football defense was resonant with each Ohio State offensive series, as the Buckeyes scored on every drive of the game except for two. 

Ohio State’s prolific offense put on a show for its homecoming crowd, and as its star quarterback and NFL-bound receivers found a grove, Maryland’s secondary was quickly reduced to fodder as CJ Stroud and the Buckeyes offense exploded for 432 yards in the air and an easy, 66-17, win over the Terps.

“I thought we could have executed better,” Locksley said, “When you look at this, we played number five and number seven. We’re obviously not there yet. We have a lot of work to do as a program.”

The misfortune of the afternoon came early. Jakorian Bennett and Kenny Bennett were ruled out due to injury for Saturday’s contest and Maryland was forced to settle with Tarheeb Still, Corey Coley Jr. and Lavonte Gater to defend the likes of Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, one of the most potent receiving duos in the nation.

“Going against one of the best receiving corps in the nation, you gotta have some good cornerbacks,” Sam Okuayinonu said, “and I feel like we had a lot of injuries in that room — but it’s no excuse.”

While the Maryland offense was doing everything it could muster, scoring just twice in the first half, the Ohio State offense was doing everything it wanted. After the Terps opened the contest with a field goal, the Buckeyes scored 21 points unanswered. 

CJ Stroud and company punished the Maryland secondary. In just a quarter and two drives, Stroud and his receivers accounted for 157 yards — the same amount Taulia Tagovailoa threw for in the first 30 minutes. At halftime, Stroud threw for 293 yards and three passing touchdowns. The offense still had yet to rush for over 50 yards. 

Olave and Wilson took turns terrorizing the diminished secondary. On their first touchdown drive, Wilson swiped past a significantly smaller Still and leaped out of the sophomore’s reach to snag the first score for the Buckeyes with ease. 

To go up 21-3, Stroud connected with Olave on a deep post. Olave was matched up with a much slower Coley and safety Nick Cross was unable to provide any support, as he anticipated a shorter route. Olave found the endzone untouched with Cross and Coley trailing thanks to a mismatch and an untimely mistake. 

The Buckeyes finished the half 35-10, and continued to relentlessly obliterate the Maryland secondary and scored 21 more unanswered to open the second half and eclipsed 50 before the end of the third quarter. 

Olave and Wilson alternated for two more touchdowns to open up the third frame and left the game with a combined 204 yards, two touchdowns and 12 catches. 

Coley and Gater also exited the game due to injury at the start of the fourth quarter. 

“We definitely still feel good about our team,” Okuayinonu said, “we came a long way as a unit … there’s still effort there. I just feel like injuries hurt us.”

On offense, Maryland lost receiver Jeshaun Jones on just the second play from scrimmage. He was carted off after suffering a non-contact knee injury and never returned. 

Even with another emotional offensive leader gone, Tagovailoa and his offense still managed to spread the ball around and utilize the tight ends to put some points on the board. The offense ended with 190 total yards and 10 points at half. Tagovailoa and 10 different receivers accounted for 157 yards — none of whom included Rakim Jarrett, who ended his afternoon with just one catch for one touchdown.

Tagovailoa and the offense closed with 335 yards and two passing touchdowns and, in spite of the underwhelming defensive performance, played somewhat cleaner than last week, throwing two woeful interceptions in the fourth quarter.

“I still have the ultimate confidence in this group of players,” Locksley said “… The bye week couldn’t have come at a better time for us. This is a chance to regroup, re-evaluate the things we’re doing in all three phases, re-evaluate the people in our program as we always do when we quality control here at the halfway point. And then thirdly, get some guys healthy.”

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