By: Eddie Hobbs
Maryland wasn’t given much of a chance to defeat the No. 9 Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday at Maryland Stadium. It had been 4,025 days since Maryland last beat a top 10 team, which was Nov. 10, 2007, against then No. 8 Boston College.
Even with the circumstances surrounding the team, Maryland was just two yards away from a victory in overtime, but failed to convert a two-point conversion and lost to the Buckeyes 52-51.
“Last week everybody in the country said we were done right, season’s over, shouldn’t even play these last two,” interim head coach Matt Canada said.
The opening minutes of the game were unlike any other this season. Anthony McFarland busted an 81-yard touchdown on the second play of the game. On the ensuing kickoff, Maryland recovered Joseph Petrino’s kick at the Ohio State 21-yard line to set up the Terps in great field position already up 7-0.
That excitement only lasted a few moments as freshman Jeshaun Jones ran a jet-sweep and looked to throw the ball deep on a trick play. After the Buckeyes blanketed the receivers, Jones tried to scramble for a few yards but fumbled the ball, giving the ball right back to Ohio State.
In the first half, the defense for Maryland continued to do what it has done all year long: bend but don’t break. The first two offensive possessions for Ohio State ended inside Maryland’s 25-yard line, yet the Terps forced Ohio State to three points behind stout defensive line play.
The Buckeyes are known to be a pass heavy team, especially with Dwayne Haskins at the helm, yet Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer decided to only throw the ball four times in the first quarter. The rushing offense for the Buckeyes yielded 108 yards, and Ohio State controlled possession with 11:39 total, but still trailed 17-3.
In the second quarter, Petrino missed a 49-yard field goal, which was the first miss of his college career after the freshman converted his first 11 attempts.
On the very next play, it was Ohio State relying on the big play to score six points. Haskins completed a 68-yard touchdown pass to Terry McLaurin, who ran right past RaVon Davis on the route. The quick score cut the Buckeyes’ deficit to 17-10.
It looked like Ohio State was ready to turn it on, but Maryland stayed calm, and marched down the field behind its plethora of running backs, as Javon Leake capped off the 8-play, 60-yard drive with a 16-yard touchdown run. The resiliency of this Maryland team showed as they continuously answered Ohio State’s attempts to take the momentum of the game.
“I feel like as a leader of the team, as a guy who the team relies on, you want the weight on your shoulders, you want to be able to make those plays. And we have a lot of guys who are like that, and they made a lot of those plays today,” senior linebacker Tre Watson said.
Nearing the end of the half, Ohio State was again looking to cut into the Maryland lead with 1:22 remaining. The Buckeyes were within seven yards of tying the game up, but J.K. Dobbins fumbled the ball on the Maryland 2-yard line, and Ayinde Eley quickly pounced on the ball for the turnover.
With Maryland up just seven coming out of the break, the Terps needed to continue to make big plays against the Buckeyes in order to pull off an upset, and the defense provided just that in the opening minutes of the third.
Haskins dropped back, scanned the field and attempted a throw to Johnnie Dixon. His pass, however, was batted into the air by Darnell Savage, and picked off and brought back to the house by Davis, ballooning Maryland’s lead to 31-17.
Ohio State tied the game at 38, looking to sink its teeth into Maryland, but redshirt sophomore Tyrrell Pigrome ignited the Maryland offense once again with a 60-yard heave to Darryl Jones to set Maryland up at the 1-yard line.
The path to the end zone was made just a bit harder after right guard Brendan Moore committed a false-start penalty, setting the Terps back to the 6-yard line. After two plays, Maryland was still on the Buckeyes’ 5-yard line, and Pigrome’s third-down throw sailed high, but the referees called a pass interference on Damon Arnette, giving the Terps another chance to get six points.
McFarland was given the ball on third-and-one and attempted to reach across the goal line, but fumbled the ball in the process. Maryland tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo fortuitously fell on the ball in the end zone for the touchdown that put Maryland back up 45-38.
Time was still on the clock for Ohio State to orchestrate one last drive. And on the ensuing kickoff, Demario McCall brought it back 42 yards to set up the Buckeyes in favorable field position. Haskins then led Ohio State down the field, and threw a perfect ball to Binjimen Victor to give Ohio State life once again.
Pigrome was given an opportunity to lead Maryland down to field goal range with :36 remaining, and brought Maryland down to the Ohio State 38-yard line. Maryland hustled up to the ball and two plays later Pigrome was sacked in the backfield and fumbled the ball, but was able to recover it. The sack brought the Terps back to their own 48-yard line and effectively send the game into overtime.
“Obviously, we’ve got to do a better job taking care of the football. Two weeks now we’ve put the ball on the ground. We’ve been so good at that. That’s who we are. We were fortunate to get them back, but that one at the end of the game there was critical,” Canada said.
Maryland won the coin toss in overtime and elected to play defense first, and forced Ohio State into a tough fourth-and-one on the Terps’ 16-yard line. Meyer opted to go for it and Haskins completed an 11-yard pass to Rashod Berry for the first down.
Haskins then finished Ohio State’s drive with a 5-yard touchdown run, his third of the game, and gave Ohio State its first lead of the game.
An opportunity remained for Maryland, and on its first offensive play of overtime, McFarland ran for 24 yards down to the 1-yard line. Tayon Fleet-Davis pushed through the line for six, and Canada opted to go for a two-point conversion.
The ball was snapped and Pigrome rolled to his right, and attempted to connect with Jones who looked to be open in the end zone, but the pass sailed wide, and Maryland came out empty handed in a 52-51 loss to a tough Ohio State team.
“They all played really well. Just six inches. We say it all the time–six inches will make you a star,” Canada said. “I’ll watch it on the tape but I think if that ball is a little bit inside, we’re in here and everybody has a different feel to them.”