By Thomas Pullano
The scene was set for the Maryland Terrapins to make a memorable first impression. It was a beautiful, partly cloudy and windy day in College Park as the Terps welcomed the No. 20 Ohio State Buckeyes to town for their first ever Big Ten home opener. Byrd Stadium was filled to capacity with the game being the first sell-out since 2008. The stands were a sea of red, albeit with some of that red coming from the scarlet Ohio State fan contingent. The atmosphere was there, but the Terps just could not match the intensity or the talent the Buckeyes brought with them from Columbus.
Ohio State wasted no time taking it to the Terps. After receiving the opening kickoff, the Buckeyes took just over three minutes to go 75 yards for the score. Using the hurry-up offense, the Buckeyes, led by dual-threat quarterback J.T. Barrett and running back Ezekiel Elliott, ran the ball on seven of eight plays on that opening drive, averaging 9.57 yards per carry. The Buckeyes struck first on a one-yard rush from backup running back Rod Smith.
After forcing Maryland to punt rather quickly on its first possession, the Buckeyes moved down the field swiftly again, this time relying on the talented skillset of speedster Dontre Wilson. Twice Wilson came in motion across the formation and took in essence what was a forward pitch from Barrett, who was in the shotgun. The first time Wilson took the ball and ran for ten yards. The second time he got outside and went for 35. Barrett finished the drive off when he found wide receiver Jalin Marshall open in the end zone.
With Maryland’s defense completely on its heels, the pressure was mounting on the Terps’ offense to get on the scoreboard. After starting with good field position on its second drive, Maryland would somewhat take advantage. Brandon Ross’s 23-yard run had the Terps in OSU territory. However, the offense would stall at OSU’s 39-yard line. With the winds howling towards OSU’s end zone though, head coach Randy Edsall, to the surprise of almost everyone, sent out the kicking team. And with the wind at his back, Brad Craddock nailed a Maryland school record 57-yard field goal.
Craddock’s bomb would pump up the Maryland crowd and the defense, which would get its first stop of the day on OSU’s next possession after Buckeye kicker Sean Nuernberger pushed his 48-yard field goal attempt wide right. The momentum would be short-lived however. After the stop, Maryland’s offense would go three and out again and have to punt.
On the ensuing possession, the Buckeyes would make the Terps pay. J.T. Barrett only required three plays to pad the Bucks’ lead. On the third play, he found a streaking Michael Thomas, who had a step on his defender, for the 25-yard touchdown. OSU would add another field goal later to make the score 24-3 with 8:59 remaining the half.
Maryland would respond one more time however. On a drive that included a big fourth down conversion by way of a C.J. Brown scramble, the Terps would take just over six and a half minutes to march down the field and score. Sophomore running back Wes Brown put the finishing touches on the drive by punching it in from the one.
That score combined with a three and out by OSU’s offense on the next possession gave Maryland fans hope. Terp fans were thinking to steal some points here, get the ball to start the second half and we have ourselves a ball game. Unfortunately for Terp fans, that would only be a far-fetched dream.
A 69-yard punt from Cameron Johnston backed up the Terps to their own seven- yard line. Then sixth year quarterback C.J. Brown did the only thing he didn’t want to do in that situation. He threw an interception to OSU linebacker Darron Lee who took it back to Maryland’s one. And on the following play, Barrett found his tight end Nick Vannett for the score. Instead of going into half with some momentum, the Terps headed in deflated down 31-10.
After the game, coach Edsall talked about the backbreaking interception.
“The young man [C.J. Brown] made a poor decision,” Edsall said. “Things like that happen in football. You don’t like to see those things happen, but it did. And then when those things happen we just have to regroup and come out and overcome those things.”
Down 21 points, Edsall then inserted backup quarterback Caleb Rowe into the game to replace the starter C.J. Brown. On his second drive of the third quarter, Rowe led the Terps fairly deep into OSU territory. However, after a nice throw and catch from Rowe to Marcus Leak down the sideline earlier in the drive, Rowe tried his luck again. On second and three from the Buckeyes’ 27-yard line, Rowe looked for Leak in the end zone, but badly overthrew his receiver and was intercepted by OSU cornerback Eli Apple.
Ohio State would go on to score three more touchdowns in the second half and win by a final score of 52-24. J.T. Barrett finished the game 370 yards total from scrimmage. Ezekiel Elliott led the Buckeyes with 139 yards on the ground.
Edsall addressed the decision to go with Rowe in the second half after the game.
“I felt that we needed to be able throw the football a little bit more in the second half if we were gonna have an opportunity to win, so that’s why I ended up making the decision I made to go with Caleb.” Edsall added though that this was not a permanent switch saying, “C.J.’s our quarterback.”
Unfortunately for many Maryland fans, that is not what they wanted to hear from the head coach.