Maryland football responded after two poor road performances, battling with No. 2 Ohio State until the end before falling, 43-30.
The Terps out-gained the Buckeyes, 402-401 and quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa became the program’s all-time passing leader with one of his strongest performances, finishing with 26 completions on 36 attempts for 293 yards and two touchdowns along with 39 rushing yards. But They couldn’t make enough plays to get over the hump in an impressive but deflating close call.
“I will give credit to this Ohio State team, very deserving of what they’re [ranked],” Locksley said. “But also let you know, I’m really proud of the team, really proud of our team and those guys in that locker room. Proud not because we’re close, that’s not how we approach this thing. I’m proud that, you know, we’re never satisfied with a loss, obviously, but what you saw today is Let’s go Blow to blow, Blow for Blow with the team that I consider to be one of the best in the country .”
Ohio State only needed 92 seconds to get on the board as the Maryland defense struggled to find its footing. Quarterback CJ Stroud hit Marvin Harrison Jr. for a few catches, then faked his way on a delayed screen to TreVeyon Henderson who scored the opening touchdown.
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Maryland answered with a 61-yard drive of its own that reached the red zone, but settled for a 31-yard Chad Ryland field goal. The Terps then woke up defensively, smothering the Ohio State offense in combination with penalties to force the Buckeyes’ first punt against them since 2019.
With good field position, the Maryland offense found Hemby down the sideline into the red zone once again, but settled once more for a field goal to make it 7-6. Both teams traded possessions to end the first quarter, but a sense of belief started to build on both ends of the field for the Terps.
“I think we just did a better job of executing,” Tagovailoa said. “We actually picked up our tempo a lot. We played fast and I think that’s what we’re good at, you know, that fits us best to play fast and get the ball out of my hands quickly and, you know, [that] opens up everything for us. So I think we did a better job at that this week.”
Maryland’s defense dug its heels in once more to start the second quarter, allowing Ohio State to march 75 yards down the field in 14 plays, but holding the Buckeyes to a 33-yard field goal to keep the deficit to a manageable, 10-6 .
Tagovailoa and the offense returned the favor with a 75-yard drive of their own, chewing up 6:10 of the second-quarter clock as well. After being stuffed inside the one-yard line, Maryland lined up in the Maryland-I with three players behind the quarterback, but Tagovailoa rolled to his left and found CJ Dippre for the lead-changing touchdown.
“It definitely gave me confidence in the way that you know, Coach wants to give me the ball, Coach wants to get his Playmakers the ball,” Dippre said. “It’s awesome that they gave me that opportunity to get the ball early in the game and have an impact in the game.”
Maryland took a 13-10 lead into the half after a defensive stop to keep the Buckeyes from responding. Tagovailoa completed 16 of 18 passes for 180 yards and a touchdown, getting nine different receivers the ball. The Terps also out-gained Ohio State, 211-159, in the first half, including just 84 yards given up after the first drive.
“Just being, you know, on the same page communicating,” cornerback Jakorian Bennet said was the key to success early. “Communication was probably like the biggest emphasis that we had this week. So we just had to focus on communicating because, you know, sometimes early in games, you know, we said we wouldn’t communicate how we should. But once all 11 of us are playing the same call, that’s special to watch.”
Disaster struck for Maryland to start the second half as the offense couldn’t get anything going, but then Ohio State managed to block the punt and take over in the red zone. Backup running back Dallan Hayden carried in from eight yards out to give Ohio State a 17-13 lead in a complete 180 out of the locker room.
“The big thing is you saw the blocked punt and those things are huge usual mental plays,” Locksley said. “We didn’t get ourselves in the right protection there. It’s my job to make sure we get the right protection. I mean, we had a chance in order to continue to change the field position and to give them seven points like that, you know that that hurts.”
The Terps’ struggles continued throughout the quarter, failing to score on offense and struggling to get off the field defensively. Ohio State added a field goal and a touchdown to finish the third quarter with a 17-0 swing, also out-gaining Maryland, 125-45.
Maryland responded to start the fourth quarter, taking possession of the ball and marching 75 yards down the field in just five plays, leading to a Tagovailoa rushing score and two-point conversion to Jacob Copeland that narrowed the deficit to six points. The Terrapins’ defense struggled to match the offense’s newfound success, allowing Ohio State to drive 53 yards in just four plays to answer with a touchdown, the Buckeyes’ fourth consecutive scoring drive in the second half.
Tagovailoa refused to go down easy, taking the Terps on a 74-yard drive that was filled with big plays. A 49-yard completion to Rakim Jarrett set the offense up with a goal to go and on fourth down Tagovailoa was forced to his right and found Jeshaun Jones at the last second for a touchdown score.
Maryland forced Ohio State to turn the ball over on Downs after a seven-play drive, but was unable to get going and punted the ball away. The defense dug its heels in, but still gave up a field goal to the Buckeyes, making it a 36-30 game with 42 seconds to play.
With no timeouts, the kickoff was taken out of the end zone by Maryland to just the 16 yard line, Tagovailoa was sacked on first down and then tried to avoid a sack on second down in the end zone, but ended up tossing the ball to a defender at the goalline who took it in for a game-sealing score and ended up injured on the play.
“I think what happened is our guys kept competing,” Locksley said. “We made the blocked extra point to get two points back. You know, our defense continued to play the way they are capable of playing and then offensively, you know, Lia plays better when we play fast and being two scores we got into our ‘Mayday,’ which is our two-minute style offense and they made some plays in the fourth quarter. The goal was to get it to the fourth quarter and check their oil to see how they would react to having to play a good football game in the fourth quarter. They made the plays they needed to make and we didn’t.”
Maryland returns home next Saturday to close out the regular season against Rutgers at noon and Tagovailoa provided an update on his injury postgame.
“My knee’s good,” Tagovailoa said after the game. “You know, my knee’s good. Obviously, it’s been, you know, bothering me the whole season, but I think it just hit the ground real hard and, you know, I think it’s just a bad bruise.”