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J.T. Barrett continues to shine as Ohio State beats Maryland, 62-14

OSU’s offense and defense were near perfect. Special teams? Not so much.

NCAA Football: Maryland at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 10 Ohio State Buckeyes (5-1, 3-0) wrapped up the first half of their 2017 season with a dominating 62-14 victory in The Horseshoe over the Maryland Terrapins (3-2, 1-1) on a celebratory Homecoming Weekend. Two of the three OSU units were near perfect, while the third will likely draw the ire of head coach Urban Meyer throughout the upcoming week.

In Meyer’s 200th game as a collegiate head coach, Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett put on a clinic, and should have finally quieted the doubters as he showed impressive arm strength, touch, patience, and anticipation, as the Buckeyes’ first team defense held the Terps to 26 total yards in the first half. Unfortunately, OSU’s special teams had what might have been their worst day in the Meyer era.

On the day, OSU out-gained Maryland by 518 yards (584 to 66), and held the Terp passing game to just 16 yards. The Silver Bullets also recorded 12 tackles for loss and five sacks, including a pair of strip-sacks.

The first drive was an example of Buckeye dominance as Barrett led the offense 70 yards down the field in nine plays. The QB kept the ball on a designed run from the two to get the Buckeyes on the board, 7-0.

Other than the touchdown run, the highlight of the opening drive was a laser of a throw from Barrett to wide receiver Johnnie Dixon. As the QB released the ball, it looked like the pass was destined to be a pick-six for Maryland’s safety, but the ball came out hotter than anticipated and snuck past the crossing DB and into Dixon’s waiting hands, and the speedy junior turned upfield to pick up 35 and get OSU inside Maryland’s 10-yard line.

The pass was an early example of the fact that the tentative Barrett that Buckeye fans have begrudgingly gotten used to over the last two seasons might finally have been coached out of him.

On Maryland’s very first play from scrimmage, linebacker Dante Booker got the day’s first sack as Maryland attempted a flea-flicker. However, the coverage downfield and the immediate pressure barely gave Terp quarterback Max Bortenschlager enough time to get the ball back.

Two plays later, defensive end Nick Bosa came around the outside, practically untouched, and picked up the strip-sack on Bortenschlager. As the ball trickled towards the sideline, linebacker Jerome Baker scooped it up and raced into the endzone to put the Buckeyes up 14-0.

In recent weeks, Meyer has been praising his team’s kickoff coverage, however, early in the game, the Terps were able to take advantage of miscues. On the first Ohio State kickoff, Maryland advanced the ball to OSU’s 35, before the Baker scoop-and-score. On the subsequent kick, Maryland running back Ty Johnson caught the ball at the goal line in the middle of the field, and out-raced the Buckeye coverage unit to the left side of the field and scampered all 100 yards into the endzone to move the score to 14-7.

On the Buckeyes’ second offensive possession, Mike Weber was in at running back, and on his second play, Barrett hit the sophomore on a wheel route to the right for a 53-yard gain. Three plays later, Barrett again rifled the ball to a wide receiver who made a great play on the ball.

With a defender draped on him, Binjimen Victor got his feet down in the back of the endzone to put the Buckeyes up 20-7. However on the point after attempt, the snap was mishandled, and OSU’s special teams problems continued.

On the next drive, Bortenschlager attempted a pass to Taivon Jacobs. It appeared that he had caught the ball and turned upfield only to be met by Ohio State’s best cornerback, Denzel Ward. Despite the fact that replay seemed to show Ward hitting Jacobs in the chest with his shoulder, and there helmets touching after the fact, the future first-rounder was ejected for targeting. The disqualification opened up more playing time for sophomore Kendall Sheffield and true-freshman Jeffrey Okudah.

Following a Maryland punt, the Buckeyes were driving, but offensive guard Brandon Bowen was injured and had to be carted off of the field. Bowen was taken to OSU Medical Center where it was determined that he had fractures in both his left tibia and fibula.

The drive ended with a 47-yard field goal attempt, but freshman Thayer Munford was beat on the inside as Maryland’s Chandler Burkett blocked the kick to keep the Buckeye lead at 13. Nearly all of the Terps’ big plays in the first quarter came courtesy of OSU special teams mishaps.

That was exemplified by the fact that the Buckeyes led 187 to 1 in the yardage department following the game’s first 15 minutes. Barrett finished the quarter 10-12 passing for 162 yards, with a score in the air and on the ground. Despite the consensus that OSU is a running team with a stable of two top backs, the running game has been neutralized in recent weeks. That’s seemed to be due to offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson’s insistence on getting the passing game up to snuff, and opposing defenses selling out to stop the run. That has allowed Barrett the mojo he has been missing since his first year as a starter.

On their first possession of the second quarter, running back J.K. Dobbins appeared to be juking his way to another first down, only to have the ball knocked free as he attempted to cut to the inside. The turnover put the Terps in possession at their own 48-yard line. Despite the good field position, the Buckeye defense was able to force a punt.

The following drive featured a Barrett double-pump on a screen pass that ended up in a loss, two overthrows of wide open WRs, and a Weber loss of six. However, perhaps the worst play of the drive was the 21-yard punt from Drue Chrisman that set the Terps up with possession at the 36, and continued to add special teams frustration in what otherwise was a completely dominant performance by the Buckeyes.

For the second time in the game, Maryland went for it on fourth down in Ohio State territory. The first time was unsuccessful, and on the second attempt, Baker came around the edge untouched to get a sack and forced a fumble that was recovered by Bortenschlager.

On the next offensive drive, the Buckeyes turned to Dobbins to move the ball down the field. With the pace cranked up to 11, the freshman running back picked up 40 yards on the drive before Barrett found tight end Marcus Baugh for a 10-yard touchdown reception that included a hurdle over a Terp defender.

With 4:38 left in the first half, Bortenschlager completed his first pass of the game to set up a third and 1, on which Sam Hubbard shed his blocker to tackle Johnson for a seven-yard loss and force a punt.

After the Buckeyes moved the ball from mid-field to just outside the redzone on the next drive, Barrett pitched the ball to Dobbins moving to the left, who subsequently tossed it to H-back Parris Campbell, who followed a seal block by Barrett and showed his elite-level speed racing into the endzone to increase OSU’s lead to 34-7.

Towards the end of the first half, Amir Riep was flagged for an unnecessary block in the back that brought back a K.J. Hill return that would have set the Buckeyes up in the Maryland redzone. With 15 seconds left in the half, and the Buckeyes on five, Barrett threw a strike to Austin Mack in the front corner of the endzone to end the first half with the Buckeyes up 41-7.

In the first 30 minutes, Barrett went 17-25 for 252 yards and three passing TDs, plus his rushing score. He completed passes to seven receivers, and the Buckeyes dominated total yardage 361-26. Dobbins finished the first half with 68 yards on 10 carries. The first half performance was even more impressive when combined with last year’s Maryland game.

Following back-to-back losses on the first drive after halftime, Tyquan Lewis broke through the Maryland O-line untouched to record OSU’s fourth sack of the game and force yet another punt.

On the next drive, Barrett broke free from a defender in the backfield and raced up the field for a 35-yard gain, his biggest pickup on the ground on the day. Despite getting into the redzone, Sean Nuernberger missed a 29-yard field goal attempt to add to the day’s special teams problems. He was also flagged for a kickoff out-of-bounds in the game.

Later in the third quarter, Weber picked up 35 yards on a drive that was capped with the running back picking up his first TD of the game, extending the lead to 48-7, and wrapping up the first team’s afternoon.

Barrett finished the game with 261 yards on 20-for-31 passing, and four total touchdowns. In all, nine Buckeye WRs caught passes in the game. Victor led in yards with 55 on four receptions, while Campbell added 46 receiving yards on six catches to his 19 rushing yards. Also getting multiple catches on the game were Mack (4), C.J. Saunders (3), and Hill (2).

With the second-string defense on the field, true-freshman linebacker Baron Browning dropped back into a spy position on Bortenschlager, and then rushed into the backfield to force the second strip-sack of the game. Sophomore defensive tackle Jashon Cornell recovered the fumble for the Buckeyes. Browning finished the game leading the OSU defense in tackles with six, His 1.5 tackles for loss was only bested by Bosa’s two.

With backup quarterback Dwayne Haskins operating with a short field, Dobbins turned what could have been a tackle for loss into his first touchdown of the game, and OSU took a 55-7 lead with 2:08 left in the third quarter. The running back, for the second time in three games, Dobbins finished less than five yards short of 100, as he was lifted early in a blowout. This time, it was with 96 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown. Weber also turned in a solid performance with 59 hard-fought yards on 13 rushes.

On the subsequent drive, Bortenschlager rushed on third down and slide short of the first down marker, but DB Damon Arnette hit him in the head, and after review the Buckeye was charged with targeting and ejected. On the game he had a pair of pass breakups and a tackle, but will have to miss the first half against Nebraska next week. Bortenschlager had to be attended to on the field, and did not return to the game.

In the fourth quarter, Antonio Williams became the fifth Buckeye to record a rushing touchdown, as he took the ball to paydirt from the 8-yard line, moving the OSU lead to 62-7.

The Maryland offense finally got on the board following a botched option read between Haskins and Williams resulted in a turnover. Terp running back Javon Leake took a handoff from the 20 and cut through the OSU defense to move the score to 62-14.

Ohio State will be back on the gridiron next Saturday in Lincoln, Neb. as the Buckeyes take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers at 7:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1.