Okay, sure, most people paying attention expected Ohio State to steamroll Maryland this past weekend. However, it would have been a bit of stretch to say that the Buckeyes would post their second 70+ point game of the season. It would have been an even further stretch to suggest that Ryan Day would empty out the reserves on both sides of the ball for the entirety of the second half.
But that’s exactly what happened. Justin Fields did essentially whatever he wanted over the first 30 minutes, four Buckeye running backs individually outproduced the Terrapins’ team rushing total, and Ohio State’s defense refused to let up a score until the offense had already mounted a 52 point lead. It’s hard to gain valuable insight for the remaining stretch of the season when the game gets out of hand so quickly — particularly when the next opponent figures to be even worse — but there are always takeaways to be had from game film no matter how big or small.
Therefore, as was done the last time Ohio State had one of these runaway wins against a far inferior team, here are five of the most critical snaps that took place against Maryland:
1. Justin Fields’ 2nd and Long Conversion to K.J. Hill
Penalties kill drives, and this 2nd and 15 situation comes on the heels of the Buckeyes’ second false start of the series by way of a wide receiver. The Terrapins line up in a 3-3-5 defensive formation in anticipation of a pass, leaving themselves vulnerable to a weak side run should J.K. Dobbins receive a hand-off from Justin Fields. To compensate for this, Maryland has their weak side safety show blitz from the secondary to give run support in the event the play goes to Dobbins.
This is where it starts to become apparent that Maryland’s pass defense isn’t very good, because instead of just committing to stop one type of play in a 2nd and long situation, the Terrapins try to get cute and wind up tripping over their own feet. Knowing that K.J. Hill is going to streak towards the back-middle as both outside Buckeye receivers run comeback routes, Fields identifies the safety cheating down and doesn’t have to look off anybody as he delivers a strike to a wide open receiver. Had Maryland committed to stopping the pass, their safety showing blitz would have been in a perfect position to cut off Hill from making a play on the ball. Instead, Hill comes down with a 30+ yard gain, and the Buckeyes find themselves on their second trip to the red zone in the first eight minutes of action.
Bad teams beat themselves, and that sort of overcompensation on defense combined with a lack of commitment will allow an efficient offense such as Ohio State’s to make big plays whenever they want.
2. Blake Haubeil’s Masterful Onside Kick
Yeah, this technically isn’t an offensive play, but it might as well be. Onside kicks that work are rare, and most of the time a team is happy if anyone on the kicking team recovers the ball. But an onside kick with an intended target that hits said intended target in stride?
Simply ridiculous. Blake Haubeil deserves to have his helmet completely filled out with Buckeye leaves for this one.
While the execution is simply perfect, Matt Barnes — ironically Maryland’s former special teams coordinator, now with Ohio State — obviously deserve heaps of credit for recognizing the opportunity to even attempt such a feat. The Terrapins’ kick return alignment in this situation is bizarre, with only one player lined up away from the middle of the field towards the Buckeyes’ sideline. Furthermore, both players lined up on the west side (i.e. bottom half) of the field have their hips turned towards the kicker as opposed to their return blocking assignments. That means if the ball goes directly over their heads instead of downfield, it’s going to take them a bit longer to get their heads around and make a recovery of an onside kick.
But Ohio State is a 40+ point favorite up already up two scores in the first quarter, surely they’re not interested in embarrassing Maryland any further, right?
That alignment and extra moment of needing to turn all the way around gives Chris Olave a clean lane along the sideline to catch Haubeil’s perfect
pass kick and kickstart the Buckeyes’ blowout. Ohio State already firmly had the momentum in this one, but once this play happened, it was evident Maryland’s coaches were clearly out of their league as well as their players.
3. Master Teague III’s 30 Yard Run
There hasn’t been a single team in college football this season that has proven it can consistently stop Ohio State’s devastating inside zone runs, and that trend continued against Maryland. On this play, the Terrapins come out in a 4-3 front but Fields catches their defensive line in the middle of a shift when he snaps the ball. This gives Jonah Jackson and Thayer Munford a much easier opportunity to seal off the edge for Master Teague III, and Maryland’s corner is playing so far back — and is so focused on not getting beat by Garrett Wilson — that there’s no opportunity for him to provide any run support whatsoever.
Munford is the key to this play’s success, as he first helps Jackson secure his assignment before working up to the next level to keep the linebacker from making a play on Teague. In the process, he also cuts off Maryland’s out-of-position defensive lineman from being able to follow Teague along the line of scrimmage, which forces him back inside and out of the play. Munford cleanly blocks the Terrapin linebacker nearly eight yards downfield from where he met him, and in total ended up taking three defenders out of the play.
Maryland obviously beats themselves a bit here by not getting lined up correctly in time, but Munford still demonstrates here why he and the rest of Ohio State’s line have allowed the Buckeyes to operate arguably the most efficient rushing offense in college football this season.
4. Chris Olave’s 2-Yard TD Catch
This play demonstrates Ryan Day’s commitment to spreading the ball around to Ohio State’s wealth of talent at the wide receiver position. Having scored the Buckeyes’ previous touchdown from four yards out, Hill comes in motion to the backfield and becomes the focus of five Maryland defenders when Fields half-pump fakes to him in the flat. In fact, one of the Terrapin defenders is so locked in on his man-to-man coverage of Hill that he completely overruns the play in anticipation of Hill getting the ball on a sweep.
When Hill reverses direction back into the flat, the man aligned with Olave suddenly has to compensate for the fact that no one is available to meet Hill at the line of scrimmage. That leads to a bust in coverage for Maryland, and Ohio State’s offensive line is able to hold their ground long enough against a four man rush to give Fields the time and space necessary to make a clean throw to a completely unaccounted-for Olave in the end zone.
It’s a simple play, and against zone coverage it probably doesn’t work out as perfectly as it did in this case, but the result still goes to show just how good Ryan Day is at contextual play-calling.
5. J.K. Dobbins’ 20-Yard TD Run
Here’s a perfect example of why Dobbins just might be the best overall running back in college football right now. This is the exact same inside zone running play from earlier in the article that Teague gained 30 yards on, even the offensive formation is identical. However, Maryland is ready for it this time, and both of Ohio State’s linemen on the weak side of the line end up missing their assignments. Dobbins has nowhere to go, and if he hesitates for even a moment, he’s getting dropped for a loss behind the line of scrimmage.
But Dobbins keeps heading for the edge, then — at the last moment before he’s about to become trapped between the two defenders in front of him and the one that sheds Jackson behind him — makes a jump cut back up-field that sends him off to the races. He then cuts back inside after reading the block from Jameson Williams, and Dobbins has somehow turned what almost certainly should have been a one yard loss into Ohio State’s sixth touchdown of the first half.
Dobbins’ power running has been on display all season, but plays like this show what makes him such a complete tailback. It takes keen vision, critical explosiveness, and a remarkable sense of timing to be able to pull off a run like this; and even though he only had 12 carries for the game, Dobbins was still able to show his entire skill set when it comes to running the football.