The Buckeyes returned from their off week and took care of the Maryland Terrapins in a 37-17 Big Ten victory. However, it took Ohio State a long time to wake up and get into this game, as the team looked to still be on a bye week in the first half — especially on the offensive side of the football. Ultimately, the Buckeyes woke up, figured it out, and started making plays to pull away from the Terps to get to five wins without a loss on the year.
Here are the things from the game that had me writing angry letters to the manager on comment cards.
The Buckeyes sputtered out of the gate on offense, which was a theme throughout much of the game. Despite getting some decent early runs from Chip Trayanum, the Buckeyes struggled to pick up first downs or sustain drives. It began on the first series, when a bad throw — on what seemed like the millionth wide receiver screen of the season already — put the offense behind the chains. A good chunk run by Trayanum on second down made the third-down play manageable, but a pass fell incomplete, bringing the punt team on early.
Things Got Worse
Ohio State’s punt unit couldn’t even execute the fourth snap of the game properly. A poor snap was fielded by blocking back Cody Simon, who scooped it up and tried his best to reach the first down line to make. But the Terrapins’ special teams unit stuffed Simon and took over on downs in great field position. It was a bad way to start the game.
In the end, Kyle McCord’s stats on the day were pretty good. He finished 19-of-29 for a career-high 320 yards and two touchdowns without throwing an interception, although he did take three sacks. After that ballsy winning drive at Notre Dame two weeks ago, most were expecting McCord to build on that performance, but despite his good numbers, it wasn’t a complete success for the young signal caller.
He made some poor reads, put the ball into some dangerous areas, completed only one of his first seven passes, and severely underthrew two passes that should have been long touchdowns. The first of those was a pass Marvin Harrison Jr. had to wait on, which cost him a touchdown, and Ohio State ultimately settled for a field goal on that drive. Later in the game, McCord underthrew Julian Fleming on what should have been a touchdown, although the Buckeyes punched in on that possession at the end.
I Keep Holdin’ On
Fans have grown impatient by the number of times wide receiver screens have been called this season, relative to how often they’ve been successful. It’s perfectly logical to make those an extension of the run game, especially when the offensive line hasn’t been getting to the second level and linebackers have had a free run at Buckeye ball carriers.
However, the Buckeyes haven’t been any better at those wideout screens than they’ve been at rushing. It’s often a blocking issue. Emeka Egbuka took a penalty early in the game for holding on a one-yard pass to Harrison. The play went nowhere, so the hold obviously wasn’t effective, and once again Ohio State put itself behind the chains.
Offensive Line Woes
I mentioned it earlier, but the lack of Ohio State linemen climbing to the second level and getting linebackers blocked has been a problem early in the season and it was noticeable against Maryland. It wasn’t isolated to one individual or position. Guards, tackles, and the center continued to allow linebackers free runs at both McCord and Ohio State’s running backs. In the passing game, the line gave up three sacks.
It was not a good enough performance from the group, and it also included some penalties. A false start on Matthew Jones, for example, helped derail one drive and led to an Ohio State punt.
Too Much, Too Little Cody Simon
Steele Chambers has struggled against the run this season, and it seems as though the OSU coaching staff has settled on playing Simon more. The problem is that for all those extra plays he’s on the field, the veteran linebacker continues to run into blocks and gets walled off, creating big holes for opposing running backs to run through.
Sonny Styles and C.J. Hicks may not have the experience, but both have flashed in their snaps, and perhaps it’s time to let them play more and see if they’re better at filling holes rather than allowing them.
Not So Rough!
Michael Hall Jr. made one of Ohio State’s biggest blunders when he was called for roughing Taulia Tagovailoa, negating a third-down stop and giving Maryland a first down late in the first half with the game tied at 10-10. Hall got away with the mistake when the Terps mismanaged the clock and time expired before they could stop the clock and kick a field goal. However, in today’s game, when quarterbacks have protections in place, defensive players have to avoid hitting them out of frustration.
Ohio State scored on a touchdown pass to Harrison, but it was called back for an illegal motion penalty on Xavier Johnson. The veteran receiver did what he and others do on so many plays, he came inside and shuffled sideways to wait for the snap. Did he have some forward movement? Minimally, but no more than others that weren’t called on both sides.
It was an exceedingly picky call. Harrison scored anyway because ball don’t lie, but it was a maddening flag for something that happens regularly and is never called.
These were some of the things (but not all of the things) that aggravated me during Saturday’s win. Obviously in a 20-point win over an undefeated team, plenty of things went well. McCord did well to bounce back from a bad start. Harrison had a big day. The defense played well after they too had a slow start, getting some takeaways, and scoring a touchdown through Josh Proctor’s pick-six.
The Buckeyes head back on the road next week to perhaps the most annoying destination in the entire Big Ten — West Lafayette, Indiana — where they’ll take on Purdue on Saturday.