COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Ohio State had fought its way back from three 14-point deficits to force overtime with Maryland on Saturday, and facing fourth-and-1 at the 16 in overtime, coach Urban Meyer decided to keep riding the offensive wave.
Instead of trying for a field goal, he ordered offensive coordinator Ryan Day and the players to go for the first down. Day issued a bold call, what turned out to be a pass from Dwayne Haskins Jr. in the left flat to tight end Rashod Berry for an 11-yard gain, and it kept alive the winning touchdown drive.
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“A lot of credit to coach Meyer,” Day said. “He wanted to go for it. We went for it.”
But with a pass into the flat to a tight end? The season was on the line.
“They were loading up the (tackle) box, so we took a shot at the flat, and made the play, and it paid off,” Day said.
Berry shrugged it off as it was routine. And as he went in motion from right to left before the snap, he said, it wasn’t clear he was going to get the ball. Haskins had options. But when no defender chased Berry into the flat, the choice was clear.
“When my number is called, I have to make a play, and I just made that play,” Berry said.
But it was significant. Haskins set two Ohio State records, passing for 405 yards and three touchdowns to reach to 3,685 and 36 this season, topping the 3,330 set by Joe Germaine in 1998 and the 35 set by J.T. Barrett last season. Haskins also had his best game running the ball, with 15 carries for 59 and three touchdowns, including the winning TD in overtime.
But those numbers likely wouldn’t have mattered if Ohio State hadn’t converted the fourth-and-1.
“That means a lot,” Berry said about making the play, his only official catch after two others were wiped out by penalties. “We all put in numerous hours, working together. Our brotherhood is so tight. I just wanted to do what I can to help my team.”
He was pretty calm about it 30 minutes later.
“It’s just shocking still, you know?” Berry said, smiling.
The offense came through when it mattered down the stretch.
“In a two-minute drill, to go down (and get the tying touchdown in regulation), we had to play a lot of situations,” Day said. “I thought the O-line did a great job in protection. I thought the running backs and receivers ran hard. I thought the tight ends made some big plays. I thought Dwayne was gritty. To run the way he did, I think that was a big step for him.”