Chase Young made sure to speak with his teammates before Ohio State’s 73-14 win over Maryland.

It was sometime in the days before Saturday’s kickoff when he stepped in front of them in their meeting room in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, and after he had learned that he would be sidelined for the game while the school investigates a possible NCAA violation concerning a loan from a family friend.

The message from Young was simple.

“He basically said he wasn't going to be here and just to go out there and ball,” senior defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton said. “That was kind of the whole message. It is what it is. We just have to be without him for right now.”

 

 

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The Buckeyes largely responded in the absence of their star pass rusher, finishing with seven sacks as their defensive line continued to hound an opposing team’s quarterback.

The pass rush was the focus of Ohio State’s defense, which limited the Terrapins to 139 total yards and without a point until the third quarter.

Two of their best efforts came from Hamilton and sophomore defensive end Tyreke Smith, who had two sacks apiece, both career highs.

Coach Ryan Day said Hamilton’s early sack of Josh Jackson, coming on the second play of Maryland's opening series, was significant.

“It changes the mentality of the quarterback,” Day said. “And I know, coaching quarterbacks, when you have a guy in your face, in your lap, especially early in the game, you don't want to stand in there anymore. You're not looking at the coverage. You're looking at the rush.”

Hamilton’s importance for the defensive line in the rout involved more than his sacks. Day stressed his ability to create pressure as an interior lineman, allowing defensive ends to storm into the backfield, one of the biggest areas in which Hamilton has made a difference in his breakout season as a fifth-year senior.

“When he can push the pocket,” Day said, “it makes all the difference in the world.”

It was an approach needed as the Buckeyes started two of their younger defensive ends: Smith and freshman Zach Harrison.

Smith took the place of Jonathon Cooper, who has been hobbled by a high ankle sprain. Harrison made his first career start, replacing Young, the nation’s top pass rusher who led FBS with 13.5 sacks through the first two months of the regular season.

Harrison notched a sack in the second half when he ran around a left tackle.

The seven sacks the Buckeyes had were not only their season-high but also the most since they sacked Sam Darnold seven times in a win over USC in the 2017 Cotton Bowl.

Smith also credited Hamilton as the spark for the Buckeyes' pass rush and noted that defensive line coach Larry Johnson “motivates him and tells him, 'You can be the best nose guard in the country if you want.'”

“We all see every day in practice,” Smith said. “We tell him, 'Just go show it.' So he went out there and showed it today. I mean, he's been showing it consistently every game.”

jkaufman@dispatch.com

@joeyrkaufman