Thriller ends with great escape

Bill Rabinowitz

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Ohio State’s 52-51 overtime victory over Maryland has to rank among the most unforgettable forgettable games in Buckeyes history.

No game with as many twists and turns and brilliant offensive performances as this one at Maryland Stadium should be relegated to history’s dustbin.

Terrapins freshman running back Anthony McFarland ripped the Buckeyes defense for 298 yards, including touchdown runs of 81 and 75 on his second and third carries of the game.

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His Ohio State counterpart, sophomore J.K. Dobbins, ran for a career-high 203 yards and a score in 37 carries with backfield mate Mike Weber out because of a quadriceps injury.

Dwayne Haskins Jr. threw for three touchdowns and 405 yards to break Joe Germaine’s Ohio State record for passing yards in a season. Crucially, he also showed newfound determination in running the ball 15 times for 59 yards, including the winning TD on a 5-yard keeper in overtime.

On the other hand …

No. 10 Ohio State (10-1, 7-1 Big Ten) escaped only because Maryland failed on a two-point conversion after its overtime touchdown. Instead of extending the game with an extra-point kick, interim coach Matt Canada went for immediate victory. Tyrrell Pigrome rolled out and had Jeshaun Jones open in the end zone, but his throw was to Jones’ right and fell harmlessly to the turf.

“I would have probably done the same thing if I was their coach, the way they were gaining yards on us,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said of Canada’s decision.

Maryland (5-6, 3-5) gained 533 yards, the third time Ohio State has given up more than 500 yards this season. In addition to McFarland’s runs, Pigrome’s six completions went for 181 yards as Buckeyes defensive backs were beaten at crucial times.

“It’s really discouraging,” defensive end Chase Young said. “All those plays are easy, fixable plays.”

Ohio State believed after mostly limiting big plays the past two weeks against Nebraska and Michigan State that it had solved the issue. That Maryland continually exploited the Buckeyes is a major cause for concern heading into their clash with Michigan next week.

“We’ll have to play better than we did, or we won’t win that game,” Meyer said. “That’s going to be the message all week, and I anticipate we’ll play much better.”

Saturday’s escape keeps Ohio State alive for the Big Ten championship. But its flickering hopes for a shot at the College Football Playoff might have been extinguished by such a close call against a middling team.

Still, the Buckeyes did show considerable resilience in fighting back from three 14-point deficits.

Maryland led 17-3 in the first quarter and 24-10 in the second. Dobbins scored on a 1-yard run and had a chance to tie the score before halftime. But he fumbled on a carry from the Maryland 6 and the Terrapins recovered.

On the second snap of the third quarter, RaVon Davis intercepted a deflected Haskins pass and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown to make it 31-17.

The Buckeyes tied it on a 6-yard touchdown pass to K.J. Hill early in the fourth quarter. The score was tied at 38 late in regulation when Maryland's Daryl Jones beat cornerback Damon Arnette for a 60-yard gain to the Ohio State 1-yard line. On third-and-goal, McFarland fumbled, but Maryland’s Chigoziem Okonkwo recovered it in the end zone with 1:54 left.

Again, the Buckeyes answered. After Demario McCall returned the kickoff to midfield, Haskins threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Binjimen Victor with 52 seconds left.

Ohio State got the ball first in overtime. On fourth-and-1, offensive co-coordinator Ryan Day called for a pass to tight end Rashod Berry, who caught it for an 11-yard gain. After each team committed a 15-yard penalty on successive plays, Haskins powered in for the touchdown.

On Maryland’s possession, McFarland gained 24 yards on the first play to set up Maryland’s touchdown. Then came the decisive failed two-point conversion.

The Buckeyes swarmed the field, but soon after that they were ready to put the victory behind them. The game that really matters is ahead, and Ohio State knows how daunting the challenge is.

“I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this,” defensive coordinator Greg Schiano said. “This is different than what we’re going to see (next week). When we get on the bus, I’m going to start looking at Team Up North.

“We’ve got six days to get ready for what we and they have been able to make one of the biggest games in college football this year.”


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