Ohio State's offense hums again in Buckeyes' blowout of Maryland 66-17

Bill Rabinowitz
The Columbus Dispatch

A bit overshadowed in the angst about Ohio State’s sluggish start to the 2021 season was this knowledge: The Buckeyes’ offense had the potential to be close to unstoppable.

With redshirt freshman quarterback C.J. Stroud clearly finding his groove, hope has become reality. Certainly, Maryland had no answers for stopping Ohio State in a 66-17 Buckeyes victory Saturday afternoon in front of 99,277 at Ohio Stadium.

The No. 7 Buckeyes (5-1, 3-0 Big Ten) scored on their first five possessions to dash any upset hopes by the Terrapins (4-2, 1-2) and head into their off week with clear momentum.

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"We've got a long way to go, but you can see it's a different team," coach Ryan Day said of the Buckeyes' improvement since the loss to Oregon in the second game of the season.

Stroud continued his strong play after sitting out the Akron game to rest his ailing shoulder. He completed 24 of 33 passes for 406 yards and five touchdowns in three quarters of action.

Ohio State wide receiver Garrett Wilson makes a touchdown catch on Saturday. The Buckeyes had 598 yards of offense in the win.

"I’m very encouraged by what I’ve seen the last two weeks," Day said of Stroud.

Maryland emphasized stopping the run, and the Terps did a good job of that in the first half. Freshman phenom TreVeyon Henderson managed only 17 yards in nine carries in the first 30 minutes.

But that left chances for Ohio State’s passing game. The offensive line gave him ample protection, and it often became a choice of which open receiver to target. It didn’t hurt that Maryland’s secondary was depleted, including the absence of its top cornerback, Jakorian Bennett.

Ohio State Buckeyes cornerback Ryan Watts (16) returns an interception for a touchdown against Maryland Terrapins during the fourth quarter of their NCAA college football game at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio on October 9, 2021.

Chris Olave had seven catches for 120 yards and two touchdowns. Jaxon Smith-Njigba had five for 103, and Garrett Wilson added five for 84 and two scores.

“It’s fun giving everyone the ball," Stroud said. "I’m definitely pleased all my receivers ate today.”

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The numbers are impressive, but perhaps the best proof of Day’s confidence in the passing game came with the game already well in hand.

On fourth-and-1 from the Maryland 30 in the third quarter, the Buckeyes went for it. But instead of using the run game, which had come to life, Ohio State called for a pass to the end zone. For a change, Maryland had good coverage. Cornerback Tarheeb Still was draped on Olave, and the ball actually hit off the Terrapin. But Olave, despite falling to the turf, was able to grab it.

Ohio State Buckeyes running back TreVeyon Henderson (32) celebrates after scoring a touchdown dsecond quarter of a NCAA Division I football game between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Maryland Terrapins on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.

That made it 49-10, and starters rested after Henderson scored on a 14-yard carry to get to 102 yards in 16 carries on the Buckeyes’ next possession.

The only time the first-team offense didn’t score came at the very end of the second quarter when Stroud took a knee after a Maryland punt.

Ohio State’s defense did its part as well, continuing the growth it has shown since the Tulsa game. Even without injured star receiver Dontay Demus, the Terrapins have capable playmakers, starting with quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa.

Ohio State Buckeyes tight end Jeremy Ruckert (88) makes a catch against Maryland Terrapins during the third quarter of their NCAA college football game at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio on October 9, 2021.

But Buckeye starters allowed only one Maryland touchdown and allowed the Terps to convert only 3 of 12 third-down chances. Craig Young’s 70-yard pick-6 to cap the scoring was the Buckeye defense’s fourth touchdown in as many games.

It didn’t take long for the Buckeyes to take control, though Maryland did score on the game’s opening possession.

The Terps got to the OSU 28 after a roughing-the-passer penalty on Javonte Jean-Baptiste, but he helped sack Tagovailoa on third-and-3 to force Maryland to settle for a 48-yard field goal by Joseph Petrino.

After a holding call on the kickoff forced Ohio State to start at its 12, Ohio State took 17 plays – its longest scoring drive since against Hawaii in 2015 – to score. Stroud completed 9 of 12 passes for 88 yards on the possession, capped by a 2-yard dart to Wilson on fourth-and-goal.

That drive took just over 6 minutes. None of the Buckeyes’ other scores required more than 2:41.

Ohio State made it 14-3 on a 4-yard Henderson run that followed consecutive completions of 29 yards to Garrett Wilson and 30 to Henderson.

Stroud threw to Olave for a 36-yard touchdown to make it 21-3 early in the second quarter.

Maryland went 75 yards in 12 plays for a touchdown, but freshman Emeka Egbuka returned the ensuing kickoff 67 yards to set up a 26-yard touchdown pass to Henderson.

Any chance Maryland had to keep it a game ended when Tagovailoa fumbled the snap and then fell untouched trying to scramble on fourth-and-5 from the OSU 5 with 2 minutes left in the second quarter.

The Buckeyes then went 82 yards in just over a minute to make it 35-10 at halftime.

Ohio State has not lost to Maryland since the Terps joined the Big Ten in 2014. Only once – a 52-51 overtime escape in 2018 – has the game been close. The Buckeyes averaged 58.3 points in their previous six matchups.

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