COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Ohio State took a while to put Maryland away, but the Buckeyes got the job done to beat the Terrapins 37-17.
The Buckeyes defense once again proved it can be the difference maker, the rushing attack struggled and Kyle McCord played well but has yet to put a complete game together. Below is more on the three takeaways from OSU’s win.
Ohio State’s safeties led the charge against Maryland’s high-powered offense. Entering the game, the Terps ranked 14th in the country in points per game (38). But the Buckeyes held Taulia Tagovailoa to less than 200 yards while forcing two interceptions and two turnover on downs.
The Buckeyes trailed 7-3 early in the second quarter when safety Josh Proctor intercepted Tagovailoa and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown. His pick-six changed the momentum, and potentially the outcome of the game, and was a moment six years in the making. Proctor suffered a severe leg injury two years ago in week two and was benched last year after playing one game. His climb back to the starting lineup has been all about consistency, and he gave OSU the jolt it needed. Proctor also made a few key tackles in run coverage where he’s excelled for years.
“I just think, over the years, I’ve learned, I’ve seen a lot, I’ve watched film constantly and now it’s all about anticipating more than reacting and going to play ball,” Proctor said. “I was just out there having fun. I wasn’t thinking too much. I was just playing ball.”
The Buckeyes’ second interception came from safety Lathan Ransom. Tagovailoa was scrambling out of the pocket and made an errant pass to Ransom who stayed disciplined in his zone to snag the pick. His interception led to a field goal to put Ohio State up 27-17. OSU’s third safety, Sonny Styles, helped force Maryland’s second turnover on downs with a tackle deep in Terps territory. That stop all but assured Ohio State the win after it led to a short touchdown drive.
Kyle McCord feast or famine
Ohio State quarterback Kyle McCord had his best game to date as far as stats are concerned: 19-of-29 for 320 yards and two touchdowns. He shined once again in the fourth quarter, completing eight of nine passes for 152 yards to propel OSU over Maryland.
He connected on several long passes with four completions of 30+ yards, including a 44-yard touchdown to tight end Cade Stover. But McCord struggled mightily in the first half as the Buckeyes failed to score a touchdown in the first 30 minutes for a second-straight game.
“I think Kyle would say the same thing: he had a hard time early on getting into a rhythm and as a coach, I gotta try to help him and figure out how I can help with that,” head coach Ryan Day said. “You can see the talent is there, the ability is there . . . he wants to be great and we’ll look at it and try to get better.”
“Early on missed some opportunities or saw [the play] a second late, so that’s nobody else but myself and that’s an area I’ll just have to continue to grow on and continue to find ways to start fast,” McCord said. “If we could replicate what we did in the second half and do that in the first half, I think that’s a completely different game and a lot of that starts with me.”
But once again, McCord remained poised and delivered when the Buckeyes needed him most.
“You’re going to keep learning what we already know about him,” Stover said. “That’s a very talented player that holds the ship steady, does not panic and that’s the kind of guy you want throwing the ball.”
Buckeyes run into a big problem
Ohio State’s offense could not run the ball against Maryland. The Buckeyes gained 62 yards on the ground and averaged less than two yards per carry. Granted, Ohio State played without starting running back TreVeyon Henderson, but the Buckeyes pride themselves on having a deep running back room. Chip Trayanum took a majority of the carries but only mustered 61 yards on 20 attempts; 23 rushing yards were wiped out by sacks, but 82 yards is nowhere close to where the Buckeyes want to be. Day said Maryland emphasized putting more players near the line of scrimmage to try and make OSU one-dimensional.
“I got to watch it one more time and just see where we’re at with what’s going on,” Day said. “We know there’s a lot of guys in the box. They’re going to stop the run and that opened up the pass game in the second half . . . we expect to be higher than [85 yards] so I gotta figure out what that is. Is it the personnel, is it the scheme or the coaching of it?”
Day said after the game he’d have to watch the tape back to see what went wrong, but there are clearly issues that need to be addressed before OSU faces Penn State’s stout defense in two weeks. Day added Henderson could have played against Maryland but was kept out as a precaution and should be “good to go” at Purdue next weekend. Henderson can fix some of Ohio State’s flaws in the ground game but not all of them. How OSU runs the ball next week will be worth watching.