COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Ohio State returns to action after its bye week with a home game against the undefeated Maryland Terrapins after beating Notre Dame two weeks ago. The homecoming game kicks off at noon Saturday at Ohio Stadium.
Ohio State ranks second in the country in fewest points allowed and will be put to the test once again against Maryland’s explosive offense. Meanwhile, receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. is set to play through an ankle injury he suffered against Notre Dame and OSU’s veteran linebackers are eager to bounce back from a subpar performance.
Below is more on the three things to know about this game.
Two weeks ago, Marvin Harrison Jr. set a block on the outside that sprung TreVeyon Henderson’s 61-yard touchdown run against the Irish. But while making the block, a Notre Dame defender rolled on top of Harrison’s ankle, causing the receiver to fall. He was helped off the field in considerable pain but got his ankle tapped up and went back in.
During Wednesday’s media availability, Harrison said his ankle is “good enough” for him to play. Three weeks ago, Harrison said he suffered an ankle injury early last season and was never fully healthy. He said this year’s injury to his ankle is worse.
“I definitely didn’t know how severe the injury was. I knew it was kind of the same ankle all over again just like last year,” Harrison said. “I know how to play on it because I had to play on it last year, so it’s kind of just the same thing.”
Coach Ryan Day said Thursday that Harrison will be good to go Saturday. His health will be worth watching because when he’s at his best, defenses try to double team him.
“I just try to do my part. Whether I get a bracket coverage, double coverage, safety help my way, [that] makes the field wider for my teammates and I think they can succeed more,” he said. “If that’s role I’ve got to play in the offense, I’m willing to do that.”
Maryland’s Taulia Tagovailoa is one of the most versatile quarterbacks in the country. The younger brother of Miami Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa is in his fifth season with the Terps and fourth as their starter. He’s thrown for more than 3,000 yards the past two seasons and is on pace to do so again, due in no small part to his ability to extend plays. Tagovailoa isn’t a running quarterback, but he does have the athleticism to move out of the pocket to make plays.
“He’s a great athlete, so he’s going to make plays regardless,” Ohio State defensive lineman Tyleik Williams said. “We just have to try to limit them as much as we can.”
That’s where Ohio State’s defensive line and linebackers come into play. The Buckeyes don’t have many sacks, but the key for them is forcing opposing quarterbacks to get the ball out quickly to avoid the pressure. The Buckeyes do that by winning their assignments through what they call a “coordinated pass rush.”
“We can’t get undisciplined with our rush lanes. We know he likes to scramble and make plays with his legs so we try to limit that as much as possible,” Williams said. “Knowing what he’s going to do, already have played him, what he did last game when we played them [last year], it’s basically the same thing. He’s just more agile now. He don’t got his knee brace.”
In that last game against Maryland, Ohio State trailed 13-10 at halftime and led 36-30 with less than a minute to play. With the game on the line, Zach Harrison forced a strip sack and Steele Chambers recovered for a touchdown to seal the win. Tagovailoa went 26-of-36 passing for 292 yards and two touchdowns, while the Buckeyes limited the Terrapins to 87 yards rushing. The Terps thrive on big plays, but the Buckeyes have prevented them, allowing fewer than five this season of 25 yards or more. The longest touchdown play Ohio State has allowed this season was 2 yards.
“I’m really not impressed with anything we’ve done so far,” cornerback Denzel Burke said. “We’re trying to win championships man. It’s going to take a lot. It’s wide open this year, and if we just do what we’ve got to do week in and week out, man, sky’s the limit.”
Bounce back opportunity for OSU’s linebackers
During Tuesday’s media availability, Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles said he should have made better adjustments on Notre Dame’s two touchdown drives. He also acknowledged it wasn’t the best game for Chambers and fellow linebacker Tommy Eichenberg.
“Really good offensive line and a premier opponent,” Knowles said about Notre Dame. “[Steele and Tommy] can play better. They both know it, and when you win a game like that, you can learn a lot from it that’ll help your growth overall, so it’s going to come around again.”
Chambers and Eichenberg are eager for that chance to come around Saturday against Maryland’s No. 15-ranked scoring offense.
“Complete honesty, we played pretty bad. We take responsibility for everything that happened in that game,” Chambers said. “I feel like we went in with a good game plan. We just weren’t able to make adjustments on the field as far as their run scheme, some of their passes. … We just have to be be lot more laser-focused on what we’re looking at and just know what our keys are.”
The good news for Chambers, Eichenberg and the entire defense is that Maryland isn’t nearly as good at running the ball as the Irish. While the Terps rank 19th in the country in passing yards per game, just one spot below the Buckeyes, they rank 65th in rushing yards per game.