COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — No. 4 Ohio State returns to action after a bye week as the Buckeyes prepare for Maryland at noon Saturday.
Coach Ryan Day spoke Tuesday in his first news conference since giving a fiery defense of his team and its toughness, which was questioned by former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz before the Buckeyes beating the Irish.
“The response that I’ve got from Buckeye nation, people in Columbus and our team has been tremendous,” Day said about the reaction to his comments. “I’m proud of the fact that we’re 2-0 against Notre Dame.”
Day was also asked about how he decides when to speak up as a coach and said most of the time he has to exercise patience and take the high road. But he added, “It’s Ohio against the world and there are times you gotta stand up for what you believe in.”
The Terrapins are a formidable opponent and enter this game 5-0 after a 44-17 win over Indiana. They also beat Michigan State 31-9 and average 38.6 points, tied for 15th in the country.
Maryland is led by quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, the younger brother of Miami Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa who won a national championship at Alabama. Taulia is in his fourth season as the Terps starting quarterback and is putting together another impressive season. Through five games, he’s thrown for more than 1,400 yards and 13 touchdowns with three interceptions.
“Taulia’s played a ton of football and he makes a ton of plays,” Day said. “It comes down to who wins the game up front but our secondary’s going to get challenged this week.”
Ohio State’s defense was up to the task against Notre Dame’s offense as the Buckeyes rank second in the country in fewest points allowed per game (8.5).
Quarterback Kyle McCord appears to be finding his stride after leading the Buckeyes on the winning drive against the Irish. He completed 10 of 13 passes on third down, and if he can connect on a few more first-down passes, Day’s offense will find the rhythm it needs. But that can only be accomplished if the Buckeyes also convert in short yardage situations. That has been a struggle for Ohio State this season and nearly cost it the win against Notre Dame.
Day said Ohio State hasn’t used the quarterback sneak very often because opposing defenses tend to plan against that play call. Day said the Buckeyes should be ‘north of 80%’ on short third down plays and ‘need to be better.’
“In the big games a lot of it comes down to short yardage,” Day said. “We’ll do whatever we can to try and get the first down . . . It’s frustrating to see on the film the way we were able to move the ball and not finish those drives.”
Day added they used the bye week to give players time to clear their minds and get their bodies healthy but added “there’s certainly no complacency here.”
Maryland has been equally impressive on defense allowing just 12.25 points per game, which ranks 11th-best in the country. Day said Maryland’s secondary stood out to him on film and how the Terrapins were able to reload at cornerback and safety after losing several starters from last year. Maryland also ranks 12th in the country in red zone defense, which could be an issue for the Buckeyes who rank 95th in country scoring seven touchdowns and three field goals on 13 attempts.