COLLEGE PARK, Md. — In the first-ever football matchup between Ohio State and Maryland, the No. 20 Buckeyes came away with a wire-to-wire victory to open their Big Ten season.
OSU’s 52-24 win spoiled Maryland’s first Big Ten home game at Byrd Stadium in College Park, Md., on Saturday afternoon.
After the win, OSU coach Urban Meyer said he was “very pleased” with the Buckeyes’ play, but stressed that there is still room for improvement.
“I know it wasn’t perfect; and obviously that’s what you strive to be, but we’re not,” Meyer said.
With the conference season opening against Maryland, at least one OSU player said the team treats every game like a big one, but added there was some extra joy in a Big Ten victory.
“We’re Ohio State,” sophomore defensive lineman Joey Bosa said after the game. “We come in and every game is a big game for us. So first Big Ten game, feels real nice.”
After the Buckeyes (4-1, 1-0) jumped out to a 24-3 lead, a Maryland (4-2, 1-1) touchdown and an ensuing OSU punt near the end of the first half had the Terrapins threatening to get back in the game. That punt — a 69-yard boot by sophomore Cameron Johnston — pinned Maryland at its own seven-yard line.
Johnston said Meyer told him to put everything he had into the punt before sending him out on the field.
“He said ‘go after it,’ so if he gives you permission to go after it and I’m allowed to go after it then I’m kind of happy,” Johnston said after the game. “So it was good.”
On the first play of the drive, redshirt-freshman linebacker Darron Lee intercepted Maryland redshirt-senior quarterback C.J. Brown, giving OSU the ball at the one. Redshirt-freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett hit redshirt-junior tight end Nick Vannett on the next play for a touchdown, giving the Buckeyes the momentum and a 31-10 halftime lead.
Lee said the Buckeyes “needed a big play” at that moment in the game, and added he simply watched the play unfold before making the interception.
“Eyes on the quarterback, and (sophomore defensive lineman) Joey Bosa was about to get him if he waited a half second longer,” Lee said after the game. “And then he threw it, (I) got to the ball, caught it.”
From there, OSU outscored the Terrapins, 21-14, to seal the victory.
Lee said everyone from Meyer to the rest of his teammates was looking forward to the Maryland matchup because none of them had ever taken on the Terrapins.
“Coach was eager to play them, it was the first time he’s ever played Maryland, first time we’ve played Maryland,” he said. “We knew we had to jump out on them, they’re an explosive team.”
The first half was a tale of two contrasting offenses as the Buckeyes picked up 289 total yards in the opening 30 minutes, compared to just 104 from Maryland.
OSU co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman said he enjoyed the success his offensive players had against the Terrapins, but said it’s important to keep that kind of play going throughout each game.
“It’s really fun to be up there and just kind of call plays and understand that your guys are executing,” Herman said after the game. “We’re in a rhythm and do whatever you can not to break that rhythm and get behind the chains.”
OSU got things started with an eight-play, 75-yard drive capped by a one-yard touchdown run from redshirt-senior running back Rod Smith. Barrett hit redshirt-freshman H-back Jalin Marshall from nine yards out later in the quarter before Maryland got on the board.
Herman said the first set of plays of the day was planned for the Buckeyes, but they still had to adjust to have their early success.
“We script our first eight or 10 plays, but understand that we’ve got to adjust based on what the defense is giving,” Herman said.
Following the Marshall touchdown, the Terrapins’ junior kicker Brad Craddock set a new Maryland record with a 57-yard field goal to make the score 14-3, but the Buckeyes answered back with a touchdown and a field goal of their own before Lee’s interception and the ensuing Vannett touchdown.
OSU’s first drive of the second half ended with a turnover on downs inside the 10-yard line, but redshirt-freshman cornerback Eli Apple gave the ball back to the Buckeyes with an interception in the end zone. Barrett hit senior wide receiver Devin Smith from 30 yards out on the ensuing possession to extend OSU’s lead to 38-10.
Maryland’s second touchdown — a two-yard run by redshirt-junior running back Brandon Ross — was followed by a nine-yard scoring run from Barrett, giving the Buckeyes a 45-17 advantage just six seconds into the fourth quarter.
Lee went to the sideline with an apparent leg injury on the first play of Maryland’s next drive after nearly making an interception, but later returned to the game.
After the game, Lee said he sustained “just a cramp” on the play.
After that near-pick, Maryland went on a seven-play, 74-yard drive that ended with a four-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Caleb Rowe to junior wide receiver Stefon Diggs.
The Buckeyes closed out the scoring when freshman linebacker Raekwon McMillan intercepted Rowe and returned it 19 yards for a touchdown on Maryland’s next possession.
“It’s one of the best feelings in the world,” McMillan said of his first career score. “My teammate helped me out by tipping the ball and I just took advantage of the moment.”
Barrett finished his day 18 of 23 on pass attempts for 267 yards and four touchdowns. He also finished second on the team with 71 rushing yards and another score. Sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliott led the way with 24 carries and 139 yards rushing while redshirt-sophomore wide receiver Michael Thomas led the team with four receptions for 75 yards and a touchdown through the air. Redshirt-junior wide receiver Corey Smith also had four receptions for 44 yards.
In total, Barrett completed passes to nine different receivers, and Meyer praised his ability, as well as the play of the players he throws to.
“J.T. Barrett is playing very well and the big thing is we can still get better,” Meyer said. “The guys playing around him are pretty good too.”
The Buckeye offense totaled 533 yards on the day, compared to 310 for Maryland.
Bosa keyed the OSU defense with one sack and 2.5 tackles for loss while sophomore safety Vonn Bell and junior linebacker Joshua Perry tied for the team lead with six tackles each.
After the game, Bosa said the defensive lines production when it comes to getting to the quarterback could have been even better than it was.
“We were back there all day,” he said. “I think we could’ve had a lot more (sacks) if we just got there a little faster.”
Brown and Rowe combined to throw four interceptions and just one touchdown in the game. The Buckeyes held the Terrapins to just 66 rushing yards on the day.
OSU is scheduled to have a week off before returning to Ohio Stadium to face Rutgers on Oct. 18. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m.