COLLEGE PARK, Md. — The No. 5 Ohio State football team had arguably its loudest statement of the season last week in Columbus versus then-No.10 Nebraska. On Saturday against Maryland, OSU followed up the 62-3 beatdown over the Huskers with another 62-3 demolition of the Terrapins at Capital One Field.
In the age of the College Football Playoff, impressive wins in ranked matchups carry a lot of weight, but dominating an inferior opponent is just as important in the eyes of the committee. OSU now enters the final two weeks of the season where every opportunity must be seized by the Buckeyes.
“Championships are won and lost in November and you start seeing teams take a step away from the pack,” said redshirt junior guard Billy Price. “We’re hitting at the right moment. We’re peaking at the right moment.”
The offensive firepower started early in the first half with redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett and junior H-back Curtis Samuel at the centerfold. On the second play of the game, Barrett threw a pick to Maryland cornerback J.C. Jackson, but it was ultimately called back on a defensive pass interference penalty. Seven plays later, Samuel took a handoff from Barrett and ran two yards, untouched into the end zone.
On the next drive, Barrett led a flawless series that ended in his first touchdown of the day — a four-yard touchdown run. He commanded a four-play drive, racking up 56 yards in just 1:15.
Against Nebraska, the OSU offense drove downfield at a stunning rate. The Buckeyes only had one drive that took longer than five minutes. The Terrapins provided even less resistance to the OSU offense, with not one touchdown drive being longer than 4:12. By the end of the first half, Barrett had four total touchdowns and 192 passing yards on 13 of 17 passing, and Samuel accounted for 122 total yards with one touchdown, including four plays of double-digit yardage.
“Like I’ve been saying for weeks, we’ve been calling the right plays, but it’s just about execution,” Samuel said. “We felt that we weren’t executing at the highest level possible. Now, we’re just executing. That’s why everything looks smooth out there.”
Smooth is an understatement. When combining the second half against Nebraska with the first half of the Maryland game, OSU has scored 76 points, which is more than the Wisconsin, Penn State and Northwestern games combined.
One major factor for the OSU offensive chemistry is the use of Samuel. OSU coach Urban Meyer and co-offensive coordinators Ed Warinner and Tim Beck have been ridiculed in the past for the lack of touches for the dynamic playmaker. The last three weeks, Samuel has had 16 carries and 20 receptions for 389 total yards and six touchdowns. Currently, Samuel is the only player in college football with over 600 rushing yards and 600 receiving yards. Meyer had one word to describe the play of his H-back.
“Ridiculous,” he said. “The thing that’s so good about Curtis, his football smarts is unbelievable. You think about the things he does and now he’s back to return punts as well. Get him rested cause we got a big one next week.”
The Buckeyes have two games left on its regular season schedule: Michigan State and Michigan. With No. 2 Clemson’s loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday, OSU is in the picture of the College Football Playoff. And not only is the offense dominant rolling into East Lansing, Michigan, next week, the defense has been stout.
The Scarlet and Gray surrendered just 176 yards to Maryland, compared to 581 by Barrett and the offense. Redshirt sophomore cornerback Marshon Lattimore had his fourth pick of the season, and the team’s 15th. He said that each and every game, the defensive backs try to flip the momentum.
“Before the season, they didn’t even know who we were because of the great players we had like Tyvis (Powell), Vonn (Bell) and Eli (Apple),” Lattimore said. “We were just trying to show everyone there was no dropoff in the defensive backfield.”
Redshirt sophomore defensive end Sam Hubbard, who has been a vocal and exemplary leader on defense, said that the mentality for the defense in the second half of the season has changed to finishing each play.
“When we have a team on the ropes, we kinda always say we want to step on their throats and not let up because we gotta send a message, and that’s what we’re doing right now,” Hubbard said. “And I like it.”