Ohio State entered the third-highest scoring team in college football, but made a habit of waiting a quarter to flex its muscles in previous contests.
On Saturday, the Buckeyes were maxing out by opening kickoff.
Outgaining the Terrapins 192-1 in the opening quarter, Ohio State found the end zone on all three of its possessions, and wasted no time turning a cold November Big Ten matchup into a veritable exhibition game.
“That’s all a tribute to [head coach Ryan Day], [offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson] and everybody. Their game plan was strong this week,” sophomore tight end Jeremy Ruckert said. “They always scheme up the best runs, the best passes for the defense we’re going against, and then it’s all execution on our part.”
Since the season opener, Ohio State had outscored teams 45-11 in first quarters entering Saturday, but 168-17 in the second quarter of the same games.
Ohio State’s 21-point opening period against Maryland was its best since putting up 28 on Florida Atlantic in 6:17 Game 1, and things ran nearly as smooth for Fields and the Buckeye offense.
The Terrapins did themselves no favors, setting Ohio State up at the Maryland 47-yard-line after a shanked 31-yard punt on its opening possession.
Less than two minutes later, the Buckeyes were already on the board, senior wide receiver Binjimen Victor walking in a 12-yard strike from Fields with an ease that was echoed on nearly every subsequent first half possession for Ohio State.
On the ensuing drive, Maryland forced the Buckeye offense to face a third down just one time in 11 plays, and Fields had completions of 23 and 33 yards to sophomore tight end Jeremy Ruckert and redshirt senior wide receiver K.J. Hill before punching in a 4-yard run.
It was hard for Maryland to score when it had the ball. With Ohio State sophomore wide receiver Chris Olave recovering an onside kick following Fields’ score, it was even harder when it didn’t.
“The guys really embraced that this week, and we talked to them early. If the timing is right on the third kickoff and we have the opportunity, we’ll take that,” Day said. “And I think the guys feed off of that aggressiveness, and it was great.”
Freshman wide receiver Garrett Wilson, a former five-star recruit, had a breakout performance, leading the Buckeyes with 82 yards. His big day started with a 27-yard grab down to the 4-yard-line after the onside kick.
“We think he obviously has a tremendous ceiling and he’s growing every week,” Day said. “He’s understanding how to practice. He’s understanding how to play within the offense.”
Hill scored on a pass from Fields the next play, and Ohio State would end the first quarter a perfect 3-for-3 scoring touchdowns on its drives, a streak that would soon turn into six straight trips to the end zone by the end of the half.
By the time Olave caught his team-leading ninth touchdown early in the third quarter, the result was signed, sealed and delivered for the Buckeyes.
Just for good measure, junior running back J.K. Dobbins added two touchdowns before halftime, rushing for 48 yards on five carries in the quarter.
Outscoring opponents upwards of 40 points per game this season, nearly every Ohio State game has been in-hand by halftime. Against Maryland and the No. 85 scoring defense in the country, it was a wrap well before that.
It was a good game to be an Ohio State backup, as redshirt freshman running back Master Teague, freshman Marcus Crowley and redshirt junior Demario McCall combined for 271 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.
Opponent withstanding, the Ohio State offense may be clicking better than it has all season, and not at the wrong time.
“I definitely think we’re capable of much more,” Ruckert said.