COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Just like last time Ohio State played Michigan in Maryland a week before the Buckeyes’ showdown, they got an unexpected scare.
On Saturday, the 27-point underdogs Terrapins threatened to hand Ohio State its first loss of the year. The Buckeyes nearly lost a 14-point lead in the second half before prevailing 43-30 at SECU Stadium.
The close decision was similar to Ohio State’s run against Maryland in 2018 as the Buckeyes survived 52-51 in overtime.
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OSU hopes it can respond against the Wolverines like it did four years ago when Ohio State beat Michigan 62-39.
Perhaps the No. 2 Buckeyes (11-0, 8-0 Big Ten) already heading for next week’s showdown against the No. 3 Wolverines.
“It’s hard to say,” said coach Ryan Day. “I’ve just finished with the team (meeting) and you can probably guess what was said first: Moving on to the team up north. But I have a hard time doing that when guys are just putting their bodies on the line. It was a hard fought game out there.”
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Certainly, Maryland (6-5, 3-5) deserves credit. The Terrapins didn’t look like the team that lost 30-0 to Penn State last week. Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa played brilliantly, throwing for 293 yards and two touchdowns on 26-of-36 passes, which often kept the Buckeyes’ defense on their toes.
But Ohio State had its own ace up its sleeve, the freshman running back Dallan Hayden. He replaced an ineffective TreVeyon Henderson and ran for three touchdowns and won critical first downs on Ohio State’s last possession to milk the clock. Hayden finished with 27 carries for 146 yards.
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“We didn’t really get the running game going in the first half,” said Day, “and then switched to Dallan and he really got us into the rhythm. I thought he was going to hit the holes hard.”
Henderson only rushed for 19 yards in 11 carries. He hobbled off the field late in the second quarter after a 1-yard loss and didn’t get a carry in the second half.
Henderson made a big play, a 31-yard touchdown catch to quickly put Ohio State 7-0 up. But the Buckeyes’ offense mostly lay dormant for the rest of the first half as Maryland took a 13-10 lead.
“We got together at halftime and said, OK, this is going to be a four-quarter fight,” Day said. “Sometimes we get these games that aren’t, but it should be.”
Safety Lathan Ransom sparked Ohio State with a blocked punt, his second in as many weeks, and he did it despite breaking his right thumb early in the game. Two games later, Hayden hit on an eight-yard run to give the Buckeyes the lead.
His 3-yard run to end an 88-yard drive gave Ohio State a 27-13 lead, and it looked like the Buckeyes might cross. But Tagovailoa was not finished yet. He led the Terrapins on a 75-yard touchdown drive that was crowned by a 2-point conversion.
The Buckeyes responded with a touchdown on Hayden’s third hit, a 13-yard run. But the Terrapins blocked the extra point kick and returned it for 2 points to make it 33-23.
Tagovailoa then led the Terrapins to another result. After a 49-yard completion, Maryland faced the fourth and the goal from the 1. The Buckeyes flushed Tagovailoa out of the bag. Just before being forced out, he threw Jeshaun Jones into the end zone for a touchdown to make it 33-30 with just under 10 minutes to go.
Ohio State forced a three-and-out on Maryland’s next possession, giving the Buckeyes the ball on their 12 with 5:54 left. Hayden carried the ball for the next six snaps. CJ Stroud converted a third and seven passes for 11 yards to Emeka Egbuka.
Stroud completed 18 of 30 passes for 241 yards and a touchdown.
The drive then stalled, but Noah Ruggles kicked a 45-yard field goal to take OSU’s lead to 6 with 42 seconds left.
Ohio State Defender Zach Harrison made sure there was no Maryland miracle. He dismissed Tagolaivoa on the first down. On the next game, he played the ball free from the quarterback and linebacker Steele Chambers caught it in the air for a crucial touchdown.
“We need to be crisper,” Stroud said. “We just have to get better. But 11-0 is still pretty good for me. It’s tough playing late in the season. It’s going to be difficult because every team wants to blow your mind.”
Next week, Ohio State will be the hunter as it finally gets its chance to avenge the painful 42-27 loss in Michigan that ended the Buckeyes’ decade-long winning streak against their archrivals.
“It’s the biggest game of the year, the most important game of the year,” Harrison said. “We live it 365 (days a year). We are ready.”