If you ignore Ohio State’s lofty expectations, Saturday’s game was a ton of fun.
Considering the Buckeyes’ championship aspirations, however, a one-point win against Maryland is cause for riots. In Inside the Box, we’ll touch on the balanced air and ground attack by Ohio State, how the offensive execution was crucial to the Buckeyes’ comeback, and how we may just have to accept the Silver Bullets for who they are.
Ohio State scored 50+ points and, for the first time this year, needed every last one of them.
Maryland’s 14th-ranked pass defense allowed Dwayne Haskins to record his fourth 400+ yard passing game this season, writing his name in the record books yet again. He also broke the Ohio State’s single-season passing yards and touchdowns mark against the Terrapins.
As the season has progressed, Haskins has increasingly relied on short passes. Against Maryland, he flipped the script.
Haskins and his receiving corps connected on five pass plays of over 20 yards. The Buckeyes also had two players over 100 receiving yards for the first time this year.
Down early, Haskins was forced to throw the ball 38 times. Despite that, his completion percentage of 73.6% wore down Maryland, who came into Saturday at No. 8 in the nation in that category. As long as Haskins is efficient, Ohio State can compete with the best teams in the country.
Pound the Rock
If not for J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State would not have won this game. His “quiet” 203-yard game, a new career high, boosted the Buckeyes with a balanced attack. It was the best performance by an Ohio State running back since Ezekiel Elliott’s 217-yard effort against Michigan in 2015. Dobbins’ 37 carries were also the highest mark of his career.
Dobbins was able to break loose six times on five different drives. The Bucks were able to get points on four of those drives.
Even without Mike Weber, the Buckeyes found a serviceable second ball carrier: Dwayne Haskins. For the first time this year, the quarterback looked comfortable running the ball. His three touchdowns on the ground, giving him six total for the day, was the most by an Ohio State quarterback since J.T. Barrett’s effort against Michigan in 2015.
While Ohio State’s ground game has disappointed for much of the season, it is a welcome sight to see it return. The Bucks averaged over five yards per attempt for the fourth time this year and for the second straight week. Coming off two of its best rushing games of the year should give Ohio State some confidence heading into the final week of the season.
As mentioned in the title, Haskins and Dobbins combined for 667 yards and seven touchdowns. With 405 passing yards from Dwayne and 203 yards on the ground from J.K., the duo combined for Ohio State's first ever 400-200 game.
Ohio State Relied on Execution and Volume
When the defensive gameplan fell short, Ryan Day went the extra mile.
As always, Ohio State played fast; 75+ plays a game is pretty normal for the offense. Against Maryland, however, Ohio State ran 94 plays, the second highest mark this year (99 - Purdue). Furthermore, the Bucks held the ball for over 46 minutes, by far the highest total of the year.
Limiting Maryland’s opportunities proved key. The Terps scored on seven of their 13 offensive drives with only two three-and-outs.
On the other side, Ohio State controlled the game and executed in the final stages of the game. The Buckeyes scored a touchdown on each of their final four drives.
For Ohio State, the difference between scoring and not scoring was simply execution. The Bucks had a net positive on penalty yards in drives that resulted in points and a net negative on nonscoring drives. Looking at the drive totals, the passing and rushing yard averages were both up in scoring drives despite a similar amount of attempts.
|Metric||Scoring Drives||Nonscoring Drives|
|Total Penalty Yards||29||-13|
Ohio State, despite three turnovers and a number of 50-50 events going against them, was able to control the game thanks to their execution and offensive gameplan.
The Silver Bullets Fell Short Once Again
Just when we think something the defense is somewhat solved, it all falls apart.
The Terrapins accumulated 339 yards on the ground against the Buckeyes, the most the Buckeyes have allowed since Navy in 2014, who rushed for 370 yards and passed for 20 yards. Redshirt freshman Anthony McFarland, a former teammate of Buckeye defensive end Chase Young, had himself the game of his life.
Anthony McFarland again. Takes Maryland's first play in OT to the house to get within a PAT away from tying this up.
21 carries for 299 yards for McFarland today.
— Eleven Warriors (@11W) November 17, 2018
Finally, the obvious issue: Ohio State is still getting blown apart by big plays. The Buckeyes are tied for ninth in the nation in plays of 50+ yards allowed (11 total), nearly half of which came on Saturday. The Silver Bullets are also fourth in plays of 70+ yards allowed and tied for first in plays of 80+ and 90+ yards allowed.
There are no bright sides, positive spins, or easy solutions to these embarrassing statistics. Ohio State gave up 51 points to an unranked opponent, the most since Iowa last year. This time, however, the offense was able to bail them out.
While Maryland was not the tune-up game many expected it to be, the team’s motto has become clear: survive and advance. A date with Michigan is finally in the crosshairs.