COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Before he galloped and bounced onto the field, Darron Lee howled and bellowed as if he were a reincarnation of Attila the Hun, like the linebacker had been driven mad by the thought of conquering a foreign land in front of its hapless inhabitants.
At Byrd Stadium in College Park, Md. — one of two new territories annexed to the Big Ten conference this season — the Ohio State Buckeyes were unwelcome invaders who came to spoil Maryland’s first time playing host in the league.
That was readily evident by signs anchoring the school’s student section, which said “Win or Lose, We Don’t Live in Ohio” and “Ohio Schools Suck.” They were neither well-crafted nor particularly clever, but their messages of hostility were loud and clear.
In the morning — and for most of last week — this bout was billed as one of the biggest games in Maryland history. A rock band played live music on a hill overlooking the stadium. There were fireworks, there was fire. There were special uniforms. There was special Big Ten-themed ice cream in the press box. The spectacle off the field was carefully sewn together to celebrate, first, a grand initiation into the league and, second, a passage into a new era.
But by the end of a sunny afternoon that started with the promise of making a statement against a team that’s long dominated the conference, the Terrapins were vaporized by the Buckeyes, 52-24.
"It’s a big game for us every week," sophomore defensive end Joey Bosa said. "Apparently the biggest game in Maryland history, or whatever they were saying and we’re Ohio State: we come in, and every game’s a big game for us."
Long after the hordes of Maryland fans — some of which fled the blowout midway through the third quarter — vacated the premises, the rapper Drake’s “0 to 100” blared from the Buckeyes' locker room loud enough for anyone willing to listen and they gorged themselves on Qdoba, which waited for them in the form of boxed meals to take on the bus before flying back to Columbus. To the victors, they say, go the spoils. And on this day, they were conquerers.
Lee, a redshirt freshman who burst onto the scene during spring ball, was one of the many pieces and many parts to Ohio State's success: the Buckeyes harassed and battered the Terrapins while on defense and exploding for 533 yards on offense.
After jetting out to a 24-10 lead, it was Lee — who intercepted senior quarterback C.J. Brown in front of the home team's end zone right before halftime — who ensured a game that teetered on getting out of hand started to indeed do so. The Buckeyes scored a play later and swiftly dismissed any hope of a Terrapins comeback.
There would be no celebration in College Park. Not for Maryland, at least.
"We’re getting a lot better, and we’ve gotta continue to get better. And that’s what gets us going because we can always continue to get better and know the end result’s gonna be scary," Lee said. "Just wait on it."
Foreseeing how playing a noon game against an unranked opponent might offer the Terrapins the advantage of a sneak attack, head coach Urban Meyer said he relegated his players back to their hotel quarters at 9 p.m. the night before.
"I’ve had teams — and been apart of them — where on noon kickoffs where you’ve got that dullard look, you’ve got that bad look when you’re coming out of the locker room and that wasn’t the case," Meyer, who stood outside of those chambers during pre-game as if to take in the scene awaiting his team, said.
"I could tell when they woke up this morning, they’d be ready to go."