Maryland Notebook: Raekwon McMillan is Making the Most of His Opportunities

By Tim Shoemaker on October 5, 2014 at 6:00 am

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Whenever he's on the field, Raekwon McMillan seems to have a knack for making himself stand out.

Saturday was no different.

The final outcome was already decided — Ohio State was leading Maryland 45-24 late in the fourth quarter at the time — but when Terrapins' quarterback Caleb Rowe had his pass tipped, the ball fell right into the arms of the Buckeyes' prized freshman linebacker.

McMillan took the ball and scampered down the sideline, earning his first career interception and first career touchdown on the same play.

"It's one of the best feelings in the world, man," McMillan said. "My teammate helped me out by tipping the ball and I just took advantage of the moment."

McMillan also had a fumble recovery for the Buckeyes in the second quarter when his teammate, Darron Lee, picked off Maryland's starting quarterback C.J. Brown. Lee rumbled down inside the 10-yard line, but was stripped of the ball.

McMillan, however, was there to save the day as he pounced on the ball at the 2-yard line and the Buckeyes punched it in for a touchdown on the very next play.

"I feel way more comfortable, man," McMillan said. "My first game, I was out there a little bit nervous, but now I feel like I can go out there way more comfortable."

Pass Defense Shows Signs of Life

Ohio State's pass defense struggled last week against Cincinnati, but the Buckeyes looked better in pass coverage in Saturday's win over Maryland.

The Terrapins don't possess the vertical passing attack the Bearcats have — nor the talent at quarterback — but Ohio State really limited Maryland's opportunities for a big play.

The Buckeyes allowed 244 yards through the air — up from 352 a week ago against Cincinnati — and intercepted Maryland quarterbacks four times. Three of those interceptions came from freshmen.

"One thing we just wanted to stress was working on our whole package," said cornerback Eli Apple, who had one of Ohio State's picks. "We've been a press team since the beginning of the season and one thing we wanna learn on is how to play off and work on those different techniques, as well."

Ohio State's pass defense certainly isn't fixed. In fact, it's far from that. But Saturday was a step — a baby step, even — in the right direction.

Keeping Their Balance

For the third straight game, Ohio State's offense had a tremendous amount of balance to it. The Buckeyes amassed 533 yards of total offense against Maryland: 269 on the ground and 264 through the air.

Redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett was efficient, going 18 for 23 with four touchdown passes while also rushing for 71 yards on 16 carries. But Ezekiel Elliott again provided Ohio State with a legitimate threat on the ground, topping 100 yards for the second-straight week with a 139-yard performance on 24 carries.

"We have a lot of confidence in our quarterback and skills positions right now. It's a very balanced offense, I'm very involved in the play calling myself with Tom Herman," Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said. "There's a lot of opportunity to make plays because we're confident. We weren't that way the first game because we didn't practice like that, but now we are."

Lee Makes Game-Changing Play

Darron Lee has seemingly come out of nowhere since spring ball to become one of the most important players on Ohio State's defense. On Saturday, he made yet another key play.

The Buckeyes jumped out to an early 24-3 lead against Maryland, but the Terrapins gained a little momentum after a 13-play scoring drive cut the deficit to 14. Maryland then got a stop and got the ball back deep in its own territory with a chance to score right before half.

But quarterback C.J. Brown made a questionable throw and Lee picked off the pass to set up an Ohio State score to put it up, 31-10.

"If he had waited like a second later, he would have gotten eaten up by Joey (Bosa)," Lee said. "But he threw it, I read it, picked it."

Lee and the Buckeyes' defense held Maryland to 310 total yards of offense, which is 118 below its season average entering Saturday's game. In addition to its four interceptions, Ohio State also had three sacks on the day.

"Dominate any way we can, that's been our goal really from the start of the season," Lee said. "We knew it was gonna be a slow process but we've gotta dominate and we have to start to dominate on a consistent basis."

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