COLLEGE PARK, Md. — For the last week, Maryland talked of how its game against Ohio State Saturday was one of the biggest in school history. When the time came to do battle against the Buckeyes, it got ran out of its own building.
Playing host for the first time as members of the Big Ten, the Terrapins had a reason to be excited. But as sophomore defensive end Joey Bosa put it, every game's a big when you're playing for a school like Ohio State.
"It’s a big game for us every week. 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."
And after thoroughly dismantling Maryland, 52-24, at Byrd Stadium in College Park, redshirt freshman linebacker Darron Lee was feeling rather optimistic:
"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. Just wait on it.
While the jury's still out on how Ohio State will finish its current campaign, less unclear is how the Buckeyes dominated the Terrapins. They totaled 533 total yards on offense and stifled Maryland to 310 yards — most of which came in garbage time. In fact, head coach Urban Meyer's squad was dominant that it had out-gained the Terrapins 281-23 late in the second quarter.
"Very pleased with our performance today," Meyer said. "I know it wasn’t perfect, and obviously that’s what you strive to be, but we're not."
Nor did the Buckeyes need to be perfect. The offense was humming and J.T. Barrett had a monster game, throwing for 267 yards and four touchdowns on 18-of-23 attempts.
The outing was a glaring example of how far Barrett's come since his first-ever start against Navy and Meyer said he couldn't sleep the night before.
He was definitely right, it was one of those deals of popping up in the middle of the night. I think I popped up at like 2 a.m., 3 a.m., and like 5:30. It was one of those deals of just nervousness and having those butterflies in your stomach compared to last night. The thing I do now is I take the Sleepytime Tea so I can go to sleep. Because I don’t want to be up just sitting with my thoughts at night.
Perhaps more important, though, was how the weapons around him stepped up. Nine players caught at least one pass Saturday and sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliott ran for 139 yards on 24 carries.
Meyer said his team has a certain, newfound sense of confidence they didn't have before.
"Ever since the Virginia Tech game — we’re getting that Bear Zero coverage and you see receivers and quarterbacks start to get kind of excited when they see that as opposed to the other (way)."
A lot of confidence in our quarterback right now and our skill positions. I think our total yards was 250-250 … it’s a very balanced where I’m very involved in the play-calling myself with Tom and there’s a lot of opportunities to make plays because they’re confident. We weren’t that way in the first game, didn’t show it in practice enough. Now they’re starting to practice that way.
Ohio State's defense —save for a play here and there in the second half —was equally as dominant as the offense. Meyer said:
"Once again just take away — and someday we will — take away the big hits, but our defense ... We’re gonna be more aggressive on defense, we’re tighter coverage with that, there’s somewhat of a risk that we need to continue to work on because there’s some isolated man-to-man coverages but there’s also more opportunity to step in front of a ball like we have."
Bosa, who terrorized the Maryland offense Saturday, said the Buckeyes show spurts of being able to play at an elite level.
"I think we show flashes of it and you saw how we can be when we first came out here, we hit little bumps throughout the game, same thing that happened last week but if we’re at our best, we’re a top team in the country."
To avoid a potentially slow start against the Terrapins, Meyer said he made his team get to bed early the night before.
"Put them in bed last night at 9 p.m., challenged them all week about the early start and our coaches did a nice job of getting their units ready to go."
Meyer said that's a critical aspect when it comes to noon games away from home.
"It’s not just Maryland, it’s any time you go on the road ... 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. I could tell when they woke up this morning, they’d be ready to go."
"I’d say it’s 50-50 when you go on the road in a noon game. It’s usually sometimes the middle of the first quarter before they wake up and that other team jumps on you and all of the sudden it’s 7-0 and you’re playing uphill the entire game. We went nuts this week with that, I was grinding them pretty hard Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday about a fast start."
The Buckeyes, of course, wish they could ride momentum into next week. Instead, they have a bye week before playing Rutgers at home Oct. 18.
"I wish we were playing another next week," Meyer said. "Our whole team wishes we were playing."