COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Maryland’s defense surely expected J.K. Dobbins to get the ball. He had career highs in both carries (37) and rushing yards (203) to go along with a touchdown. Heck, Dobbins said after the game that he wanted the ball.
But on 4th-and-1 on the first possession in overtime of Saturday’s game between Ohio State and Maryland, Dobbins didn’t get it. Instead, Ryan Day dialed up a play-action pass into the flats for Rashod Berry, who didn’t have a single catch in regulation and had just six receptions in the season.
“I was just hoping it worked,” Dobbins said after the game.
It did. With ease.
Berry motioned from the right side of the offensive line to the left, then took two steps toward linebacker Nnamdi Egbuaba at the snap of the ball, pretending he planned to run block. Instead of locking up with Egbuaba, Berry planted his right foot and headed for the flats.
He was wide open. Three steps after his break to the outside, Berry turned his head and watched as Dwayne Haskins delivered a pass, which the redshirt junior tight end reeled in before heading upfield for an 11-yard gain to not just move the chains, but extend the game.
“We called the play before we went out there,” Berry said. “I didn't know it was going to come to me. But when my number's called, I just had to make a play. Then, I just made a play.”
A sideline look at Rashod Berry’s fourth-down catch. pic.twitter.com/1yyaWXT0ja— Colin Hass-Hill (@chasshill) November 17, 2018
On the next non-penalized play, Haskins pulled the ball for a five-yard touchdown that eventually proved to be the game-winning score in Ohio State's 52-51 win on Saturday.
Had Haskins inexplicably missed Berry, or had Berry dropped the slightly underthrown pass, Ohio State likely would have suffered its second upset defeat in four games. All the Terrapins would have had to do to secure the victory would have been to either kick a field goal or score a touchdown.
Ryan Day dialed up the tight end pass to the flats that came up short early in the season in the Buckeyes’ win against TCU.
“Ryan called it. Obviously I had to approve it,” Meyer said. “Very stout defense. The thing that you saw today in that short yardage is Dwayne went in there and kept the ball a couple times. You have to. I just don't know any other way. Or you've got to throw it a lot. 4th-and-1. I had heard the call, ‘What do you think, what do you think?’ It was a great call.”
Ohio State never got into a rhythm on short-yardage situations against the Terrapins.
Dobbins got the ball early in the game on 3rd-and-3 and ran for 28 yards, then got stuffed on 4th-and-1 for no gain. Tate Martell rushed for just one yard on 3rd-and-2. Haskins scored a one-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-goal, but also had a run for no gain that ended with a lost fumble on 3rd-and-2.
Meyer and Day hadn’t tried to throw the ball on third- of fourth-and short yet, but it worked. The converted defensive end in his second season as a tight end reeled in the 13th reception of his career to keep the drive moving.
“It's tremendous trust from the coaches to call a pass play on 4th-and-short,” Haskins said. “Rashod, big, talented, strong tight end made a play. Just to be able to go do that in that first overtime series meant a lot of momentum for our offense going into the 1st-and-goal. Just having that play – he almost scored on it – I know it meant a lot for him. He goes through a lot here. Just for him to have that moment, I know it meant the world to him.”
After getting pushed out of bounds, Berry stood up straight, adjusted his facemask, looked into the crowd, then ran right back to the huddle, where the offensive staff called the exact same play for the second snap in a row.
The typically emotional Berry was calm when he caught the pass, calm in the moment and calm after the game.
“It's just shocking still,” Berry said.