Lathan Ransom, Tommy Eichenberg Battle Through Hand Injuries to Lead Ohio State’s Defense Against Maryland

By Dan Hope on November 19, 2022 at 10:03 pm
Lathan Ransom and Tommy Eichenberg

Tommy Eichenberg was Ohio State’s leading tackler against Maryland, and Lathan Ransom made one of the most important plays of the Buckeyes’ 43-30 win over the Terrapins. Neither one was healthy for more than one play of Saturday’s game.

Eichenberg, according to Ohio State defensive end Zach Harrison, was playing with two broken hands against the Terrapins. Meanwhile, Ransom broke his thumb on Ohio State’s first defensive play.

That didn’t stop either of them from making a significant impact in College Park, as Eichenberg recorded 13 total tackles, including a tackle for loss. In comparison, Ransom recorded seven total tackles with a tackle for loss, a pass breakup and his second blocked punt in as many weeks.

Harrison said their toughness inspired the rest of the Ohio State defense.

“Just seeing them out there with the injuries they have, kind of makes us be like, ‘We’re cool,’” Harrison said. “If Tommy’s out there with two broken hands and Lathan’s dealing with what he’s dealing with and they’re out there on the field playing, like what do I gotta say if I'm a little sore or my knee’s hurt or so and so. I just gotta go play. We all gotta go play.”

Ransom, likewise, said he was inspired to play through his injury by Eichenberg.

“Tommy's playing with two messed-up hands,” Ransom said. “What's my excuse not to go out there and play?”

Lathan Ransom
Lathan Ransom played the rest of the game with a cast on his hand after breaking his thumb on Ohio State’s first defensive play.

Despite his two injured hands, Eichenberg continued to play like an All-American against Maryland, recording at least 13 tackles in a game for the fourth time this season to bring his tackle total for the year to 105 – the most any Buckeye has had in a season since 2015.

Ransom, meanwhile, flipped the game's momentum in Ohio State’s favor when the Buckeyes needed a swing. With Maryland facing 2nd-and-4 on the opening drive of the second half, Ransom made an 8-yard tackle for loss against Terrapins tight end CJ Dippre, which he said came on the same play on which Ransom broke his thumb and Dippre gained 25 yards on Maryland’s first offensive play of the game.

“That was a big, big explosive at the beginning of the game. That was on me. And had to get that fixed, make adjustments and didn’t let it happen again,” Ransom said.

Two plays later, Ransom exploded off the edge to block a punt attempt by Maryland’s Colton Spangler, knocking the ball down with his injured hand to give the Buckeyes the ball deep in Maryland territory and set up a go-ahead touchdown that gave Ohio State a lead it would hold for the rest of the game after previously trailing 13-10.

Ryan Day gushed about Ransom’s performance after the game.

“To block two punts in back-to-back weeks … that's amazing,” Day said. “That was a really huge point of the game and got us a lot of momentum.”

Harrison described Ransom, who became the first Buckeye to block punts in back-to-back games since Mike Doss in 2001, as “one of the toughest dudes on this team.”

“We were on the sideline, and Lathan walks up and he’s like, ‘Bro, my hand’s broke,’” Harrison said. “I was like, ‘Damn. You gonna play?’ He was like, ‘Yeah, I gotta play.’ … Him and Tommy, just having those two guys out there with what they're dealing with, it just kind of makes you feel like, ‘Well, I'm good.’ My hands work. I'm good.”

Saturday’s game was far from the year’s best performance for Ohio State’s defense. The Buckeyes gave up 318 passing yards and four touchdowns, both the second-most they’ve allowed in any game all season (behind only the Penn State game, in which they gave up 31 points and 371 passing yards). Given that most of the other nine teams the Buckeyes have faced this season are teams that have consistently struggled to pass the ball effectively, the pass defense stands out as one of Ohio State’s biggest concerns entering next week’s game against Michigan and beyond into the postseason.

Harrison and Ransom said they would need to go back and watch the film to evaluate why Ohio State’s pass defense struggled against Maryland, but Day acknowledged that the pass defense needs to play better.

“I thought (Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa) played his heart out today. I thought he played really well. Did a nice job. But yeah, I mean, there's some plays in there that we gotta look at and try to address what's going on there because, certainly, we'd like to see better play,” Day said. “Our number one goal in the plan to win is to play great defense. And they did throw for too many yards today, for sure. But we'll take a look and try to figure out that part of it.”

In the end, though, Ohio State’s defense made enough plays for the Buckeyes to win the game. The Buckeyes held the Terrapins to field goals in the red zone on each of their two opening possessions – which kept Maryland from building a bigger lead earlier in the game – and they did not allow any points on Maryland’s final three possessions, ultimately sealing the game when Harrison strip-sacked Tagovailoa and Steele Chambers plucked the loose ball out of the air for a touchdown with just nine seconds remaining.

Whenever the Buckeyes have been in close games this season, from their season opener at Notre Dame to their more recent battles with Penn State and Northwestern, Ohio State’s defense has come through in the clutch to make the plays the Buckeyes have needed them to make with the game on the line. Harrison believes that’s a credit to the confidence instilled in them by first-year defensive coordinator Jim Knowles.

“The game’s never out of reach. If we get a lead, we feel like we can win the game. If they gotta score to take the lead back, that's just something that I keep harping on, Coach Knowles has brought that mentality that every time we step on the field that we're the best defense in the country,” Harrison said. “And that's what we really believe.”

Harrison also believes the Buckeyes having to battle against Maryland was a good thing as they enter a game they know will be a battle next week against Michigan.

“I think we needed it,” Harrison said. “I think we needed a good, close game that came down to the wire to prove to ourselves that we can beat anybody in any kind of game we play in.”

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