After scoring a touchdown on its opening possession of the fourth quarter against Maryland on Saturday, Ohio State initially planned to go for two. The Buckeyes ended up giving up two points to their opponent instead.
Following a touchdown and two-point conversion by the Terrapins on their previous possession, Ohio State took a 12-point lead when Dallan Hayden finished off the Buckeyes’ ensuing drive with a 13-yard touchdown run. The Buckeyes initially kept their offense on the field to attempt to bring their lead back to 14 points, but sent their extra point team into the game instead after a delay of game penalty.
What should have been a routine play to give Ohio State a 13-point lead ended up cutting the Buckeyes’ lead to just 10 points, however, when Noah Ruggles’ kick was blocked by Deonte Banks and returned all the way to the other end zone on an 80-yard scoop-and-score by fellow Maryland cornerback Jakorian Bennett.
Day said after the game that the block happened because Ohio State was supposed to have another tackle on the right side of the line but did not, resulting in Banks going unblocked to the ball.
“That right there was a mistake that we can't let happen,” Ryan Day said after the game. “In that situation, we want the tackle to come over, we didn't put the tackle over so we had a short edge, and that block cost us three points. So I was very upset after that. And when those things start happening, all of a sudden, it could turn into a bad situation fast, and it almost did. But I give our guys credit. They kept fighting and they refused to lose.”
The block was Ohio State’s first unsuccessful extra point attempt since 2019 and the first time a team has scored a two-point return against the Buckeyes since Illinois’ Kevin Mitchell scored on a botched extra point attempt by Ohio State in 2005. And it could have had major ramifications on Saturday’s game.
Maryland scored a touchdown on its ensuing possession to cut Ohio State’s lead to three, and the Buckeyes would not score another offensive touchdown for the remainder of the game. When Ohio State settled for a field goal by Ruggles to take only a six-point lead on its final possession of the game, Maryland got the ball back with 42 seconds left to play and a chance to win, which it would not have had if the Buckeyes had made the aforementioned extra point instead of allowing the Terps to score two points.
Zach Harrison snuffed out that threat when he strip-sacked Taulia Tagovailoa and Steele Chambers plucked the loose ball out of the air for a game-sealing defensive touchdown. But the blocked extra point will certainly give the Buckeyes reason to put some extra emphasis into ensuring that doesn’t happen again on future field goal and extra point attempts.
Ruggles goes 3-on-3 on threes
Despite that mistake, Day showed his faith in Ohio State’s field goal team by sending Ruggles out to kick a 45-yard field goal in the final minute of the game.
Facing 4th-and-3 at the 27-yard line, the Buckeyes could have opted to go for it to try to put the game away and avoid the risk of something going awry on the field goal attempt. But Day decided Ohio State should go for the three points to prevent Maryland from tying the game with a field goal if it was stopped on fourth down, and Ruggles put the ball through the uprights as he has on all but two of his field goal attempts this season.
“We had the one blocked earlier, but that was because we didn't have the tackle over, so I still felt confident that we could protect. And felt like at that point, if you make the field goal, now they have to score a touchdown to beat you,” Day said. “Just felt like that was the right thing to do. Make the field goal, great execution, big time; that's clutch by Noah to make that field goal.”
While Ohio State prefers not to have to rely on Ruggles to make field goals and often doesn’t need him to, he has consistently delivered when the Buckeyes have called upon him in clutch situations, and Saturday was one of his biggest examples of doing so. Ruggles also made a 33-yard field goal on Ohio State’s opening possession of the second quarter that gave the Buckeyes a four-point lead and a 47-yard field goal on the Buckeyes’ second drive of the third quarter that gave them a seven-point lead.
In a game that would have ended as a one-score game if not for Chambers’ defensive touchdown with just nine seconds to go, Ruggles’ reliability played a vital role in the Buckeyes escaping College Park with a victory.
Plagued by penalties
The delay of game penalty that led to the blocked extra point was just one of 11 penalties against Ohio State at Maryland, marking the first time the Buckeyes have committed double-digit penalties in a game all season. The 11 penalties were the most Ohio State has had in any game since committing 13 penalties for 141 yards in a 73-14 blowout win over Maryland in 2019, while the 95 penalty yards were the most since the Buckeyes lost 95 yards on eight penalties against Akron in 2021.
While Ohio State had struggled with penalties early in the season, committing 16 penalties for 160 yards in its first two games of the year against Notre Dame and Arkansas State, the Buckeyes had been much cleaner in that area since then. Between the third and 10th games of the season, Ohio State’s worst game in terms of penalties came when it lost 50 yards on eight penalties at Penn State.
Against Maryland on Saturday, however, penalties were a significant factor in why the Terrapins were able to keep the game close for four quarters. Those penalties included three delays of game, two false starts, an intentional grounding by C.J. Stroud, a facemask grab by JT Tuimoloau that nullified a sack, a pair of pass interference penalties against Cameron Martinez and Lathan Ransom and a pair of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties against Taron Vincent and Chambers. Zach Harrison was also penalized for jumping offsides on the final play of the first half, which would have given Maryland another play to attempt to score before halftime, but the Terrapins opted to decline the penalty and take a three-point lead into the locker room.
Day found the number of penalties the Buckeyes had on Saturday to be unacceptable, and he said they’ll all have some extra conditioning work in front of them on Sunday – including Day himself, who blamed himself for at least one of the delay of game penalties – as a result.
“(The officials) were winding (the clock) fast coming off the sideline. And, you know, one of them I gotta get in faster. Another one that I think C.J. maybe lost the clock. How many did we end up having, 11? Yeah, that's too many. I don't know if I have a great answer for that,” Day said. “We’ll have to go figure it out and do a little running tomorrow. Coaches run too when there’s penalties. So I’ll have to do a little running, I guess, get a workout in.”