COLUMBUS — An abysmal first-half showing gave way to a dominant second-half effort for No. 4 Ohio State as it remained undefeated with a 37-17 win over the Maryland Terrapins on Saturday.
Ohio State quarterback Kyle McCord threw for 320 yards and two touchdowns, and Marvin Harrison Jr. hauled in eight catches for 163 yards and a touchdown to lead Ohio State’s second-half surge.
With TreVeyon Henderson sidelined due to injury, Chip Trayanum served as Ohio State’s featured running back and led all rushers in the game with 61 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries on a day when rushing yards were difficult to come by for Ohio State.
Maryland limited Ohio State to just 87 yards on the ground, the worst output of the season for an offense already struggling to find balance.
For as admirably as the Maryland defense played, the Terrapins simply couldn’t stay out of their own way. Quarterback Taulia Tagavailoa likely needed to be near perfect to give the Terrapins a chance to win, and he was anything but perfect on the day with one touchdown and two costly interceptions.
The game got off to an inauspicious start for Ohio State after receiving the opening kickoff. Maryland forced a quick three-and-out, and a botched snap on the punt led to great field position for the Maryland offense to begin its first drive of the day.
Four plays later, Tagovailoa connected with Kaden Prather for a 15-yard touchdown and an early 7-0 lead.
Very little went right for the Ohio State offense through its first two possessions, and Maryland added to its lead with a 21-yard field goal early in the second quarter as the Buckeyes continued to spin their tires.
In an early hole, and with the offense continuing to sputter, it was the Ohio State defense that provided a spark thanks to sixth-year senior safety Josh Proctor. Tagovailoa’s pass was intended for Prather, but Proctor stepped in front of the throw at the Maryland 24 and raced his way to the end zone for a pick-six to get Ohio State on the board.
Maryland maintained its 10-7 lead for much of the second quarter before the Ohio State offense finally found a little footing. McCord found Harrison for a 58-yard gain, setting up Ohio State well into Maryland territory, and the two connected again on the next play to move the ball to the Maryland 13.
The drive ultimately stalled, however, and Ohio State settled for a 36-yard field goal from Jayden Fielding to tie the game at 10 heading into halftime.
Ohio State was limited to just 142 yards of offense —including only 16 rushing yards — in the first half while tallying only six first-downs in its most paltry showing of the season.
Fortunately for Ohio State, its defense continued the theme of bending but not breaking as it thwarted multiple Maryland scoring opportunities inside Ohio State territory. And by keeping the score close, the Ohio State defense bought just enough time for its offense to find a rhythm in the second half.
Maryland opened the second half by landing a heavy punch that recaptured the lead and sent groans throughout Ohio Stadium as thoughts of an unthinkable upset began to feel like a relatively real possibility to the more than 104,000 in attendance.
Tagovailoa’s 9-yard touchdown capped the nine-play, 75-yard drive that ate up just under four minutes, and Ohio State quickly found itself back in a hole.
Ohio State answered immediately with a 76-yard scoring drive of its own to level the score once more. A pass interference call on Maryland’s Corey Coley Jr. had Ohio State on the move to begin the drive, and a 37-yard completion from McCord to Julian Fleming moved the ball inside the 10.
Trayanum finished off the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 17 with under nine minutes remaining in the third period, and the Ohio State defense came up with another huge play on the ensuing drive to build on the momentum.
Facing a third-and-10 near midfield, Tagovailoa escaped pressure and rolled toward the Maryland sideline before floating one up the sideline toward a receiver. The throw was intercepted by Ohio State safety Lathan Ransom, though, and Ransom returned the interception to the Maryland 38.
Fielding’s second field goal of the day gave Ohio State its first lead of the game at 20-17 heading to a fourth quarter that was dominated by Ohio State.
McCord’s 44-yard touchdown pass to Cade Stover increased Ohio State’s lead to double digits with 10:16 remaining, and a 17-yard scoring strike to Harrison on Ohio State’s next possession put the game away.
Following the game, head coach Ryan Day said there were moments of wondering “what was going on” during his team’s first-half struggles but felt his team responded well in the second half.
“The number one goal is to be 1-0 on Saturday, so check that box,” Day said. “We want to play well in the second half, and we checked that box. But we also wanted to start fast and didn’t get that done.”
Day said much of the early struggles offensively can be attributed to the unit getting off schedule and behind the chains, which led to Ohio State being just 3-12 on third-down conversions. He later added that Harrison’s two catches to answer back after Maryland took the lead early in the third were crucial and served as a turning point in the game.
“We needed that because they were putting a lot of guys in the box, which left the middle of the field open at times. We took advantage of that in the second half,” Day said.
Oho State returns to action next Saturday when it travels to take on Purdue (2-3, 1-1). Kickoff for the game is scheduled for noon, and the broadcast will be streamed exclusively on NBC’s Peacock streaming service.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.