COLLEGE PARK — Maryland football’s game against No. 2 Ohio State was a constant pull between hope and despair.
After the Buckeyes scored 17 straight points in the third quarter to erase Maryland’s 13-10 halftime lead, it appeared the Terps were falling down a familiar path of disastrous defeats against the Big Ten’s elite.
Maryland had other plans. Redshirt junior quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa accounted for two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to put the Terps within striking distance of their biggest win in years, but his heroic efforts were not enough in a 43-30 loss to the Buckeyes at SECU Stadium.
The Terps’ upset bid fell apart in the worst way possible. After the Buckeyes hit a 45-yard field goal with 42 seconds left to go up 36-30, Tagovailoa had a chance to lead a season-defining touchdown drive. Instead, he was sacked twice by Ohio State defensive end Zach Harrison, with the second hit popping the ball into the arms of linebacker Steele Chambers for a game-sealing touchdown.
While the Buckeyes (11-0, 8-0 Big Ten) celebrated keeping their perfect season alive, Tagovailoa remained on the ground with an apparent injury before limping off the field. After the game, Locksley said that Tagovailoa’s knee jammed into the turf and hoped that the injury was a knee bruise. Tagovailoa told reporters that his knee felt “good,” adding that “it’s been bothering me the whole season.” He missed one game with a sprained MCL.
For the second time this season, Maryland was close to doing the unthinkable. Against then-No. 4 Michigan in September, the Terps led by as many as three points before losing, 34-27. Two months later, after Maryland had played its worst stretch of football against Wisconsin and Penn State, the Terps looked the Buckeyes in the eyes and said we belonged.
But Ohio State made enough plays to hold off Maryland (6-5, 3-5), which was seeking its first win over a top-two team since 1955 and first victory over a ranked conference opponent since joining the Big Ten in 2014. Running back Dallan Hayden rushed for a season-high 146 yards and three touchdowns, including two in the second half, while wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. added five receptions for 68 yards.
“We’re never satisfied with the loss, obviously,” Locksley said. “But what you saw today is just go blow for blow with a team that I consider to be one of the best in the country.”
Locksley thought Maryland was outworked during the last two weeks, but he still believed in his players’ competitive nature. He thought the Terps took accountability for their recent struggles and put together a fighting effort.
“You point to [games] like today [and] Michigan, not because they were close but how we competed against those teams,” Locksley said. “When we talk about taking the next step in the growth, those are the things that I’ll show and talk to our team about, as we finish up this 2022 campaign.”
Maryland showed growth, but when looking back at one of the most electrifying, heart-pounding games of the season, there were moments the Terps would like to have back.
Maryland failed to score in the red zone twice in the first quarter, settling for a pair of field goals. During the opening minutes of the third quarter, Ohio State cornerback Lathan Ransom blocked a punt, resulting in a 8-yard touchdown by Hayden for a 17-13 lead. Maryland’s offense never got going in third, punting on three straight drives while being held to 45 yards.
“We knew we had it, but we let it slip away,” senior defensive back Jakorian Bennett said. “The things that hurt us were the things that we could control.”
Saturday was a duel between two of the top quarterbacks in the Big Ten, and Tagovailoa surprisingly had the edge. He completed 26 of 36 passes for 293 yards and two touchdowns and ran for a score, while Ohio State’s CJ Stroud, a Heisman Trophy favorite, finished 18-for-30 for 241 yards and a touchdown.
While Maryland was held to 84 rushing yards, the Terps still managed to outgain the Buckeyes 402-401. Maryland senior wide receiver Dontay Demus Jr. had his best game of the season, catching five passes for 67 yards.
On the first play of the afternoon, Stroud delivered the first blow, throwing a 29-yard pass toward the sideline to Harrison, who made a one-handed grab for a first down. Five plays later, Stroud sensed pressure from Bennett and dumped a pass to running back TreVeyon Henderon, who slipped past the defense for a 31-yard touchdown to give the Buckeyes a 7-0 lead with 13:38 left in the first quarter.
From that point on, Tagovailoa took over. He started a nine-play, 61-yard scoring drive by connecting with sophomore tight end CJ Dippre, who ran for 25 yards before hurdling a defender. After Tagovailoa was sacked on third-and-4 at Ohio State’s 11-yard line, Chad Ryland kicked a 31-yard field goal to make it 7-3.
“[Tagovailoa] looked like the old [No. 3] today,” Locksley said. “I thought that he had that look. You saw the competitive nature in him, he threw the ball really well, made plays with his feet and gave us a chance.”
While the Terps’ defense held Ohio State to a 33-yard field goal early in the second quarter and forced the Buckeyes to punt on three of their next four drives after the opening touchdown, Tagovailoa continued to have the hot hand. On second-and-8, Tagovailoa threw a 34-yard pass down the field to Demus. Wide receiver Rakim Jarrett made a 9-yard reception before Ohio State was called for pass interference, moving the Terps to the Buckeyes’ 13-yard line.
Facing third-and-goal with under five minutes to go in the second quarter, Tagovailoa rolled to the left before throwing a pass in the back of the end zone to Dippre for a touchdown that turned a four-point deficit into a 13-10 advantage.
“Once your quarterback gets going, everyone starts to get going,” said Dippre, who four receptions for 30 yards and a touchdown. “Even when we don’t do our best up front, and that’s including myself, he gets out of there [and] makes big plays. He was a spark plug today.”
Tagovailoa continued to outplay Stroud in the second half. Trailing 27-13 to start the fourth, Tagovailoa threw a 36-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Tai Felton, jump-starting a five-play, 75-yard scoring drive that ended with the Alabama transfer scoring on a 5-yard keeper. Tagovailoa hit wide receiver Jacob Copeland in the end zone for the 2-point conversion to cut the deficit to 27-21.
“I think we just did a better job of executing, we actually picked up our tempo a lot,” Tagovailoa said. “And I think that’s what we’re good at and that fits us best.”
After Hayden recorded his third rushing touchdown of the game, the Buckeyes lined up to go for two, but a delay of game penalty pushed them back 5 yards. Maryland cornerback Deonte Banks blocked the extra point attempt, and Bennett returned the ball 80 yards into the end zone for two points to cut Ohio State’s lead to 33-23.
The blocked extra point set up a career-defining drive for Tagovailoa that allowed him to stand alone in the record books. Tagovailoa launched a 49-yard pass to Jarrett that put the Terps at the Buckeyes’ 15, making him the program’s career leader in passing yards. Maryland was stopped at the goal line three times, but Tagovailoa waved off the field goal unit. As the pocket collapsed on fourth-and-goal, Tagovailoa scrambled to the right before throwing a touchdown pass to wide receiver Jeshaun Jones to cut the deficit to 33-30 with 9:49 to go.
“It was the feel of the game,” Tagovailoa said on the fourth-down play. “[Locksley] trusts our offense, and I was telling him that we were at the 2-yard line and we gotta make use of our opportunities. We took a chance and it was a good job by Jones.”
As it has so many times against the Big Ten’s elite, Maryland’s comeback would stop there.
“It’s hurt a lot of guys,” Bennett said. “Like [we are] there. We just gotta finish.”
Rutgers at Maryland
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