Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. had warned his teammates about Maryland redshirt freshman running back Anthony McFarland Jr.
“I told them going into the game, ‘That boy Ant [is] a beast,” Haskins said Saturday. “He definitely made some money [on his NFL stock] off of this game. I’m happy for him. That’s my brother since I was in middle school, so we go way back.”
From the start of Maryland’s game Saturday against the No. 10 Buckeyes, McFarland was certainly in beast mode. Looking like the player who invented the term — Marshawn Lynch — McFarland rushed for a career-high 298 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries in a 52-51 overtime loss.
Not only did McFarland break the freshman single-game rushing record that he set with his 220-yard performance in last week’s 34-32 loss at Indiana, but he added to his freshman single-season mark (he now has 1,022 yards) and came within 8 yards of tying LaMont Jordan’s single-game school record of 306.
As usual, McFarland didn’t show much emotion, sitting stone-faced in the Gossett Team House alongside interim coach and offensive coordinator Matt Canada and graduate linebacker Tre Watson, just as he did last week in Bloomington.
Asked about his performance, McFarland said: “I feel like as a team, we’ve been trying to get the running game going. Hats off to the O-line, as always, like I said against Indiana. Without them, I wouldn’t do anything. No touchdowns, no yards.”
That seems doubtful, giving how many tackles McFarland broke and how many Ohio State defenders he outran or faked out. But as spectacular as McFarland has been after sitting out his freshman year while recovering from the leg injury that sidelined him for his senior year at nearby DeMatha Catholic, he is as low-key when talking about himself.
It was left to Canada to talk about the team’s breakout star.
“We blocked them pretty good up front,” Canada said. “We did a pretty good job looking at some things they did and we had a chance to cut him loose. Then obviously he got to the second level and he broke tackles, right? There was a linebacker a couple of times. I think the first run [for an 81-yard touchdown] the safety missed him. But he’s a special player and I’m happy for him.”
Surprisingly, a player known more for his running made more big plays with his arm than his legs. Though he was just six of 13 passing, Pigrome threw for a career-high 181 yards and a touchdown. He was sacked four times.
“I think he does a lot of good things,” said Canada, who has not always been overly effusive in his praise for Pigrome this season. “There are some things that you always want to improve upon — getting rid of the ball at times.
“I think he made some big-time throws. He plays very confident. He had a tremendous week of practice this week. He puts us in the position to win the game. Obviously a lot of plays he made he did that. I thought we ran the ball well and he managed that pretty well.”
After making his first start of the season, and only the third start of his career, Pigrome will start next week’s game at Penn State, where he played as a freshman in 2016 in relief of then-senior Perry Hills.
Canada said he didn’t want Pigrome to put too much of Saturday’s loss on himself.
“Being a quarterback is the greatest position in all of sports,” Canada said. “You get all the credit and you get all the blame. I know he’s having a tough time right now. I’m proud of how hard he played and the plays he made. He’ll be back and we’ll coach him tomorrow, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and then we’ll play again Saturday. He’s a really good player and a great kid.”
Said McFarland: “I feel like he did a great job. I was confident in Pig. All week in practice he was just focused and being a good leader. I had no doubt he was going to come in and be that leader of the offense and I feel like he had a hell of a game today.”
As much as he has tried to be diplomatic about some of the calls against his team this season, Canada was nearly apoplectic on the sideline, especially in the second half. He remained diplomatic, and careful, after the game.
While the penalties were fairly even — 10 for 79 yards for the Buckeyes to nine for 88 for the Terps — there were a few calls late in the game that sent Canada into enough of a tirade that he needed to be held back by a couple of his assistants.
On one play that the Terps were called for defensive holding and kept a drive alive for the Buckeyes late in the game, it appeared as if one of Maryland’s pass rushers was held from getting to Haskins.
Asked whether he thought Ohio State received preferential treatment, Canada said: “You know how badly I’d like to answer that question, but I’m not allowed to. I even said before that I was going to [talk about it]. They see what they see. We see what we see.
I did get frustrated today. We’ll watch it on film and go from there. By rule I’m not allowed to talk about it. I’ve got all my people [in the athletic department] up there watching, making sure I don’t make a mistake, so I’m not going to say anything more about it. But I’d like to.”