OSU grade card: Defense brings excitement, but it’s the wrong kind of excitement


A grade card on Ohio State’s 52-51 overtime win at Maryland in which they avoided a shocking upset with a lot of offense and not a lot of defense:

OFFENSE: A

Dwayne Haskins passed for 405 yards and three touchdowns. It was his fourth 400-yard passing game of the season. Only one other Ohio State quarterback, Art Schlichter, has thrown for more than 400 yards in a game and he did it only once. What set this game apart was that Haskins ran the ball 15 times for 59 yards and scored three rushing touchdowns, including the game-winner in overtime on a 5-yard run.

OSU rolled up 688 yards total offense. J.K. Haskins had a career-best 203 yards rushing on 37 carries. His workload increased dramatically with Mike Weber out with a bruised quad. Terry McLaurin (4 catches, 118 yards) and Johnnie Dixon (6 catches, 102 yards) were Haskins’ top targets. Haskins broke Ohio State’s season passing yardage record and its season touchdown passes record during the onslaught.

The offensive line played reasonably well even with losing left tackle Thayer Munford to an injury in the first quarter. If there was a criticism of the line it was that had too many of the 10 penalties the Buckeyes were flagged for. Maybe the most embarrassing moment was in the first quarter when the official with the microphone announced a false start penalty by saying, “False start. Everybody but the center.”

DEFENSE: F

Maryland had a total of two offensive touchdowns against Michigan, Iowa and Michigan State, so you could say there was no reason for the Terrapins to score 51 points against Ohio State. But there was a reason, which is that Ohio State’s defense is still struggling to correct the same problems that have existed all season.

Maryland freshman running back Anthony McFarland rushed for 298 yards, including touchdown runs of 81 yards and 75 yards. Maryland had five plays of 52 yards or longer. OSU has allowed five plays of 80 yards or more this season after not giving up any that long in 2017 and 2016.

The defensive line got sacks from Chase Young and Dre’Mont Jones in the final minute of regulation with the score tied at 45-45 when Maryland was within 10 yards of getting into field goal range. But all three levels of the defense — the line, the linebackers and the defensive backs — own some of the responsibility for allowing 535 total yards and 339 rushing yards.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B-

Demario McCall’s kickoff return to the 50-yard line after Maryland had gone ahead 45-38 with 1:41 left in the fourth quarter was an important factor in OSU’s game-tying drive to send the game into overtime. Johnnie Dixon mistakenly assumed a Maryland kickoff was going out of bounds and watched the Terrapins recover it. Maryland was successful on a fake punt in the fourth quarter.

OVERALL: C+

Ohio State’s best chance for a dramatic rise in the College Football Playoff rankings was to dominate Maryland, get a solid win over Michigan, then dominate Northwestern in the Big Ten championship game. But step No. 1 didn’t happen. And without improvement, Step No. 2 is in question, too.

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