Three up, three down: Maryland vs Ohio State

Saturday was a frustrating one for Terps nation as Maryland fell to the #4 ranked Ohio St. Buckeyes 37-17. Maryland started fast and led 10-0 early and even lead by 7 in the third quarter but wasted opportunities, back breaking plays, and poor coaching decisions led to the Buckeyes taking control. The final score was not indicative of the actual game but that is not going to help ease the pain that fans are feeling following the loss. It was the same old Terps vs. Terps that cost them this one, and many are wondering if Maryland squandered a massive opportunity when the talent gap has never been closer in this matchup. With all that said, we look at the latest edition of “three up, three down” coming off the first loss of the season.

Three Up

WR Kaden Prather

Maryland’s offense was efficient early on and much of that was due to Kaden Prather. Prather only finished with three receptions for 49 yards and a touchdown, however, his plays to begin the game were the type of momentum plays that Maryland needs when the lights are brightest. The highlight was his one-handed grab on a 15-yard touchdown to make it 7-0 early. He also made some back-shoulder grabs early in the game to keep the offense moving. The rest of the game was slow from him, but this was based on the offense slowing down as a whole. These types of plays are what fans wanted out of Prather. A go-and-get-it, big-bodied receiver is going to pay dividends down the line after flashing through nonconference play.

LB Ruben Hyppolite 

For the second week in a row, Ruben Hyppolite finds himself on the “three up” side of things as he puts together arguably his best two-game stretch in the Terps’ defense during his career. Hyppolite finished with seven total tackles including solo in a solid performance at the linebacking spot. He was fantastic all day in run fits, and I saw multiple occasions where he contained Ohio State’s skill players on outside runs and screens. Last week, Hyppolite was without running mate Jaishawn Barham. This week he got his partner in crime back and the duo held up very well. The preseason expectation was that the linebacking core was going to be a strong point and up until this point, that’s lived up to the billing.

LB Kellen Wyatt

Kellen Wyatt came into the season as perhaps the most underrated player on the Maryland defense. Over the past few weeks, he has become an absolute force on the edge. Wyatt finished the game with four total tackles including two solo and a sack. The pressure early on Ohio St. quarterback Kyle McCord was the main reason the Buckeyes offense was stalling. McCord was visibly frustrated as Wyatt and Co. consistently got to him in passing situations. Eventually, the Buckeyes offense started to click, and the pass rush slowed down, but signs of a legit pass rush were there. A pass rush presence has always been something the Terps are looking for and if Wyatt can lead the charge of a unit that also includes Donnell Brown, then it could take the Terrapins defense to the next level.

Three Down

QB Taulia Tagovailoa

For the first time this season Taulia Tagovailoa finds himself on the “three down” after three consecutive games where he performed well, and one week after arguably his best game in College Park. Maryland’s success rides on the shoulders of Taulia and when he was on, the Terps were ahead. Yet still, over a 60-minute stretch, the mental errors showed back up as Ohio State took any and all momentum. Plain and simple, your starting quarterback must be better if you want to win a game of this caliber on the road. If people want to put him in the conversation among the quarterbacks in the nation, then he needs to stop with the mental mistakes and back-breaking errors.

His first mistake was on a miscue on a third down where he threw an interception that was taken back for a Buckeyes touchdown. The Terrapins led 10-0 at the time and although the play was more of a miscommunication than a lapse in judgment, that play was the first big momentum play for the Buckeyes on the day.

On the last drive of the half, the Terrapins were driving with no timeouts left and looking for three points to take a 13-10 lead. Taulia had other plans as he checked down to Antwain Littleton over the middle as time expired. A mental mistake from Taulia that really cost the team momentum.

In a game tied at 17, Taulia’s second interception came off a poor read. On a third down during a tie game, Taulia missed a defender and threw right into the hands of Buckeye safety Josh Proctor. These three errors really cost Maryland any shot at this game and the quarterback must be better if the Terps want a chance at beating the big three. Maryland needs Taulia to be at his best in order for the program to check off the box with a signature win against the Big Ten powers, and over a 60-minute stretch, he wasn’t. And the lapses were crushing. Luckily, Maryland’s next two chances will come at home as Taulia gets two final chances to redeem himself.

The Running Game

Again, the Maryland run game struggled as the team totaled just 105 yards on the ground. Roman Hemby continued to not find his groove as he took 8 carries for 35 yards. Antwain Littleton only rushed for 38 yards on 11 carries. The redshirt sophomore duo had some high expectations after last year’s performance but has failed to reach those thus far. It could be in part due to the poor run blocking in front of them or minor injuries suffered by Roman Hemby. The passing game has been much more efficient for Maryland this season, but you would still like the run game to complement the pass game and to take time off the clock in conference play. Maryland was successful early on short-yardage situations to get a couple of yards they needed for the first down, but there were not any real explosive runs as Hemby was the only running back to take a run longer than ten yards. The run game was crucial this game to chew some clock and establish a rhythm on offense, but it failed. The run game needs to improve to make the Maryland offense more lethal and not a one-trick pony.

OG Kyle Long

Kyle Long has slowly won a starting job at left guard after replacing Amelio Moran. Saturday was a different story, though, as Long finished with a team-low 49.6 grade per PFF. This included a 59.6 grade in run blocking and a brutal 5.1 pass block grade as he allowed 8 pressures and 6 hurries. It cannot get much worse in pass protection. The entire offensive line was subpar and got worse as the game went on but Long highlighted the poor play. There is no need to panic yet as Long is still early on into his career and these games happen. Long being the best option Maryland has is perhaps a testament to their poor depth and overall talent in the trenches but there is still time for Long to get back on track. The offensive line has blocked well against the pass all season, but the NFL talent that headlines the Buckeyes’ front seven just overwhelmed the unit. Look for them to bounce back against future first round pick–and former Maryland verbal–Jer’Zhan Newton and the Illinois Fighting Illini next week.

Overall, a very frustrating outcome for Maryland this weekend. The talent gap has never been smaller between the two sides, and couple that with an early lead, Saturday’s loss feels like another game that got away for the Terps. Maryland must stop getting in their own way if they eventually want to score a win against “the big three.” All things aside, the season is far from over and Maryland has a chance to build a few more wins to potentially be 7-1 heading into a huge November matchup against Penn St.

Let’s see how Taulia and the Terrapins bounce back next week against Illinois for homecoming with bowl eligibility on the line.

Related Links

Maryland basketball projected for top three finish, Jahmir Young named preseason All-Big Ten

Where Maryland football lands in week seven bowl projections

Maryland opens as double-digit favorite vs. Illinois

Maryland football’s snap counts, PFF grades vs. Ohio State

Young Terps: Maryland squanders road upset chance vs. Ohio State