Allegany Communications Sports

We come not to bury Maryland football, nor to praise it. The good, the bad and the so-so a team does in the biggest spotlight lives after it and shows up later in the season when bowl invitations are on the line.

The Terps squandered a stellar performance by their defense against the No. 4 team in the country and denied themselves another opportunity — the third in five years — to deliver what would have been one of the biggest upsets of recent vintage at Ohio State on Saturday in front of a national television audience.

The Buckeyes won, 37-17, after the Terps had led for much of the game despite denying themselves at least two opportunities to increase that lead. The half ended at 10-10 after Maryland opened the game with a crisp scoring drive for a 7-0 lead, then had to settle for a short field goal after having had first-and-goal at the Ohio State 6 to make it 10-0.

After the defense held again, quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa’s game went south as he threw a pick-six on the ensuing possession deep in Maryland territory, then was intercepted again, which led to an Ohio State field goal.

Maryland dominated the first half in a sold-out Horseshoe on Ohio State’s homecoming, amassing more first downs than Ohio State, more passing yards, more rushing yards, more total yards and more time of possession, yet still finding itself tied at the half.

The Terps slapped the Buckeyes in the mouth in the sense of letting them know they were there in front of them and weren’t going anywhere, but they also left too many plays and too many points on the field, not the board, to be able to beat a team like Ohio State.

With the score tied, the Terps engineered a nice drive at the end of the half, and as they would receive the second-half kickoff, points to end the first half was a must to win a game like this. As the Terps maneuvered into field-goal range, with no timeouts remaining, rather than take one last shot into the end zone, Tagovailoa checked down to a receiver for a short gain in the middle of the field as time ran out in the half.

It was an inexcusable way to end the half, for Tagovailoa as well as the coaching staff, because the Terps had to burn their last timeout on a play they couldn’t get onto the field in time. In retrospect, it would have been nice if Maryland had gone for the chip-shot field goal on what ended up being the final play rather than run one more play. Even in that instance, Tagovailoa has to throw the ball away to kill the clock when there is nothing for him in the end zone.

This lack of points to end the first half was then magnified when Maryland took its opening drive of the second half into the end zone for a touchdown, and what was a seven-point lead easily could have been at least a 10-point lead if not for poor Maryland decision-making and execution.

From that point, Ohio State’s talented and deep front eight took control and shut down the success the Maryland run game had enjoyed off-tackle in the first half, and then the Buckeyes were finally able to free their All-American wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr., who is never going to be shut down by any defense, including Maryland’s, taking in eight catches for a 163 yards and a touchdown.

Quarterback Kyle McCord’s numbers weren’t great in the first half, but he ended up passing for 320 yards and two touchdowns on the afternoon.

Tagovailoa entered Week 6 as one of the hottest quarterbacks in the Big Ten, but finished with a season-low 196 yards passing, leading the Maryland offense to just one touchdown on four red-zone trips, including the goal-to-go opportunity from the OSU 6.

Because of the way Maryland played, particularly its defense, it seemed remarkable Ohio State had won the game by 20 points, yet not so remarkable considering the point spread had been Ohio State by 19.5.

What that means is anybody’s guess, yet that it keeps occurring so consistently week in and week out can be viewed as being remarkable or not so much.

What could have been truly remarkable, a Maryland win at Ohio State, has yet to take place; and though this football program under Michael Locksley has put itself in the position of neither seeking nor accepting moral victories, the Terps did play well and went toe-to-toe with the powerful Buckeyes.

That the Terps can look at themselves after reviewing their performance and honestly know the only reason they did not win this game at Ohio State was because of their own doing seems to be progress in itself.

That’s something that should live in the remainder of this season, and seasons to come, in a very productive way as Maryland goes about making sure it does not feel this way again.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT