Grading Maryland football’s position groups after its loss to Ohio State

Maryland football played Ohio State close but couldn’t come away with an upset win, falling 43-30 in its penultimate game of the 2022 season. The Terps will host Rutgers this weekend with an opportunity to finish the regular season with a 7-5 record.

Here’s how each of the Terps’ position groups performed against the Buckeyes.

Quarterback

After playing two of the worst games of his career in back-to-back weeks, Taulia Tagovailoa came out Saturday with a vengeance. He returned to the form Maryland fans have become accustomed to seeing, passing for nearly 300 yards and extending plays with his legs. He also became Maryland’s all-time leading passer, a moment that was overshadowed by the close game but is a remarkable accomplishment nonetheless.

He made a few throws that could’ve easily become turnovers but continued to put the pressure on Ohio State, making some impressive throws. The highlight of the game for him was an outstanding showcase of his play-making ability on fourth-and-goal, running around before firing a bullet into the hands of Jeshaun Jones for a touchdown.

Tagovailoa’s play was a major reason why the Terps were able to hang around against the national-championship contending Buckeyes.

Grade: A

Running back

Another week passed by without a strong showing from the previously dynamic Maryland running backs. Roman Hemby led the way with 39 yards, but the only other back to get any noticeable run was Antwain Littleton II, who had just 12 rushing yards; Littleton’s short-yardage struggles continued too.

It was an uphill battle for the group considering Maryland’s offensive line’ struggle to open up holes, but Hemby still managed to nearly break off long runs on more than one occasion, getting tripped up by a linebacker or defensive back with just one man to beat.

Hemby had a decent performance in the passing game, catching four passes for 37 yards.

Grade: C

Wide receiver

Maryland’s wide receivers had a good performance against the Buckeyes, combining for 247 yards receiving.

Dontay Demus Jr. led the team with 67 yards, making an impressive leaping catch early for 34 yards. That play was reminiscent of the Demus of years past, showing his progress recovering from his injury since the beginning of the season when a play like that wouldn’t have been possible.

Jacob Copeland, Rakim Jarrett and Jeshaun Jones all made big catches down the stretch. Copeland hauled in a screen for a two-point conversion, and then Tagovailoa later connected with Jarrett for a 49-yard gain before making his athletic pass to Jones for a touchdown.

For a unit that has struggled a lot recently, the Terps’ wideouts rose to the occasion Saturday.

Grade: B+

Tight end

CJ Dippre was by far the best tight end on the field Saturday, especially early. He had 30 yards receiving, 25 of which came on Maryland’s first play from scrimmage when he took a screen, broke two tackles and hurdled a defender. He also scored the first touchdown of the game for the Terps after breaking up a potential interception just before.

Corey Dyches wasn’t much of a factor, but Dippre’s play was clutch. He wasn’t able to make much happen blocking on the outside, but his presence was a clear benefit to the team in its hardest challenge of the season.

Grade: A-

Offensive line

Maryland’s offensive line held its own at times against a very talented Ohio State front but couldn’t provide protection in key moments. That was especially clear when Jaelyn Duncan, presumably the team’s best offensive lineman, was beaten twice in a row on Maryland’s final drive, leading to a sack and then the game-ending pick-six. That sack was one of five the Buckeyes had Saturday.

Maryland also struggled to open up the running game and had issues in short-yardage situations.

Grade: C-

Defensive line

It was against one of the best offensive lines in football, but the Terps’ defensive line was invisible for much of the game. The unit generated just one tackle for loss — a one-yard loss on a tackle by Ami Finau — and got minimal pressure on C.J. Stroud.

Most egregiously, though, was the defensive line’s inability to shut off the run, a common theme this season. When Dallan Hayden entered the game, he had massive holes to run through and averaged 5.4 yards per rush. The Terps were moved with ease and had little to no success plugging gaps.

Grade: D

Linebacker

The Terps’ linebackers also fell victim to the Buckeyes’ dangerous offense. The group missed many tackles on running plays and struggled to seal off throws over middle when Stroud’s downfield targets were covered.

Maybe the worst mistake was before the snap, though, when Vandarius Cowan was called for offsides after trying to jump a snap on a third down late in the fourth quarter. That made it nearly impossible for the Terps to come back.

Jaishawn Barham almost had a sack, but Stroud was forced to throw the ball away late and was flagged for intentional grounding. It wasn’t as bad a performance as the unit put together in recent weeks, but it wasn’t great either.

Grade: D+

Secondary

Considering the opponent, the secondary wasn’t bad and made a few plays when called upon. Stroud threw for 241 yards, but there were very few complete coverage breakdowns that led to big plays. Many of the Buckeyes’ longest gains were either elite throws by Stroud, fantastic catches or misdirection plays that fooled the whole defense.

There were a few penalties called on the Terps’ defensive backs, but some were very tough calls that could’ve gone either way. Ohio State has a strong case for having the nation’s best receiving corps, so it’s near impossible to do so without some contact.

Beau Brade, Tarheeb Still and Glendon Miller all added tackles for loss too.

Grade: B-

Special teams

Chad Ryland was pretty good Saturday, drilling kicks from 31 and 21 yards out. He has been very reliable at generating touchbacks this season, but when he didn’t, Ohio State made the most of it.

The Buckeyes returned a kickoff 46 yards right after the Terps cut the lead to six in the fourth quarter, killing the team’s momentum. Maryland averaged just 17 yards on kickoff returns of its own, never getting much going.

Colton Spangler’s punting was decent when he got it off, but he wasn’t able to do so every time. At the beginning of the third quarter, an assignment was missed by the Terps’ protection team and Spangler’s punt was blocked, gifting Ohio State free points and shifting the momentum of the game.

Maryland did block a kick of its own, returning an extra point back for the rare defensive two-point conversion. That was the highlight of the game for the Terps’ special teams.

Grade: C-

Coaching

Since getting added to this series two weeks ago, coaches haven’t received anything other than an F. That being said, they deserve positive recognition for their performances Saturday.

The staff did a good job of getting the team ready for its toughest challenge of the season. After two straight non-competitive losses, it would’ve been easy to roll over against the Buckeyes, but head coach Mike Locksley and his assistants kept the team focused.

Offensive coordinator Dan Enos also had a much-improved game in terms of play-calling than in the weeks prior, dialing up creative screen passes and downfield looks to allow Tagovailoa to make plays through the air. It was a breath of fresh air for a team that couldn’t get anything going offensively of late.

The team also exhibited resilience on multiple occasions, a testament to the culture Locksley has developed.

Grade: B+

Leave a Comment