Maryland football faced Ohio State for the first time in its 122 years of existence on Saturday, and it could use another Buckeye-less 122 years.
Not all Maryland fans who left their seats at halftime on Saturday headed for the restroom or concession stand. Many left Byrd Stadium.
Their Terrapins trailed No. 20 Ohio State by the score of 31-10 in the first home sellout since 2008. And while fans had watched Maryland battle back from a 28-6 deficit against West Virginia three weeks earlier, the Buckeyes inspired less hope. They overwhelmed Maryland, ultimately winning 52-24 and leaving coach Randy Edsall relieved to have next weekend off.
“The bye comes at a really good time for us,” Edsall said. “We’ve got some guys that are banged up, but we really appreciate being in the Big Ten. There is a lot on these kids to be able to go through what they’ve gone through so far in these first six games. …
“We’re really looking forward to this bye. We really are. We’re looking to taking a deep breath, and we’re looking forward to evaluating ourselves and to see where we go from here.”
Edsall’s quarterback situation must be on his evaluation agenda.
At halftime, he benched starter C.J. Brown, who played through an injury to his non-throwing wrist that had him listed as a game-time decision. Down 24-10 to Ohio State with 1:12 left in the second quarter, Brown threw an interception that the Buckeyes returned to the 1-yard line. They cashed in on the following play with J.T. Barrett’s third touchdown pass.
Brown completed 11-of-18 passes for just 71 yards and was sacked three times in the first half.
“I felt that we needed to be able to throw the football a little more in the second half if we were going to have an opportunity to win,” Edsall said, “so that’s why I ended up making the decision I made to go with Caleb [Rowe].”
Edsall looked as if he had a quarterback controversy on his hands entering the fourth quarter. While Rowe threw an interception, he moved the ball through the air further than Brown did in half the time. Rowe completed 9-of-12 passes for 101 yards in the third quarter.
Brown applauded longer than most on the Terrapins’ sideline after Rowe threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs with 13:32 left in the game. But Rowe only finished with 173 yards, completing just four of his 10 fourth-quarter passes, two of which were intercepted.
Rowe’s rough finish seemingly left open the question of who will be at the reins for the Terrapins the next time out.
“C.J.’s our quarterback,” Edsall said. “… They both can win for us and, again, we’ll evaluate it.”
Rowe voiced contentment with whatever role he plays in Edsall’s offense the remainder of the season.
“Whenever I get my opportunity, I just try to be the best quarterback I can be for my team,” Rowe said. “Whatever coach Edsall decides is the decision we’re going to go with. … I don’t have any [expectations]. … I’m just here to make Maryland football better.”
A spotlight remains on Maryland’s rotating quarterbacks, but Edsall’s defense also gave him much to evaluate. He watched Ohio State demoralize his defense from the Buckeyes’ first possession, which they opened with six straight runs for a 75-yard touchdown drive, to one of the last, when third-string quarterback Cardale Jones hurdled starting Terrapin safety Anthony Nixon to cap off a 17-yard rush late in the fourth quarter.
Maryland surrendered 533 yards from scrimmage, 269 of which were gained on the ground. Sparked by a 1,512-pound offensive line that imposed its will the Terrapins’ front seven, Ohio State rushers averaged 5.1 yards a carry. Jones finished with 51 yards in garbage time, outrushing each of Maryland’s backs.
The Terrapins’ Big Ten home debut didn’t go as planned, but Edsall still believes that they are almost on Ohio State’s level.
“We’re close,” he said. “Again, what we’ve got to do is just continue to build the program. We got to get facilities. We got to continue to recruit at the level that we’ve been recruiting at.”