Maryland will try to get back to coach Mike Locksley’s standard this week on the road at No. 7 Ohio State, but it will need to be without standout receiver Dontay Demus Jr.
Locksley told reporters Tuesday that Demus is out for the rest of the season after sustaining a right knee injury in last Friday’s 51-14 loss to Iowa.
“Very devastating for a player that I felt was playing at a very high level,” Locksley said.
Demus’ left leg was hit by Iowa’s Sebastian Castro on a kickoff return at the Maryland 10 yard line on the second play of the second quarter. Castro wrapped up and tried to tackle Demus, which appeared to cause his right leg to get stuck and twisted in the turf. He remained down on the field for a few minutes before being carted to the locker room.
Locksley said Demus will travel to Birmingham, Alabama, to have the knee looked at and will have surgery on it later this week.
The senior and District native finishes the 2021 season with 507 receiving yards on 28 catches and three touchdowns and was the Big Ten Conference’s leading receiver heading into the game against the Hawkeyes. His 13 career touchdowns as a Terrapin are tied for sixth all-time in program history.
“I’m sure Dontay will do everything he can, as he said going up into the tunnel, to come back, whether it’s here at Maryland or hopefully at the next level,” Locksley said.
Also on the injury front, freshman linebacker Brandon Jennings is practicing, and Locksley said he’ll be a game-time decision this week “depending how he comes along.”
In Demus’ absence, Maryland (4-1, 1-1 Big Ten) will look for more contributions from Rakim Jarrett, whose four touchdowns this season are the fourth-most in the Big Ten. The sophomore acknowledged, though, that it’s going to take the entire receiving unit to “fill the void” that Demus leaves.
“It’s going to take all the receivers to step up, including myself, to collectively do it,” Jarrett said.
The Terrapins’ task is tall: Ohio State (4-1, 2-0) is unbeaten in six games against Maryland, averaging 58.3 points, and has won 20 straight conference games.
Locksley called the matchup “another tremendous challenge” and noted Ohio State’s defense, which has given up only 13.6 points and 86.6 yards in its last three games.
“I expect it to be a tough game for us,” Locksley said.
Freshman quarterback C.J. Stroud leads a Buckeyes offense that is first nationally in yards per game (555.6) and fourth in points per game (45).
“Very strong arm, accurate thrower, and has very good functional athleticism for a young player,” Locksley said of Stroud, who he also described as a “mixture” of former Buckeyes quarterbacks Justin Fields and Dwayne Haskins, now in the NFL with Chicago and Pittsburgh, respectively.
“For a young player, I’ve been very impressed with what I’ve seen on tape,” Locksley said.
Maryland will have to nearly eliminate any mistakes if it wants to stay competitive with Ohio State. In the Iowa loss, the Terrapins committed a season-high seven turnovers and 10 penalties.
“I think we’re a better team than we showed on Friday night, there’s no doubt about that,” Locksley said.
Maryland junior quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa had his worst performance of the season in the loss, throwing for only 157 yards with two touchdowns and five interceptions. Tagovailoa admitted he “pressed a little bit” too much once Maryland fell behind.
“Towards the second part of the game, I just tried to do to much,” Tagovailoa said. “That’s something that I can learn from.”
Locksley and the Terrapins know it’ll be an uphill battle against another top-10 team, and have tried to break their preparation down to “focus on the job at hand.”
“The key is in road games like that is to get it into the fourth quarter. When you do that, anything can happen,” Locksley said.
“Those guys are the same age, doing the same kind of stuff you’re doing,” Jarrett added. “I don’t see it as, ‘Oh, I’m playing this big team.’ It’s just another opponent.”