Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, whose sideline frustration was captured on camera throughout a 52-51 overtime win at Maryland on Saturday, called the game “very emotional” but stopped short of labeling his team exasperating.
The 10th-ranked Buckeyes improved to 10-1 after Maryland failed on a two-point conversion attempt in the first overtime session. Ohio State trailed by 14 points on three occasions but rallied each time. Quarterback Dwayne Haskins (405 pass yards, three touchdowns) and running back J.K. Dobbins (37 carries, 203 rushing yards, TD) had big performances, but the Buckeyes allowed 535 yards, including 298 rushing yards to Maryland’s Anthony McFarland.
Asked whether this team is exasperating, Meyer said “not at all.”
“I’ve done this for a long time, and we’ve had situations where one side’s not playing very well,” Meyer told reporters in College Park, Maryland. “Last week against Michigan State, the offense was hanging on by a thread, and the defense kept us in it. That’s just part of the game. And then the kicking game saved the day. … So it’s all part, it’s up and down.
“Is it where we need to be? It’s not. But we’re 10-1. We’re going to try to find a way to be 11-1.”
Meyer said Ohio State was fortunate to win and called the defense’s play “alarming,” despite a good week of practice. Last week, the Buckeyes held Michigan State to two field goals, 12 first downs and 274 total yards in a 26-6 win in East Lansing. But McFarland and Maryland repeatedly gashed Ohio State on Saturday, averaging 14 yards per pass and 7.1 yards per rush.
Big plays have been an issue for the Buckeyes all season, notably during a 49-20 loss at Purdue on Oct. 20.
“I thought we broke the rock a little bit the last couple of weeks with the limitation of big plays,” Meyer said. “Alarming’s the right word, but we won, and let’s go back to work. We’re not going to accept that.”
Meyer praised Haskins, who had 59 rushing yards and three touchdowns and showed a greater willingness to leave the pocket. Dobbins took on a heavier-than-normal carries load, as Ohio State played without Mike Weber, whose bruised quadriceps didn’t improve enough for him to play Saturday.
Ohio State also needed Haskins to contribute to the run game.
“What’s missing was the toughness element, and to pull the ball down and run and go get you yards,” Meyer said. “He did that today. That’s the best he’s done. He pulled it in and dropped his pads. He has to do that. He’s been willing, and we’re now going to give him those opportunities. And his leadership was great. He’s getting better and better at that.”
Ohio State, which didn’t lead Saturday’s game until Haskins’ 5-yard run on the first overtime possession, can still win the Big Ten East division and remain in the College Football Playoff race if it beats No. 4 Michigan next week. Meyer is 6-0 against the Wolverines, who haven’t won at Ohio Stadium since 2000.
“We’ll have to play better than we did on defense, or we won’t win that game,” Meyer said. “That’s going to be the message, and I anticipate that we’ll play much better.”