Over the past three weeks, there have been a plethora of adjectives to describe each of Ohio State’s No.6 wins.
Two weeks ago it was a beating from Akron; last week it was a Rutgers bombing.
This week, the word to describe Saturday’s 66-17 victory over Maryland (4-2, 1-2 Big Ten): flirt.
Here’s what the Buckeyes (5-1, 3-0 Big Ten) showed us Saturday at Ohio Stadium.
Ohio State’s offensive is among the best in the country
The Buckeyes’ offense gained 598 yards in 71 games on Saturday, and their yards per game ended up dropping from its best national mark.
The Maryland defense played plenty of men’s coverage, allowing senior wide receivers Chris Olave and junior Garrett Wilson to level up for touchdowns of 30, 36 and 26 yards, respectively.
Redshirt rookie CJ Stroud filled out the stats sheet, putting his name into the thick of the Heisman Trophy conversation, going 24 for 33 with 406 yards, tying his career-high five touchdowns.
Ohio State also added 166 rushing yards, surpassing 500 total attacking yards in its fifth straight game.
The Buckeyes’ offense leads the country with 562.7 yards per game and is second in yards per game at 8.55.
Ohio State topped its performance by 50 points against Akron and Rutgers by placing 66 in Maryland – the most Buckeyes in a game since defeating the Terps 73-14 on November 9, 2019.
The victory comes on top of the Ohio State Football Bowl Subdivision’s third-best score of 48.5 points per game. The only game this season where the Buckeyes failed to score 40 points was their 35-28 loss to No. 12 Oregon Sept. 11.
Linebackers took a much needed leap to success
After losing Dallas Gant and K’Vaughan Pope on the transfer portal for the past two weeks, the linebacker unit was slim to say the least.
Other than senior linebacker Teradja Mitchell, the unit struggled early on, failing to give the lead and giving up more than 200 rushing yards to Minnesota and Oregon. Over the past four weeks, they’ve improved to average just 79 yards per game rushing.
For only the second time this season, a linebacker led the team in tackles – a stat usually held by second guard Ronnie Hickman – with sophomores Steele Chambers, Cody Simon and Tommy Eichenberg all tied with seven.
Aside from the numbers, the linebackers also passed the eye test.
Physically speaking, they were flying around the ball, filling in the gaps and preparing the advantage to keep Maryland’s offense in all manner of inconsistencies.
With the week off to come, Buckeyes linebackers will have time to rest before the remaining Big Ten schedule in which the conference’s first three rushed offenses – Michigan, Nebraska and Michigan State – await them.
TreVeyon Henderson has his hands on him too
Before the game, running back TreVeyon Henderson caught passes from running backs coach Tony Alford and no balls hit the ground.
Day gave Henderson five carries on the Ohio State’s first 88-yard rush, handling just a shocking five yards after starting the day with 9.44 yards per carry.
On that same practice, however, he caught consecutive passes over 11 yards, which was just the start of his day.
He served as an outlet for Stroud all day, but his yard-after-catch ability in his last two catches turned flat passes into gains of 30 and 26 yards, respectively.
Henderson capped his 26-yard touchdown by crushing second-year Maryland defensive back Tarheeb Still inside the 5-yard line, bouncing off him before relenting in celebration in the end zone.
Henderson finished the day with four catches, 67 yards and one touchdown, adding to his season tally of seven receptions, 154 yards – including 70 in his first career catch – and two touchdowns.
With the three-headed monster at the top of the receiving rotation with Olave, Wilson and second wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Henderson’s pass-catching abilities could bode well against better Big Ten pass defenses like Purdue, Michigan and Penn State.
Emeka Egbuka: returning god
First-year wide receiver Emeka Egbuka entered the game with 85 yards on a single reception.
He eclipsed that distance mark with his first two punt returns.
His 20-yard return after Maryland’s opening field goal initially brought the ball over the Ohio State’s 45-yard line, before being called up for a holding penalty.
The devious Egbuka was back for more, smashing his longest comeback of the day with 67 yards before taking the second half kickoff on 33 yards.
His last opportunity came on a 46-yard return following a 43-yard touchdown pass from Maryland junior quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa. A return like this after a touchdown kills any momentum the opposition just picked up, as Egbuka settled the Buckeyes on their own 48-yard line.
With starters in the game, the result is probably better than a 12-play, 37-yard inconsistent practice leading to a field goal, but Egbuka had an electric comeback nonetheless.
Egbuka’s liveliness and vision, coupled with an excellent blocking to define those special teams routes, has the potential to become the first returner to host a kickoff since Jordan Hall in 2010.
Fantastic Four: six-choice defense streak survives late
By the end of the fourth quarter, the game was already underway when second safety Craig Young knocked out Tagovailoa.
Young caught the downhill pass and won it over 70 yards for a pick of six – the fourth week in a row, the defense managed to come away with an interception return for a touchdown.
The Ohio State defense is now tied for fifth in the FBS with nine interceptions and alone holds first place with four returns for touchdowns.
The ballhawking high school will have the opportunity to add to that as three of Ohio State’s last six games are against teams that have thrown at least six interceptions.