COLUMBUS, Ohio – Over half an hour after the final whistle, Taulia Tagovailoa hadn’t changed clothes.
The Terps quarterback remained in the white-and-red jersey and pads he wore during the game, covered in the sweat and grime from a three-hour battle with No. 4 Ohio State that had the potential to be a program-defining win but instead fizzled into a 37-17 loss.
Maryland (5-1, 2-1 Big Ten) lost its 14th straight regular-season game against a ranked opponent. The defeat and the final margin failed to silence doubts on coach Michael Locksley’s preseason claim that his team was ready to compete for the conference championship — an assertion made in part because of Tagovailoa.
Entering the game, the Terps quarterback’s ability and experience headlined the extremely short list of factors in his squad’s favor. He’d thrown 1,168 passes before Saturday’s loss, almost 10 times as many as his Buckeyes counterpart, Kyle McCord.
But Tagovailoa’s erratic performance belied that advantage. He mustered two touchdowns and helped the Terps to a 10-0 lead. But the redshirt senior threw two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown, and mustered just 52 passing yards in a second half in which Maryland was outscored by 20 points.
“Nothing,” he said on the second-half adjustments by Ohio State (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten). “It’s just us not doing our assignment ... myself included.”
The miscue that defined his turbulent day denied the Terps a chance to break a 10-10 tie going into halftime. Maryland had the ball with 12 seconds left at the 18-yard line with no timeouts and lined up to take a shot at the end zone.
If it wasn’t there, Tagovailoa could’ve thrown it away and preserved the chance for a field goal. But he instead checked it down to the middle of the field; time expired before Maryland could run another play. Buckeyes defenders sprinted jubilantly off the field — the frustrated Terps could only trudge.
“That’s just bad situational football,” Tagovailoa said. “I gotta be better. Knowing me, I have all this experience, and those are situations I got to be ahead of the game with. Just throw it or dirt the ball down. Walk away with points on the board.”
His first pick gave Ohio State its first points. Tagovailoa took a short drop before firing to Tyrese Chambers on third-and-5 on a quick stop route. Chambers was supposed to turn inside but instead turned out, Locksley said. Whether intentional or not, Tagovailoa threw to the receiver’s outside shoulder and into the arms of safety Josh Proctor, who ran it back for a touchdown.
“The ball should have been thrown inside,” Locksley said.
The second pick came with the teams tied at 17 and Tagovailoa trying to extend a play to his left. His pass, intended for Tai Felton, wasn’t high enough to clear Lathan Ransom and set up the Buckeyes’ field goal that gave them their first lead.
Tagovailoa did show the skill that put him atop the Big Ten through the first five weeks in passing yards and touchdowns. He delivered an accurate 15-yard strike to Kaden Prather for his lone touchdown pass, resetting in the pocket to do so. He bounced back from the end-of-half debacle with a 9-yard run in which he juked a Buckeyes defender to cap a 75-yard drive to kick off the third quarter.
“[Tagovailoa] is a veteran player,” Locksley said. “He’s played a lot of football for us. We’ll win and lose with him, and I’ll take my chances with him because he’s a competitor. ... We’re not going to let one game define how he’s grown up with us.”
Harrison torches Still-less Terps
The Maryland defense clamped its foe early, forcing punts on Ohio State’s first five drives. But cracks emerged as the unit tried to mitigate the Terps’ offensive inefficiencies, fissures that Marvin Harrison Jr. split into gaping holes.
The superstar receiver finished with eight catches for 163 yards and a touchdown, both season highs. Senior cornerback Tarheeb Still warmed up but didn’t play. Harrison often went up against Ja’Quan Sheppard or Corey Coley Jr. and routinely beat both to gash the Terps’ defense.
The Buckeyes faced a second-and-33 after an 18-yard loss and a delay-of-game penalty. Harrison erased that disadvantage in one play, making an over-the-shoulder catch for 37 yards and a first down.
His longest catch of the day went for 58 yards. He had to wait for the underthrown deep ball but was so wide open it didn’t matter.
“When they’re that wide open, obviously there’s some breakdowns. ... We know how talented he was and, for a guy like him to still find a way to make plays, that’s the piece for me ... we’ve got to get corrected,” Locksley said, “because anybody can tell you that Marvin Harrison is a really good player. ... And, today, he made a bunch of plays that I would have hoped that we would have been better at.”
Harrison seemed to score a touchdown with seven minutes left in the second quarter, beating Sheppard on a deep in-breaking route, but the play was nullified by an illegal motion.
Unfazed, the Buckeyes receiver found a hole in Maryland’s coverage on the next play for a score.
Ohio State scored on five straight drives and knelt to end the game on the sixth. Maryland entered the fourth quarter down just three before giving up 17 unanswered.
“We talked all week about getting a game into the fourth quarter and then seeing where we fit,” Locksley said. “We were able to do that, and I just didn’t like the way we finished.”