The numbers are almost unprecedented in Ohio State football history. A whopping 51 points allowed, 339 yards rushing, 7.1 yards per rush, 28 yards per pass completion.
A 5-5 Maryland team that got shut out at Iowa in mid-October, and scored exactly 3 points at home against Michigan State in early November, suddenly turned into one of college football’s great offensive juggernauts.
The end result was a 52-51 Ohio State win. But it took a dramatic last-minute comeback for the Buckeyes to get to overtime, and for Maryland’s quarterback to miss an open receiver on a potentially game-winning two-point conversion in OT.
For a defense loaded with some of the best recruits in the nation, it was just the latest in a series of staggering implosions – an act of reverse-alchemy in which the Silver Bullets have turned into lead.
Coming into the weekend, the defense ranked 115th in the nation in Isolated Points Per Play, an opponent-adjusted metric on how many big plays your defense allows. They are 74th in the country in passing defense in S&P+, and 111th in the nation defensively in passing downs.
And those numbers are from before Maryland’s three-hour conga line into the end zone. Four offensive snaps into the game, the Terps had touchdown runs of 81 and 75 yards.
“It still came down, a lot of them, to tackling,” said OSU defensive coordinator Greg Schiano. “They did a very good job with their scheme and, as I said earlier in the week, they put you in a position where you’re going to have to make one-on-one tackles and sometimes in space.”
Saturday in the first half, Maryland was able to manipulate the Buckeyes’ defense to set up situations where only one defender was in position to make a tackle.
“Their whole scheme is to create confusion. But if you watch it, there’s people there,” he said.
The problem with that, of course, is that if that guy missed, it was going to be six points. And in more than one case, that’s exactly what happened.
That came as a surprise to Schiano.
“I thought we practiced very well. I thought that, coming off last week, we tackled very well. I just felt like the kids had a really good grasp on what we were doing. But it didn’t turn out that way,” he said.
Schiano and the other defensive assistants have taken a lot of heat for the performance of their unit this season, something the defensive coordinator understands.
“It all falls on me and falls on our coaching staff because we have to get them ready to execute the techniques within the scheme that we employ for that week. And we didn’t do a good enough job today, but that’s college football,” he said.
Schiano knows that it’s basically now-or-never for an OSU defense that has had issues all season long.
“We’ve had some really good defensive plays at times, but not consistently. I’ve said that after the first quarter of the season, I said that at the midway. It’s frustrating that we’re not a consistent defense right now, but rest assured every waking minute we have, we’re going to try and get that fixed,” he said.
“The thing that we still have going is we’re 10-1 and we got a chance. We have good players who really care and good coaches. We’ve just got to keep putting it together and go out next week and find a way.”