The Ohio State defense, which got gashed for 51 points and 535 yards at Maryland in 2018, didn’t merely turn things around on Saturday.
The Buckeyes shut the Terrapins down, shut them out for well over half the game, dominated and humiliated them.
A year ago, the Terps had a 17-3 lead and 204 yards of total offense after one quarter.
This time after 15 minutes, it was the Buckeyes with a 21-0 lead and Maryland had precisely one (1) yard of offense.
In 2018, Anthony McFarland rushed for 298 yards against OSU, the second-most of any opposing player in the Buckeyes’ history.
Saturday, McFarland was a total non-factor. His first carry of the game went for nine yards. The rest of the day, he ran it five times for minus-2 yards and had two receptions for 3 yards.
A Terps offense that racked up 339 yards and averaged more than 7 yards per carry in 2018 only rushed for a total of two yards through the first three quarters.
A performance this dominant strains the bounds of metaphors one can use in polite company.
It’s not always easy to get a team motivated to play a game against a clearly-inferior opponent, but in this case, it definitely wasn’t an issue.
“It was 52-51 last year in an absolute fighting to the fourth quarter. And I think our defense was tired of hearing about that for a year,” said OSU head coach Ryan Day.
“I think we had a lot of respect for this team coming into this game because of that game we played last year. So we started fast and I thought we played well throughout the game.”
Junior LB Tuf Borland bore the brunt of a lot of criticism during that difficult 2018 season.
Saturday, he was right in the middle of that strong performance, tying for the team lead with five tackles and also recording a sack. Borland said didn’t spend much time this week reliving last year’s nightmare.
“Honestly, I didn’t really watch the film from last year. I think it’s all embedded in the back of all of our minds, what happened last year,” he said. “That was kind of a big motivating factor for us, pushed us this week.
While last year has pushed the Buckeye defense, that defense has pushed OSU to the top of the Playoff rankings.
They’ve forced at least one turnover in all nine games. They’ve held every team they’ve played to 10 points or fewer in the first half, and shut four opponents out before halftime.
A unit that ranked among the worst in the nation against explosive plays in 2018 is now one of the country’s best.
What a difference a year makes.