COLUMBUS — Ohio State came into the Maryland game knowing that they would be down not one, but two of their starting defensive ends.
Senior defensive end Jonathon Cooper has missed the majority of the games this season due to injury, and with junior defensive end Chase Young’s future up in the air, the Ohio State Rushmen had to figure out a way to make up for the production of both Cooper and Young.
In the Buckeyes’ 73-14 win against Maryland on Saturday, the defensive line stepped up and figured out a way to respond without two of their leaders. Even without Cooper and Young, the Buckeye defense recorded a season-high seven sacks against Maryland.
“They all wanted to show they’re a team, this is a defense, and this is a defensive line unit, more than just one person,” head coach Ryan Day said after the game. “And I think they had their chests out and were proud of the way they played today, and they should have. They played with an edge and something to prove. And any time our guys come out with something to prove, we’re dangerous. So overall I thought we all had that approach, but especially the D-line.”
Defensive line coach Larry Johnson has enough talent to rotate as many as 13 guys on the defensive line. He also instills a ‘next man up’ mentality that the leaders of the Rushmen preach to the younger guys so they know that they have to be ready to play at a high level.
Many of the young defensive lineman have accumulated plenty of playing time in Ohio State’s blowout games throughout this season. Though they were well-prepared for this moment, Saturday’s game put that preparation to the test.
The Buckeyes were relying on freshman Zach Harrison, redshirt freshman Javonte Jean-Baptiste, and sophomores Tyreke Smith and Tyler Friday to step up in place of Young and Cooper at defensive end. They were all listed as co-starters on the depth chart.
Not only did the young defensive ends step up, but the entire defensive line’s production was felt.
Senior nose tackle Davon Hamilton had his first ever two-sack game, Harrison had his first career start and finished with one sack, and Smith also recorded a career-high two sacks. The Buckeyes also used senior tight end Rashod Berry in a Rushmen package in addition to his duties at tight end. Linebackers Tuf Borland and Malik Harrison also recorded sacks in the game.
The high level of production all around was critical to Ohio State’s success. At the end of the first quarter of the game, Maryland only had one yard of offense.
But the impact of the defensive line didn’t fall off when Ohio State’s second team defense came into the game at the start of the second half. Sophomore nose tackle Tommy Togiai was also able to rush Maryland’s quarterback and the secondary was making plays left and right.
The Buckeye defense allowed Maryland only 139 yards of total offense with 62 rush yards and an average of 1.9 yards per carry.
“They’ve got great depth,” Maryland head coach Mike Locksley said afterward. “Obviously when you lose a player like Chase [Young] and to still have the ability to put the type of players they put out on the field. They’ve done a great job creating depth on the defensive line.”