Over the past three weeks, there are a multitude of adjectives to describe each of No. 6 Ohio State’s victories.
Two weeks ago, it was a thrashing of Akron; last week it was a shellacking of Rutgers.
This week, the word to describe Saturday’s 66-17 win over Maryland (4-2, 1-2 Big Ten): drudging.
Here’s what the Buckeyes (5-1, 3-0 Big Ten) showed us Saturday at Ohio Stadium.
Ohio State’s offense is among the best in the country
The Buckeyes’ offense gained 598 yards on 71 plays Saturday, and their yards per play ended up dropping from its national-best mark.
Maryland’s defense played a lot of man coverage, allowing wide receivers senior Chris Olave and junior Garrett Wilson to get to the next level for touchdowns of 30, 36 and 26 yards, respectively.
Redshirt freshman C.J. Stroud filled the stat sheet, inserting 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, topping 500 yards of total offense in its fifth consecutive game.
The Buckeyes’ offense leads the country with 562.7 yards per game and is second in yards per play with 8.55.
Ohio State topped its 50-point performances against Akron and Rutgers by laying 66 on Maryland — the most the Buckeyes had posted in a game since defeating the Terps 73-14 Nov. 9, 2019.
The victory adds to Ohio State’s Football Bowl Subdivision third-best mark of 48.5 points per game. The only game this season the Buckeyes have failed to score 40 points was their 35-28 loss to then-No. 12 Oregon Sept. 11.
Linebackers took a much-needed leap towards success
After losing Dallas Gant and K’Vaughan Pope to the transfer portal within the past couple weeks, the linebacker unit was thin to say the least.
Other than senior linebacker Teradja Mitchell, the unit struggled in the early goings, not setting the edge and surrendering over 200 rushing yards to Minnesota and Oregon. In the past four weeks, they have improved to allow an average of just 79 yards per game on the ground.
For just the second time all season, a linebacker led the team in tackles — a statistic typically held by sophomore bullet safety Ronnie Hickman — with sophomores Steele Chambers, Cody Simon and Tommy Eichenberg all tied with seven.
Numbers aside, the linebackers passed the eye test as well.
Physically speaking, they were flying around to the ball, sealing gaps and setting the edge to keep Maryland’s offense in all sorts of inconsistency.
With the bye week ahead, the Buckeyes linebackers will have time to rest up ahead of the remaining Big Ten schedule in which the top-three rushing offenses in the conference — Michigan, Nebraska and Michigan State — await.
TreVeyon Henderson also has hands to him
Before the game freshman running back TreVeyon Henderson caught passes from running backs coach Tony Alford and not one ball hit the ground.
Day gave Henderson five carries on Ohio State’s opening 88-yard scoring drive, managing just a shocking five yards after entering the day with 9.44 yards per carry.
On that same drive, though, he caught back-to-back passes for 11 yards, which was just the start of his day.
He served as an outlet for Stroud all day long, but his yards-after-catch ability on his final two catches turned passes in the flat into gains of 30 and 26 yards, respectively.
Henderson capped off his 26-yard touchdown catch by running over Maryland sophomore defensive back Tarheeb Still inside the 5-yard line, bouncing off of him before flexing in celebration in the end zone.
Henderson finished the day with four catches, 67 yards and a touchdown, adding to his season totals of seven receptions, 154 yards — 70 of which coming on his first-career catch — and two touchdowns.
With the three-headed monster atop the receiving rotation with Olave, Wilson and sophomore 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
Freshman wide receiver Emeka Egbuka entered the game with 85 yards on just one reception.
He eclipsed that yardage mark with his first two kick returns.
His 20-yard return following Maryland’s opening-drive field goal originally brought the ball out to Ohio State’s 45-yard line, before getting called back for a holding penalty.
The shifty Egbuka was back for more, busting his longest return of the day for 67 yards before taking the second-half opening kickoff 33 yards.
His final opportunity came on a 46-yard run back following a 43-yard touchdown pass from Maryland junior quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa. A return like that after a touchdown kills any momentum that the opposition just gained, as Egbuka set up the Buckeyes at their own 48-yard line.
With starters in the game, the outcome is likely better than an inconsistent 12-play, 37-yard drive led to a field goal, but Egbuka had an electric return, nevertheless.
Egbuka’s shiftiness and vision, coupled with great blocking to set those lanes from the special teams, has the potential to become the first returner to house a kickoff since Jordan Hall in 2010.
Fantastic Four: Defense’s pick-six streak survives late
Late in the fourth quarter, the game was already in hand when sophomore safety Craig Young picked off Tagovailoa.
Young caught the tipped pass and took it 70 yards for a pick-six — the fourth week in a row the defense was able to come away with an interception return for a touchdown.
The Ohio State defense now is tied for fifth in the FBS with nine interceptions and has sole possession of first with four returned for touchdowns.
The ballhawking secondary will have the opportunity to add to that as three of Ohio State’s final six games are against teams who have thrown at least six interceptions.