Ohio State 49, Mary­land 28

Mary­land coach storms out of news con­fer­ence

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY RO­MAN STUBBS ro­man.stubbs@wash­post.com

Terps tie game in third quar­ter be­fore Buck­eyes pull away late.

colum­bus, ohio — Mary­land Coach Randy Ed­sall shook hands with each of his play­ers be­fore Satur­day’s game at Ohio State, not know­ing whether it would be for the last time. About four hours later, af­ter Mary­land stiff­ened against the na­tion’s top-ranked team, then fi­nally broke in a 49-28 loss, Ed­sall ar­rived at a cramped press room in the bow­els of famed Ohio Sta­dium, ready to ad­dress the tur­moil sur­round­ing his fu­ture.

He said he hadn’t heard from school ad­min­is­tra­tors about pos­si­bly be­ing fired and that he planned to get on the bus with the team and watch film like he al­ways had. His voice wa­vered at times, and his eyes were watery. He fi­nally raised his voice af­ter he was asked about shak­ing his play­ers’ hands.

“I do that ev­ery sin­gle game. Ev­ery sin­gle game! Out of the re­spect I have for these kids and what they go through,” Ed­sall said through a clenched jaw. “Ev­ery sin­gle game!” He then rose to his feet and stormed out of the room. A few sup­port­ers in the back clapped in his fa­vor, the po­ten­tial death rat­tle of Ed­sall’s ten­ure in Col­lege Park.

It ap­pears likely Satur­day will be re­mem­bered as the fi­nal game of Ed­sall’s five-sea­son ten­ure with Mary­land af­ter sev­eral days of re­ports de­tail­ing his im­per­iled job sta­tus amid erod­ing sup­port from fans and donors. Ed­sall’s record in Col­lege Park fell to 22-34, in­clud­ing 0-12 against top-25 teams. But the coach and his play­ers stood de­fi­ant for much of the af­ter­noon against the de­fend­ing na­tional cham­pion. An au­di­ence of nearly 108,000 peo­ple in one of col­lege football’s cathe­drals was stunned to si­lence af­ter the Ter­rap­ins tied the game early in the third quar­ter. For a while, the un­think­able seemed pos­si­ble.

That was due partly to ju­nior quar­ter­back Perry Hills, who at­tacked Ohio State’s de­fense with his rugged mo­bil­ity all af­ter­noon. Ed­sall sim­ply called him a “war­rior” af­ter he rushed for 170 yards, a sin­gle-game record for a Mary­land quar­ter­back, and two touch­downs.

“We just saw a great op­por­tu­nity, and we wanted to take ad­van­tage of it,” said Hills, whowas named the starter just be­fore kick­off af­ter spend­ing the three pre­vi­ous games as Mary­land’s third-stringer. “You don’t get a big­ger stage than this.”

It looked as if Ohio State was go­ing to run away with the game just be­fore half­time, but kicker Jack Wil­loughby shanked a 44yard field goal at­tempt that would have given the Buck­eyes a 24-7 lead. Hills re­sponded by rip­ping off a 75-yard run through the heart of Ohio State’s de­fense and pulled Mary­land within a touch­down af­ter a three-yard keeper on the next play.

Hills’s mo­bil­ity was far more ef­fec­tive than his arm Satur­day. He com­pleted 10 of 27 passes for 133 yards with one touch­down and two in­ter­cep­tions. Nonethe­less, Mary­land’s of­fense came alive for the first time in three weeks. The play-call­ing looked in­ven­tive and fresh. The in­ge­nu­ity on of­fense in­cluded re­v­erses and cun­ning play-ac­tion passes — and even fea­tured cor­ner­back Will Likely at one point in the third quar­ter, when his eight­yard jet sweep helped set up another Hills touch­down to tie the game at 21.

As Hills flour­ished, it seemed per­plex­ing that he was pulled as the starter af­ter two starts ear­lier this sea­son.

But even asMary­land (2-4, 0-2 BigTen) showed of­fen­sive life for the first time in weeks, it couldn’t win the footrace against Ohio State’s spread at­tack. Run­ning back Ezekiel El­liott, a Heis­man Tro­phy can­di­date who rushed for 274 yards and three touch­downs last week at In­di­ana, was largely held in check and fin­ished with 106 yards and two touch­downs on 21 car­ries against the Terps. But while Mary­land fo­cused on con­tain­ing one star, it was spread too thin in the sec­ond half in deal­ing with the oth­ers.

“It hurts for peo­ple to say, ‘Yeah, you guys did good for three quar­ters,’ ” Mary­land line­backer Jer­maine Carter Jr said. “But the end re­sult was not good at all.”

Re­al­ity fi­nally set in mid­way through the third quar­ter, when quar­ter­back Cardale Jones found Jalin Mar­shall for a 48yard touch­down to give Ohio State (6-0, 2-0) the lead for good. The Buck­eyes found their rhythm while split­ting reps un­der cen­ter be­tween Jones and J.T. Bar­rett, whose one-yard touch­down run with 15 sec­onds left in the third quar­ter made it a two-score game.

Jones com­pleted 21 of 28 passes for 291 yards and two touch­downs. Bar­rett mostly hurt Mary­land with his legs, rush­ing for 62 yards and three touch­downs on 12 car­ries.

Pick­ing up four first downs with his legs on the en­su­ing drive, in­clud­ing on a cru­cial fourth-and-eight call, Hills drove Mary­land to the Ohio State 36-yard line. But he was sacked on fourth and 14, ef­fec­tively end­ing Mary­land’s chances to de­liver Ed­sall the up­set of a life­time. Ohio State scored on its next two drives, aided by two in­ter­cep­tions by Hills as Mary­land en­tered des­per­a­tion mode.

The ul­ti­mately decisive re­sult could ease any hes­i­ta­tion among some fans and donors who have been push­ing for Ed­sall’s ouster.

“I’m not re­ally wor­ried about that. . . . I’mhere to play de­fense. Who­ever is the coach, I’m go­ing to play my hard­est for him,” de­fen­sive tackle Quin­ton Jef­fer­son said.

Af­ter Ed­sall swiped his wa­ter bot­tle and talk­ing points from the ta­ble at the abrupt end of his postgame news con­fer­ence, Hills took the seat to pro­vide a few somber re­marks. It was Ed­sall who re­cruited him out of Cen­tral Catholic High School in Pittsburgh over four years ago, andHills was forced to block out the noise sur­round­ing his coach as he pre­pared this week. He got another chance to prove him­self, but it re­mains to be seen if Ed­sall will.

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