Maryland, No. 5 Ohio State use game day as welcome escape
LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — After enduring a harrowing summer of scrutiny and change, Maryland and No. 5 Ohio State finally got to play a football game.
It was a welcome respite. As a bonus, both Big Ten teams fashioned a victory worth savoring.
Playing under interim coach Matt Canada, Maryland launched a season dedicated to fallen teammate Jordan McNair with a 34-29 victory over No. 23 Texas on Saturday.
McNair died of heatstroke two weeks after collapsing during a conditioning drill in late May. Investigations into his treatment on the scene and the culture of the program led the school to place head coach DJ Durkin on administrative leave in August.
Temporarily putting the sadness and uncertainty behind them, the unified Terrapins beat a Texas team that entered as a 13 1/2-point favorite.
“We’re a really close-knit family,” said quarterback Kasim Hill, who threw for 222 yards and a touchdown. “Everything that has happened this summer has brought us closer together. It’s been a long time since we’ve played a football game, and it was just fun to be back out there with everybody.”
In his head coaching debut, Canada, Maryland’s first-year offensive coordinator, efficiently pulled the squad together and guided an attack that amassed 407 yards.
“The only people that knew how we were going to play were the guys in our building, and I think they had no doubt they were going to win,” Canada said. “I can get nervous about just about anything, (but) they convinced me.”
The Buckeyes also played their opener Saturday with a substitute head coach. Taking over for suspended Urban Meyer in a home game against Oregon State, Ryan Day directed Ohio State to a 77-31 rout.
Meyer will be allowed to return to practice on Monday, although his suspension by the university will last for two more games. He was sanctioned after an investigation showed he mismanaged former assistant Zach Smith, who was accused of domestic violence and other inappropriate behavior.
Against the overmatched Beavers, Ohio State turned its focus entirely on game day. After enduring a lengthy weather delay — just like Maryland — the result was a feel-good victory.
“A lot of things the last month have been out of our control as players,” receiver Terry McLaurin said. “We just wanted to come out here and do what we love.”
With a 1-0 record and Meyer slated to return to practice, the situation at Ohio State is pretty much close to normal again heading into the Big Ten opener this Saturday.
“We’re looking forward to getting him back and looking forward to those meetings and kind of building as we go to Rutgers,” Day said. “It will be business as usual for us. We’ll look at the film, make corrections, go from there.”
It’s going to take quite a bit more time for Maryland to make this a business-as-usual season. Durkin’s status remains up in the air, and the team will keep McNair in their thoughts for years to come.
The Terrapins began the Texas game by lining up with 10 players on offense, a tribute to their missing sophomore offensive lineman. Afterward, guard Ellis McKinnie waved a flag with McNair’s No. 79, and the players shouted the number in the jubilant locker room.
“Of course every win is great, but the team stuck together through the course of everything that has happened,” receiver Taivon Jacobs said. “That was our motto and we stuck by it, from the players to the coaches and staff.”