Leave it to an underclassman to ruin Senior Day.
Ohio State redshirt sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins, Jr. returned to his native state to carry the 10th ranked Buckeyes to a 52-51 victory in overtime over the hosting Maryland Terrapins, setting a school record for the most touchdowns thrown in a season to tie the game (pending the PAT) with just 40 seconds remaining in regulation.
Haskins completed 28 of 38 passes for 405 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing for 59 yards and three more scores, including the eventual game-winner to punctuate Ohio State’s first drive of overtime.
It almost wasn’t enough.
While the Buckeyes matriculated up the field behind Haskins and fellow future early NFL draft pick J.K. Dobbins (career-high 37 carries for 203 rushing yards, one TD), Maryland led throughout regulation due to big plays, most of them provided by redshirt freshman running back Anthony McFarland.
The 5-8, 193 pound McFarland cut through the Ohio State defense like a hot knife through butter early on, gashing the normally stout Ohio State defense for a staggering 298 yards and two touchdowns on just 21 carries.
To put McFarland’s day in perspective, consider that in Ohio State’s storied history, an opposing running back has only rushed for more yards in a single game once – and that was by future first round pick Tim Biakabatuka, who ran for 313 yards (on 37) carries for Michigan back in 2005.
McFarland appeared to break away to score his third touchdown of the game on Maryland’s first snap from scrimmage of overtime but replay showed that his knee was down just before he reached the ball across the goal line.
Maryland scored from one yard out on the next play but rather than kick the PAT and play a second overtime, interim head coach Matt Canada opted to go for the win and instead lost a game his team never trailed in regulation when his quarterback Tyrell Pigrome’s quick throw was off target despite a wide open receiver.
While McFarland certainly was the recipient of some excellent blocking on these two long scores, he showed excellent vision, lateral agility and rare acceleration on other, less glamorous runs later in this contest, proving that he can create on his own, as well.
Meanwhile, protected by solid blocking of his own (more on this later), Haskins shook off some early underthrown deep balls to deliver precise passes down the stretch, including difficult throws on a quick option route and post corners for touchdowns in the fourth quarter amidst tight coverage.
Haskins' exciting combination of physical talent and intangibles has already earned him a spot among my personal top 32 rated prospects in the country.
Just as important to scouts as his compact 6-3, 225 pound frame and easy velocity is that Haskins never looked rattled, showing more composure than one normally expects from a quarterback starting just his 11th career game at the collegiate level.
Frankly, he showed more composure in leading the Buckeyes back in this contest than Oregon's Justin Herbert has to this point in his career, which is why the redshirt sophomore could be closing in (or even overtaking) the more physically gifted Ducks' signal-caller on some boards.
Consider that even on his mistakes – like the pick-six below – Haskins showed promise.
Haskins initially looked up the middle before turning slightly to his left before delivering a quick pass. While the quarterback is at fault for turning the ball over, credit Maryland safety Darnell Savage, Jr (a senior) for tipping the pass into the air and for cornerback RaVon Davis (another senior) reacting quickly enough to secure the pass and capitalizing with a good run to extend Maryland’s lead.
There were several other seniors on both sides of the ball who enjoyed strong efforts Saturday – something savvy talent evaluators surely noticed while acknowledging the flashy underclassmen.
For the hosting Terrapins, inside linebacker Tre Watson, a graduate transfer from Illinois, enjoyed yet another standout performance, recording a game-high 12 tackles in a losing effort. The 6-1, 236 pound Watson nearly recorded his sixth interception of the season by reading the eyes of Haskins early in the game and recovered a fumble from the young quarterback.
Perhaps the most impressive senior on this day, however, was Ohio State’s right tackle Isaiah Prince, a 6-7, 310 pound block of granite who consistently generated movement in the running game and showed good initial quickness, balance and reach as a pass protector.
In terms of draft stock, Prince won't challenge his quarterback or talented junior defensive tackle Dre'Mont Jones should either of them elect to leave Ohio State early for the NFL like Nick Bosa, who earned the No. 1 overall pick on my updated first round mock draft.
Don't be surprised if the tackle-needy teams in the NFL see Prince as near royalty on Day Two of the draft, however, as he possesses the frame, strength and mauling nature to project as a starter -- just as he has been for the Buckeyes the past three seasons.