COLUMBUS — A 5-star freshman got his first start. A fifth-year senior showed why he is one of the most improved players on Ohio State’s football team.
And another fifth-year senior finally got his wish after pleading his case to the coaches since last summer.
That’s three of the ways Ohio State compensated on Saturday for the absence of maybe the best player in college football, Chase Young.
Without Young, whose 13.5 sacks led the nation going into the game, No. 1 OSU still got seven sacks during a 73-14 mauling of Maryland.
It makes you wonder how many more times the Buckeyes might have put Maryland quarterbacks on the ground if Young hadn’t been sidelined by an NCAA issue over getting a loan from a friend.
Actually OSU was dealing with the absence of both starting defensive ends when Jonathan Cooper was unable to play because of an injury for the sixth game this season.
So, creativity was the rule of the day on the defensive line.
Defensive end Tyreke Smith got a start and produced two of the Buckeyes’ sacks. Five-star freshman Zach Harrison got his first start and had a sack.
Fifth-year senior defensive tackle Davon Hamilton, a starter all season, had two sacks. And Rashod Berry lined up at defensive end to became the first Ohio State player to play offense and defense in the same game since Zach Boren played linebacker and fullback against Indiana in 2012.
Berry caught a touchdown pass in last season’s Rose Bowl and had a big catch late in OSU’s 52-51 win at Maryland last season. But he had just one catch in the first eight games this year.
“I did it (played defensive end) in high school so it wasn’t different. At the beginning of the week I went over there on defense and they liked it, so I ran with it. I just wanted to help the team,” Berry said.
“I always wanted to play both sides. For this opportunity to open up like this, it was like ‘Wow, this is real. I’m about to do it,’ ” he said.
Hamilton got his first sack of the day on the second play of the game, which might have sent a message to Maryland.
“Whoever has to step up has to step up. We preached that all week. That’s kind of how we really looked at it,” he said.
Hamilton has four career sacks and three of them have come this season.
“I guess I’m just more experienced than in years past. I’ve really been trying to work on my craft and work on the things I’m not good at. I’ve just been trying really hard,” he said.
OSU coach Ryan Day said, “I think Davon really has had such an impact on the whole season and also the game because he’s an inside presence. When he does what he did today, which is just defeat a blocker and get a sack, it changes the mentality of a quarterback.”
The back-ups delivered in expected ways and unexpected ways. But it was against a team that is not very good. The big thing to look for is if they do it against better competition.