Lathan Ransom and Tommy Eichenberg battle hand injuries to lead Ohio State’s defense against Maryland

Tommy Eichenberg was Ohio State’s leading tackler against Maryland, and Lathan Ransom made one of the most important plays in the Buckeyes’ 43-30 win over the Terrapins. Neither of them was healthy for more than one game in Saturday’s game.

Eichenberg, according to Ohio State defensive end Zach Harrison, was playing with two broken hands against the Terrapins. Meanwhile, Ransom broke his thumb on Ohio State’s first defensive game.

That didn’t stop either of them from making a huge impact at College Park, as Eichenberg recorded 13 total tackles, including a tackle for loss. In contrast, Ransom recorded seven total tackles with a tackle for loss, a pass breakup and his second kick blocked in as many weeks.

Harrison said their toughness inspired the rest of the Ohio State defense.

“Just seeing them out there with the injuries that they have, makes us kind of like, ‘We’re great,'” Harrison said. I have a little pain or my knee hurts or something. I just have to go play. We all have to play.”

Similarly, Ransom said he was inspired by Eichenberg to play through his injury.

“Tommy is playing with two rotten hands,” Ransom said. “What’s my excuse for not going out and playing?”

Lathan Ransom played the rest of the game with a staff on his hand after breaking his thumb on Ohio State’s first defensive play.

Despite his injured hands, Eichenberg continued to play as an All-American against Maryland, recording at least 13 tackles in a game for the fourth time this season to bring his total for the year to 105—the most by a Buckeye in a season since 2015.

Meanwhile, Ransom turned the momentum of the game in Ohio State’s favor when the Buckeyes needed a swing. With Maryland facing 2-and-4 on the opening drive of the second half, Ransom made an 8-yard tackle for the loss against Terrapins tight end CJ Dippre, which he said came on the same play that Ransom broke his thumb and Dipper gained 25 yards of Maryland’s first offensive play.

“That was a big, big blowout at the beginning of the game. That was on me. And that had to be fixed, made adjustments and not allowed to happen again,” Ransom said.

Then, Ransom exploded off the rim to block a punt attempt by Maryland’s Colton Spangler, knocking the ball over with an injured hand to give the Buckeyes the ball deep in Maryland territory and setting up a go-ahead goal that gave Ohio State a chance. He would hold the lead for the rest of the game after previously trailing 13-10.

Ryan Day gushed about Ransom’s performance after the match.

“Blocking two kicks in consecutive weeks…that’s amazing,” Day said. “It was a really important point in the game and it got a lot of momentum.”

Harrison called Ransom, who became the first Buckeye to block shots in consecutive games since Mike Doss in 2001, as “one of the toughest guys on this team”.

“We were on the sidelines, and Lathan came up and said, ‘Brother, my hand’s broken,'” Harrison said. What they’re dealing with, it makes you feel like, “Okay, I’m fine. My hands are working. I’m fine.”

Saturday’s game was far from the best performance of the year for Ohio State’s defense. The Buckeyes gave up 318 passing yards and four touchdowns, both of which are the second-most allowed in any game all season (behind only Penn State, in which they lost 31 points and 371 yards). Given that most of the other nine teams the Buckeyes have faced this season are teams that have consistently struggled to pass the ball effectively, pass defense stands out as one of Ohio State’s biggest concerns going into next week’s game against Michigan and beyond in the postseason.

Harrison and Ransom said they would need to go back and watch the film to assess why Ohio State’s pass defense struggled against Maryland, but Day conceded that the pass defense needed to play better.

“I thought (Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa) played his heart today. I thought he played really well. He did a good job. But yeah, I mean, there are some plays we have to look at and try to process what’s going on there, because we definitely would like to see play.” Better,” Day said. “Our number one goal in our winning plan is to play great defense. And they really threw a pretty long haul today, for sure. But we’ll take a look and try to figure out that part of it.”

In the end, though, the Ohio State defense made enough plays for the Buckeyes to win the game. The Buckeyes held Terrapins goals in the red zone on each of their opening possessions—preventing Maryland from gaining a larger lead earlier in the game—and allowed no points on Maryland’s final three possessions, ultimately sealing the game. When Tagovailoa and Steely Chambers pulled the loose ball out of the air for a touchdown with just nine seconds left to sack Harrison.

Whenever the Buckeyes have been in close games this season, from their season opener at Notre Dame to their recent battles with Penn State and Northwestern, the Ohio State defense has come in clutch to make the plays the Buckeyes needed to make. The game is at stake. Harrison believed this was due to the confidence instilled in them by first-year defensive coordinator Jim Knowles.

“The game is never out of reach. If we get a lead, we feel like we can win the game. If they have to score a goal to take the lead back, it’s just something I keep playing for, Coach Knowles has brought that mentality that every time we We step on the field, we are the best defense in the country. And that’s what we really believe in.”

Harrison also thinks it was a good thing for the Buckeyes to fight against Maryland as they enter a game they know will be next week’s fight against Michigan.

“I think we needed it,” Harrison said. “I think we needed a good, close game that came down to the wire to prove to ourselves that we can beat anyone in whatever type of game we play.”

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