COLLEGE PARK -- Maryland has faced quality running backs through the first five weeks of the season, but none will be on the level of the player who will stare them down on Saturday in Columbus.
Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott has reached the 100-yard mark in 10 straight games, including all five games this season. In four of those 10 games, he has gone over 200 yards, including a 274-yard performance against Indiana last week.
Defensive coordinator Keith Dudzinski was asked how you handle a player of Elliott’s caliber and he had but a simple, wry answer.
See, that’s been the problem. A physical, 225-pound back, Elliott can fight through initial contact and still make a big play. Against Indiana, he had touchdown runs of 55 yards, 65 yards, and 75 yards.
“Ezekiel Elliott is really good,” head coach Randy Edsall said Tuesday. “You’ve got to tackle him. He’s fast and, again, it gets down to I think our guys saw in the game Saturday that when we go out and play hard and we execute and we get 11 guys running to the football, we can be good and that’s the thing that we’ve been coaching them to do.”
But the problem may be personnel for Maryland. The Terrapins are ranked 88th in the country in yards per rush attempt allowed with 4.7. And that, for the most part, has been with a unit unaffected by in-season injury.
Now the injuries are mounting. Graduate transfer Jefferson Ashiru is out for the season with an ankle injury. Freshman Brett Zanotto will miss at least Saturday’s game with an ankle injury, as well. Defensive lineman David Shaw is lost for the year after undergoing surgery to repair an elbow injury.
So, in response, there is shuffling in the linebacking corps and up front. Denzel Conyers, who was recruited as a defensive back, is now a backup linebacker. Jalen Brooks has moved around, as has Avery Thompson.
But Dudzinski remains confident.
“We’re just going to continue to work with what we’ve got, try to get them better and get ready for a big game this weekend.”