Ohio State Football: Buckeye State of the Union Week 1

Miyan Williams Celebrating a Touchdown against Indiana |Image Credit: The Ohio State University Department of Athletics
Miyan Williams Celebrating a Touchdown against Indiana | Image Credit: The Ohio State University Department of Athletics

Ohio State opened its season with Kyle McCord under center, leading the Buckeyes to a 23-3 road victory in Bloomington. 

My fellow Buckeyes,

How are we feeling after the Ohio State football team left Bloomington with a 23-3 win over Indiana? I see we are divided as a fanbase, so I am exercising my civic duty to become President of Buckeye Nation to unite us with a new weekly series called Buckeye State of the Union. I will address everything going on with Ohio State football and answer your comments and questions if you submit them in the comments or tag me on social media @BlakeBiscardi

Kyle McCord started the Buckeyes’ season opener, which was a conference game on the road with three new offensive linemen. That recipe is never one to produce elite-level results and College Football Playoff-caliber performances. It’s going to take patience, steady growth, and a defensive-led effort for Ohio State to prepare for Notre Dame in less than three weeks. 

The Twitter verse is filled with comments and claims that “McCord isn’t the answer.” and “Ryan Day is this team’s biggest weakness.” and “The quarterback room is average at best, and the Buckeyes can’t win a Big Ten or National title with them.”

It’s very easy to overreact to a Week 1 game against an inferior opponent, so let’s run through what’s warranted and what needs patience and dissect this matchup with truth. 

  1. Kyle McCord isn’t the answer at QB?

All first-year starting quarterbacks have growing pains. While it’s true that Ohio State’s weapons are the best in the country, it still takes time to build chemistry. Remember, Kyle McCord and Devin Brown have been reportedly evenly splitting first-team reps all offseason. 

Of course, Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka should have combined for more than five receptions. But the elite duo will get theirs in due time. 

McCord showed flashes of brilliance with his deep ball and appeared more comfortable when fully turning it loose and operating the offense. I said all week that I expect the play calling to feature a run-first approach and intermediate throws, and that’s what we got on Saturday. 

At the same time, McCord’s inexperience showed on fourth down when Chip Trayanum got tripped on his release to the flat, and McCord committed the cardinal sin for a QB by throwing back across his body to the middle of the field in traffic, resulting in an interception. His sneak in a goal-to-go situation also showed poor vision as he ran into the defender instead of behind his blocker, who cleared a lane for a walk-in touchdown. 

McCord’s mistakes appear fixable from watching the film and gaining situational awareness and experience with time. Keep in mind CJ Stroud struggled in his first road game against Minnesota, and the Oregon and Tulsa games shortly after that. Bottom line, it takes time. Be patient. This roster is too talented to waste. 

2. Offensive Line Woes + Play Calling 

I can sit here and give a play-by-play breakdown of each player in gap schemes, pass protection, and run blocking. Instead, let’s evaluate the unit as a whole. 

Three new starters are not easy to replace up front, and with a new QB under center, all issues are magnified. I know I said to be patient with McCord, but he’ll grow faster than the OL. This group of starters needs to continue to work as hard as possible to gel and create cohesion before Notre Dame. 

Gelling only happens with reps and time, so practice is essential for this unit. At times, the play calling appeared vanilla, and it seemed that wasn’t because of a lack of trust in McCord to air it out. Instead, there is a lack of confidence in the offensive line to protect. 

TreVeyon Henderson had the toughest day out of the RB room because it seemed like a linebacker was waiting for him every time he touched the ball. The tackles didn’t get off blocks quick enough or to the second level, where Henderson is most dangerous with his shifty footwork and crafty vision. 

Ohio State’s season hangs in the balance of the cohesion the offensive line creates. A quarterback and offense can only be so successful without protection and the opportunity to execute. 

3. Ohio State will be a defense-first team until mid-October 

The biggest takeaway from the game was the stout performance from The Silver Bullets. Yes, Indiana is not one of the better teams in the Big Ten. But rewatch the film. The defense played soundly, and they were flying around to the football. The defensive line got pressure, the linebackers were everywhere, and the defensive backs were lock-down. Also, Sonny Styles is going to be a problem. 

Ohio State only surrendered 153 yards of offense to Indiana and showed this unit can anchor the team if needed. That’s a luxury the Buckeyes haven’t had since 2019. Relying on the defense to win games and make the right plays is a huge difference for Ryan Day, Jim Knowles, and Ohio State this season, where it will take the offense time to get rolling. 

4. Third down efficiency + short yardage situations 

These two areas were the most glaring weakness and cause for concern on Saturday. Ohio State converted third downs at an outstanding 51% clip last year and was 2/12 in Bloomington. That has to change before the next road trip to South Bend. 

Much of that involved the offensive line not shedding blocks or generating push into the second level. However, Day is a pass-first play-caller who can tend to telegraph his short-yard run plays, making it easier for the defense to stop what’s coming. 

Creativity and execution must find their way into the third down and short-yardage play calling for the Buckeyes to succeed. 

5. Playing at home next week 

Ohio State hosts Youngstown State next Saturday at home. Expect to see the Buckeyes open the playbook a little more as they overmatch the Penguins. Playing in front of a home crowd will allow McCord and Devin Brown the opportunity to play loose and comfortable as they operate the offense and have easier success than against a familiar conference opponent. 

Overall, it’s week 1, and there’s no need to panic. Have patience and allow this team to gel and grow together in September. It’s okay to rely on the defense to anchor the team for a change. Success will come. How fast, though, is up to the offensive line and QB room. 

We’ll check back in next week… 

This article has 2 Comments

  1. I saw some good things out of McCord this past week and it will get better he needs to hold on to the ball alittle longer so egbuka and Harrison can get free in there routs.

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