Columbus, Ohio- Nothing is more satisfying than watching the Buckeyes dominate their competition. Western Kentucky came in hoping to upset the Buckeyes and upend their playoff aspirations. Instead, Ohio State throttled the Hilltoppers.
The first quarter seemed like a warmup comic came out and fell flat, as did the previous two games of this young season. Running back TreVeyon Henderson put the team on his back and carried the load for the Buckeyes' first two scores. The Hilltoppers responded with an opening drive touchdown and a field goal, but after those ten points, they struggled to get the ball moving. Austin Reed showed brief flashes, but the front seven of Ohio State kept him, and the running game contained, forcing ill-timed passes and quite a few turnovers. The Ohio State defense looked solid from start to finish. Steele Chambers (LB), Denzel Burke (DB), and Tommy Eichenberg (LB) stole the show with tough, physical play. Defensive line coach Larry Johnson had the edge rushers, Jack Sawyer and JT Tuimoloau, looking ready for the League.
The second quarter would see the most action from the Buckeyes all season and should serve as the bar for their performances moving forward. Scoring 35 points on a combination of offensive and defensive scores paints the picture of a well-oiled team poised for dominance. The effortless throws from Kyle McCord to receivers Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka proved this offense can score points in bunches and was reminiscent of Stroud’s accuracy last season.
By the end of the game, the Buckeyes answered nearly every question fans had been pondering over the past couple of weeks. The only blemish for Ohio State was going five for ten on third-down conversions. It's better than the meager 16.7% from the first two games but not quite the efficiency Ryan Day expects, as the 50% mark isn’t nearly as good as Oklahoma’s 77% last week.
Kyle McCord being given the nod as QB1 must have freed up some tension and anxiety because this performance is exactly what everyone needed. Although the start was rather slow and relied heavily on the running game, by the second quarter, McCord was able to pick apart the Hilltopper defense. With 19 completions for 368 yards and three touchdowns cementing McCord as the starter, backup quarterback Brown’s one touchdown toss to freshman phenom Carnell Tate alludes to a future of success in Columbus.
On paper, this defense appears elite. Holding three opponents to ten points or less is worth noting, even if it was against “lesser opponents.” Regardless of what one thinks about the level of competition so far against the Silver Bullets, Western Kentucky had enough firepower to overwhelm the aggressive defense. The four forced turnovers (third in the nation this week while averaging two per game) by the Buckeyes should ease the worries that this defense can’t stand with the toughest competition in the nation. The defensive front may not remind you of Chase Young or the Bosa brothers, but they are fun to watch. Jim Knowles has probably never had it this easy; he’s always had to scheme and outthink opponents. With this much talent in Columbus, he simply needs to call the right coverage and watch them get to work. I expect Knowles to rely heavily on the front seven, specifically Johnson’s “Rushmen,” as the weeks roll on.
(6) Ohio State 3-0 (1-0) will travel to South Bend for a quasi-rivalry matchup with the Fighting Irish of (9) Notre Dame 4-0 on Saturday, 9/23/23, at 7:30 PM Eastern.
The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers 2-1 will head to Alabama to face the Troy Trojans1-2 (0-1) on Saturday, 9/23/23, at Noon Eastern.
(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)