Bloomington, Indiana- The blistering heat, the Crimson and Cream against the Scarlet and Gray. College football's early matchups during week one saw quite a few surprises. None more than just how long the Hoosiers were able to hang with the Buckeyes.
Although the game was never truly in doubt, Ohio State looked rusted over for the vast majority of this game. Fans will groan from this performance; however, with some unpacking and film study, Ryan Day will have his team ready for next week's game against in-state opponent Youngstown State.
The first half was wrought with miscues on offense for the Buckeyes. All the while, Indiana played to their strengths on offense, keeping Kyle McCord (#6) and company off the field for as long as possible. When Ohio State was on the field for offense, Indiana's Aaron Casey (#44) blew up several plays, forcing a few three-and-outs. McCord threw an untimely interception on a broken play, channeling his inner Brett Favre, throwing poorly across his body into traffic.
The Silver Bullets showed up on defense and contained nearly every attempt to the outside by the Hoosiers. Indiana struggled to get anything running and sometimes appeared to have two different offenses depending on who was at quarterback. Once again, this proves that two QB systems serve as a distraction rather than an actionable attack.
In the third quarter, they held the best action, especially if you are a fan of Ohio State. The running backs showed up, and tight end Cade Stover (#8) carried the team through the air. Ryan Day also previewed a new (actually relatively old) wrinkle with a two-tight-end system through a large portion of the game.
As predicted, the Buckeyes were superior to Indiana (even if the score doesn't necessarily reflect it). An in-conference matchup in the Big 10, resulting in a 20-point margin of victory, is nothing to scoff at, but Buckeye fans crave more. They'll get it, but they'll have to wait a little longer for McCord to find his groove. All roads lead to South Bend in a few weeks, and this game will act as a learning experience for Ryan Day's very green team.
Kyle McCord will be fine. People will look at the stat lines, score, and the fact that he threw an interception and assume McCord was washed up before he started. They should see that Ohio State often treats the season's first game(s) as a tune-up to prepare for the heavier portion of the schedule. McCord's mechanics were sound, if not a little rushed at times. He appeared too eager to make a few big plays, while Day called an extremely conservative game, probably trying to build confidence amongst the offensive starters. Devin Brown saw minimal action and will most likely get more time against Youngstown State and Western Kentucky in the coming weeks. Brown saw one pedestrian series in the first half, immediately following McCord's interception. The next time he would see action would be during the game's final drive after the Buckeyes had sealed the deal.
No one wants to see a stat line where the two arguably best receivers in the country (Marvin Harrison Jr. (#18) and Emeka Egbuka (#2)) combined for less than 100 yards receiving and zero touchdowns. It doesn't matter this week, but too much more of this will sew seeds of doubt amongst critics and fans alike. Even so, Cade Stover had a day, running over Hoosier defenders.
Stable of Surprises:
The Buckeyes came into this season touting the possibility of a deadly duo at running back. Fans in Bloomington were probably surprised to see a third stellar back join the party. TreVeyon Henderson (#32) handled most of the workload and cruised through most of his carries. He was, however, shut down a few times in the backfield. Although it was probably more of an offensive line-assignment issue and less on him, he will still wish to have a few of those carries back. Miyan Williams (#3), the other part of that duo, did very well in the red zone, scoring two touchdowns on seven carries. The surprise came from Chip Trayanum (#19) as he amassed 57 yards on only eight attempts. Ryan Day and old-school Bucks fans will be ecstatic that the running attack is solid. The running game alone will allow Kyle McCord to come into his own, on his own time, without too much worry.
Defense Holds Tough:
Skeptics don't want to admit that Jim Knowles may actually know what he's doing. Beating any in-conference team at their stadium, only allowing a field goal is noteworthy. The front four were asked to attack the quarterback(s), and they did. The linebackers were able to contain the outside speed on most plays, not getting suckered into over-extending on options or pitches. The backs made minimal mistakes and only gave up a couple of plays (none of which resulted in any points). Like the offense, this was a great tune-up game for the Buckeyes to prepare for the more challenging parts of the schedule.
Ohio State will host in-state Youngstown State next Saturday, 9/9/23, at 12:00 P.M. Eastern.
Indiana will take on Indiana State next Friday, 9/8/23, at 7:00 P.M. Eastern.
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