Ohio State football: Buckeyes find 2nd QB and maybe mojo in rout
Ohio State doesn’t want to overstate a win against Akron. The Zips were 49-point underdogs coming into Columbus and OSU covered that spread with a 59-7 victory on Saturday. But on a day when Buckeyes starting QB C.J. Stroud was held out with a minor shoulder injury, OSU might have had two discoveries.
First, the quarterback.
Stroud is the presumptive starter moving forward. He has had occasional minor hiccups, but he basically has been who coach Ryan Day and the Buckeye staff thought he was: A big-armed passer with reasonable running skills and an almost unending supply of big plays. The good news, particularly in modern football, when the backup QB’s day in the spotlight is never more than an ankle twist or an awkward knee turn for the starter away, is that OSU found another QB.
Kyle McCord started and went 13 for 18 for 319 passing yards and 2 touchdowns. McCord hit plenty of big plays of his own, from an 85-yard connection with Emeka Egbuka to a 57-yarder to Garrett Wilson and a 34-yard connection with Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Reserve QB Jack Miller went 5 for 8 for 66 yards passing in his first extended action.
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Day didn’t seem particularly blown away, saying of the QB play, “I thought some things were okay. I thought there were some things we need to clean up.”
Smith-Njigba was more effusive in his praise of McCord, noting, “I thought he stepped up in a big way. I thought he was very confident.”
It certainly won’t hurt OSU’s confidence or peace of mind for both QBs to have handled some successful game action.
But the bigger story? OSU might have found its mojo.
After a sometimes strange and sometimes harsh first three games, OSU was clicking. Not at first; OSU opened by going 3 and out and then watching Akron march down the field for an opening touchdown. Surely, OSU’s struggles weren’t surfacing again? As it turned out, no, they weren’t.
The Buckeyes rushed for 6.8 yards per carry and passed for almost 400 yards. They held Akron’s rushers to 1.9 yards per carry, and also piled up 9 — yes, that was 9 — sacks. OSU also recorded 2 interceptions and a dozen tackles for loss. Some of the younger Buckeyes such as Tyleik Wiliams (6 tackles, 2 sacks) and Jack Sawyer (3 tackles, his first OSU sack) used the opportunity to show bursts of speed and flashes of skill that some of the more celebrated and experienced players in front of them have struggled to find.
In a week when many Big Ten teams stumbled, Ohio State didn’t. Iowa had to rally in the second half to top Colorado State. Michigan was lucky to hold off Rutgers. Wisconsin was blasted in the fourth quarter by Notre Dame. Minnesota lost to Bowling Green. But when the pile was unscrambled, lo and behold, there stood the Buckeyes.
Week 4 was a reminder that the season is long and that this OSU squad is still being built on the fly. And maybe, just maybe, Week 4 was the beginning of something special in Columbus.