No. 3 Ohio State shaky on offense in first game of post-C.J. Stroud era

No. 3 Ohio State posted a season-opening victory over Indiana on Saturday, but it featured an uneven performance from the Buckeyes on offense.

Kyle McCord made his second career start at quarterback for Ohio State. He had a few nice moments but largely underwhelmed in OSU’s 23-3 win in Bloomington. McCord, who beat Devin Brown to succeed C.J. Stroud as OSU’s starter, completed 20 of his 33 attempts for 239 yards and an interception.

It was a far cry from the explosive offense we saw from the Buckeyes in last year’s College Football Playoff semifinal loss to Georgia. Ohio State scored on its first drive of the afternoon but didn’t reach the end zone again until late in the third quarter. The Buckeyes did end up with 380 yards but were only 2-of-12 on third down and averaged 5.6 yards per play.

Between the two touchdowns, Ohio State punted three times, hit a field goal off a short field, and McCord threw an ugly interception while trying to throw across his body. The Buckeyes, who had some struggles protecting McCord, also stalled in the red zone early in the second half. On that possession, OSU head coach Ryan Day drew up a quarterback draw on third-and-goal, but McCord missed an open running lane and was brought down at the 4-yard line. As a result, OSU settled for another field goal to make it 13-3.

Ohio State quarterback Kyle McCord throws during the first half of the Buckeyes' game against Indiana on Saturday in Bloomington. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Ohio State quarterback Kyle McCord throws during the first half of the Buckeyes' game against Indiana on Saturday in Bloomington. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

The playcalling from Day was largely conservative, but McCord made a few of his best throws as the second half progressed. He hit tight end Cade Stover up the seam for a 49-yard gain. He hit Marvin Harrison Jr. down the right sideline for a touchdown, only for it to be taken off the board because Harrison stepped out of bounds before touching the ball. Later on, McCord floated a beautiful pass to Miyan Williams on a fourth-down play in the red zone but couldn’t connect on multiple tries to the end zone later in the drive.

All in all, it was a mixed bag against a feisty Indiana defense. OSU’s trio of running backs — TreVeyon Williams, Chip Trayanum and Miyan Williams — combined for 129 yards and two touchdowns. Harrison was kept in check, but Stover caught five passes for 98 yards, and Julian Fleming led the team with six receptions for 58 yards.

Day said Brown would see the field, but he led the offense in only two series — one in the first half and another in the final minutes of the game.

Defensively, the Buckeyes overwhelmed an outmatched Indiana team. The Hoosiers, coming off a 4-8 season, rotated quarterbacks Brendan Sorsby and Tayven Jackson. Neither had much success as they went a combined 9-of-21 for 82 yards. The Hoosiers ended the day with only 153 yards of offense.

Ohio State is a team with annual national championship aspirations. Entering the season, the team's main concerns were finding a quarterback to replace Stroud, the No. 2 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, and replacing three NFL-bound starters on the offensive line. The Buckeyes were not able to answer either of those questions Saturday.

Next on the schedule for Ohio State are home games versus Youngstown State and Western Kentucky. Those two games will provide the Buckeyes with a few more opportunities to tighten things up on offense before a trip to Notre Dame on Sept. 23. We might not know much about the potential of this team until that trip to South Bend.