“When we play complementary football like that, that’s what we can be,” head coach Ryan Day said after his team improved to 10-0 overall and 7-0 in the Big Ten.
Here are five things to know about the game:
1. The Ohio State offense was nearly perfect in the first half.
The Buckeyes scored touchdowns on five of their six possessions in the opening 30 minutes, and none of them were with the benefit of a short field.
They went 75, 61, 84, 70 and 74 yards for the scores while averaging 8.6 yards per play.
Day attributed having all of his team’s offensive weapons available for the same game for the first time since early in the season as tight end Cade Stover returned from a week out to join standout receivers Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka and running back TreVeyon Henderson.
“I think you’re starting to see our identity start to forge a little bit, what we’re doing on offense, and every year sometimes it takes a little bit longer to figure that out,” Day said. “I think you’re seeing us play with more and more confidence.”
The junior quarterback was sharp from the start, completing 21 of 25 passes for 263 yards in the first half.
He hit Harrison for 57 on the first play of the third quarter then went over his career high on the following drive.
McCord finished 24-for-31 passing for a career-high 335 yards and three touchdowns. He previously went over 300 yards in a game twice, most recently against Maryland in Week 5.
“I’m spoiled,” he said. “I think that’s really the only way I can put it. You look around on that field and I think at every single position it’s just a dog. And I feel like defenses have to pick and choose how they want to stop us. If they want to load up to stop Tre, that means good matchups on the outside. If they want to play coverage, we’ve got a good run box then Tre’s gonna do his thing. I think that’s what we did tonight. Now it’s just how can we continue to improve on it because I think when all those guys are healthy it’s scary.”
4. The defense persevered without three starters, but one returned.
Linebacker Tommy Eichenberg and safeties Lathan Ransom and Josh Procter were declared out before the game, but the Spartans did not get past the Ohio State 36-yard line in the game.
The Buckeyes allowed 182 total yards, the fewest since Indiana had 153 in the season-opener.
Malik Hartford, a true freshman from Lakota West, drew his second career start at one safety along with sophomore Sonny Styles, who continued to fill Ransom’s spot.
Cody Simon replaced Eichenberg at middle linebacker and tied Davison Igbinosun for the team lead with eight tackles.
Denzel Burke returned at cornerback after missing two of the last three games, but he only played one half before being replaced by Jermaine Mathews Jr.
Hartford finished with four solo tackles.
Day said Eichenberg and Proctor are “week to week” and should be back soon, but Ransom’s injury is more of a long-term situation.
5. Many reserves saw extensive playing time in the second half.
Hartford was one of three Lakota West grads to play in the game for Ohio State.
Sophomore Jyaire Brown played multiple series in the fourth quarter at cornerback, and Tegra Tshabola came in with the second-team offensive line.
Alter graduate C.J. Hicks also took his turn with the second-team defense at linebacker and recorded the first tackle for loss of his career.
“Those are important reps,” Day said. “Now they’ve got to grab onto those reps, and some guys did flash.”
True freshman Lincoln Kienholz replaced McCord at quarterback early in the fourth quarter, making his collegiate debut. He completed his first pass on a bootleg to classmate Jelani Thurman that covered 14 yards.
Keinholz was called upon as the backup quarterback after Devin Brown appeared to aggravate an ankle injury in warmups.
Stat of the Game
Ohio State went over 500 total yards for only the second time this season
McCord started hot and looked like he was in control from start to finish after being dogged by slow starts and cold stretches in many games earlier this season.