COLUMBUS — New quarterback who dis? Ohio State knew it would have a different man leading the offense against Akron on Saturday night and true freshman quarterback Kyle McCord made his debut as the starting quarterback.
With redshirt freshman quarterback C.J. Stroud resting this week, McCord’s name was called as the ‘next man up.’ Despite having the first-game jitters early on McCord settled into the game, found his rhythm, and led the Buckeyes to four straight touchdown drives in the first half of the game. His first-half dominance ultimately set Ohio State up for smooth sailing in the second half to win the game.
In the opening possession, McCord went 0-3 with a missed rollout, a backwards pass, and an inaccurate lateral. As a result, Ohio State was forced to punt. After that, McCord was 11-of-13 passes for 229 yards and two touchdowns to complete the first half.
“It was the first time he’s ever played in a college football game, he’s a true freshman,” head coach Ryan Day said after the game. “So I think the game was moving pretty fast for him early on.”
Day tried to settle him down after that first possession and help him get into the rhythm of the game.
“‘Take a deep breath, find the speed of the game, trust your eyes, trust your reads. You’ve put in a lot of preparation to get here,’ and then I thought he settled down a bit” Day said.
His teammates had all the confidence in the world in him as they have seen him prepare for this moment.
“The first drive is always hectic, especially being in the position Kyle [McCord] was in but I knew things would definitely slow down,” receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba said. “That’s what happened and he took off from there.”
Being only the fourth quarterback in Ohio State history to start a game as a true freshman, joining just Art Schlichter, Braxton Miller, and Terrelle Pryor, McCord didn’t let his youth get in the way of leading a dynamic offense.
He had passes of 85 yards to freshman receiver Emeka Egbuka, 34 yards to Jaxon Smith-Njigba, and 57 yards to Garrett Wilson.
Although the competition wasn’t as stiff as some games Stroud started in with Akron being 84th in the FBS in total defense, McCord still moved the ball in an impressive fashion and did more than he needed to do to secure a win for Ohio State.
McCord had one interception to open the second half, but he didn’t let that shake him. He finished the game 13-18 passing for 319 yards and two touchdown passes.
His 319 yards was the most by a player in their first career start in Ohio State history, exceeding Dwayne Haskins’ 313 yards passing against Oregon State in 2018.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Jack Miller III came in midway through the third quarter to finish the game at quarterback.
Although Day has to review film to analyze McCord’s play, the most encouraging thing was that this is just the beginning for the young quarterback now that he has live game reps under his belt.