COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State’s offense left a lot to be desired following the 23-3 win at Indiana last Saturday. Though the Buckeyes reached the No. 1 goal of walking away 1-0 after quarterback Kyle McCord’s first start, the Buckeye offense left with maybe more question marks than it had anticipated after a clunky start and uncharacteristic struggles on third down, in short yardage situations, and in the red zone.
On Saturday against Youngstown State, Ohio State’s offense led by McCord behind center, got into a rhythm early and came out making a statement in the 35-7 win. A major contributor was McCord’s high school teammate, and junior wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr.
The McCord-Harrison Jr. duo put on a show, leaving no doubts of their connection on the field and the type of performance they are both capable of now that it’s their time to lead the Buckeye offense.
McCord finished the game 14-of-20 for 258 yards and three touchdowns — for 71 yards, 39 yards, and 28 yards. Two of McCord’s touchdowns were to Harrison Jr. with the other going to Emeka Egbuka.
Harrison Jr. had seven receptions, 160 yards and two touchdowns in the first half of the game alone. McCord was 13-of-18 for 253 yards and three touchdowns at the break. Harrison finished the game with seven receptions for 160 yards and two touchdowns.
“It was cool to finally see it come all the way from when we first started playing together our sophomore year of high school to now,” McCord said following the win. “It’s been a long time coming. Were going to continue to use that momentum, continued to use that to grow, and create more of those.”
Against Indiana, McCord took most of the snaps as the offense tried to find its way. Head coach Ryan Day avoided getting Devin Brown more playing time at quarterback because of the lack of flow of the offense, though the game plan was for him to play meaningful minutes leading the offense.
Harrison Jr. was only targeted three times against Indiana and had two receptions for 18 yards. The clunky-ness of the offense was evident, but it can be evidenced by that statistic alone, when compared to this week.
Against the Penguins, Ohio State’s offense as a whole came out with more fire and poise, and found a groove early on. The Buckeyes won the coin toss and elected to receive, a rarity for the Scarlet and Gray.
On the first drive of the game, Swiss army knife Xaiver Johnson rushed for a six yard gain, and the very next play featured a career-long touchdown reception by Harrison Jr. thrown by McCord on third down. Harrison caught it and went all the way down the field for 71 yards. It was McCord’s first touchdown pass of the season and Harrison’s career long touchdown reception.
As compared to last week, there was a sharp improvement in the feel of the offense.
“The biggest thing was just coming out of the gate and trusting my reads, trusting my arm, and trusting the players around me,” McCord said. “I think we showed flashes of that last week for sure, but we were spotty, especially in the first half today we came out strong and got things going, and got the ball in the receivers hands.”
Ohio State’s offensive line still had its challenges with sloppy penalties, but showed improvements in its communication and connectedness, giving both quarterbacks more time and allowing the receivers to run and get to the intermediate pass-range. This, was something Harrison Jr. was able to capitalize on.
Harrison Hr. had touchdown receptions for 71 yards and 39 yards, but also had short receptions that kept Ohio State on schedule and kept the chains moving down the field.
Even when it wasn’t Harrison Jr. making the catches, his presence ignited the offense and forced the Penguins to change coverages. Other Buckeye wideouts were able to get their touches, along with four different running backs adding meaningful contributions.
While the offense is still a work in progress only two weeks into the season, it’s safe to say that if the entire Buckeye offense can continue to build off of the McCord-Harrison momentum, the sky is the limit.
Photo via Ohio State Dept. of Athletics.