COLUMBUS — So, what did Ohio State learn from its universally expected domination of Akron, which ended with the Buckeyes winning by a 59-7 score on Saturday night?
OSU coach Ryan Day saw it this way: “Overall in the game I thought we did some good things. There are still some things to grow on, of course. But you could see there are guys out there who desperately need this experience to grow and keep building.
“The idea is if we keep growing we’ll have a chance to get to where we want to be by the end of the season,” he said.
The college debut of quarterback Kyle McCord, who started while C.J. Stroud rested his sore shoulder, was the center of attention in the game.
McCord didn’t disappoint. He completed 13 of 18 passes for 319 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. No. 3 quarterback Jack Miller came on in the second half to complete 5 of 8 passes for 66 yards.
McCord is only the fourth true freshman to start at quarterback for Ohio State. The others were Art Schlichter, Terrelle Pryor and Braxton Miller.
No. 10 Ohio State (3-1) rolled up 622 yards of total offense and limited Akron (1-3) to 229 yards. The Buckeyes’ defensive line, which had heard some criticism internally and externally for a lack of pressure on opposing quarterbacks, finished with nine sacks.
Haskell Garrett led the way with three sacks and Tyleik Williams had two.
Garrett said, “The sacks didn’t really matter. We played undeniable defense tonight.”
Antwuan Jackson, one of six Buckeyes with sacks, said, “We showed what we could do tonight. Coach J (defensive line coach Larry Johnson) really got on us this week to get a pass rush overall out of the whole defensive line.”
McCord and Ohio State’s defense both started slowly. But it didn’t take long for the difference in talent levels between the two teams to show up.
Two of McCord’s first three passes sailed high over the intended receivers and the other was a backward pass out of bounds for a 6-yard loss.
And when Akron moved down the field without a lot of resistance from OSU’s defense to take a 7-0 lead on a short touchdown pass from D.J. Irons to Konata Mumpfield halfway through the first quarter it was an unpleasant reminder of too many defensive problems earlier this season.
But the defense erupted for four first-half sacks and two interceptions — one by Cody Simon that set up a touchdown and another by Ronnie Hickman 2 1/2 minutes later, which he returned 46 yards for the TD.
McCord completed 11 of his last 12 passes in the first half for 229 yards and two touchdowns by halftime. His first TD came on a 5-yard shovel pass to Chris Olave and the next one was a 34-yard throw to Jaxon Smith-Njigba.
“All of a sudden we kind of kick-started it and got rolling and played with confidence the rest of the game,” Day said.
Asked if he did or said anything to calm down McCord after his first series, Day said, “I tried to. I said, ‘Take a deep breath. Take a deep breath. Find the speed of the game. Trust your eyes. Trust your reads. You did a lot of preparation to get here.’ And then I thought he settled down.”
Day said the decision on if Stroud will start this Saturday at Rutgers will depend on how fast his shoulder improves. “We hope to get him going this week,” he said.
McCord was not made available for interviews after the game.
In between McCord’s two touchdown passes, Henderson ran three yards for a touchdown to make it 21-7. Henderson’s second touchdown put OSU in front 28-7.
The lead grew to 35-7 on Hickman’s touchdown and Noah Ruggles 32-yard field goal two seconds before halftime made it 38-7.
Ohio State’s lead grew to 45-7 early in the second half when Master Teague scored on a 2-yard
touchdown run, which was set up by an 85-yard catch by Emeka Egbuka. It was the freshman’s first catch at OSU.
Teague scored again on a 14-yard run to put Ohio State up by a 52-7 score with four minutes left in the third quarter. Freshman Evan Pryor got to the end zone on a 12-yard run late in the fourth quarter for the Buckeyes’ final touchdown.
The announced crowd of 95,178 was nearly 20,000 fans larger than last week’s crowd at the game against Tulsa but Ohio State’s roster might have been reduced by one during the game.
After a disagreement with one or more OSU coaches, seldom-used senior linebacker K’Vaughan Pope might have left the team during the second quarter.
Pope left the sideline and started to walk up the ramp to the Buckeyes’ locker room. At one point he threw his gloves into the seats and started to remove his jersey.
After Pope left the field there was a message posted on his Twitter site wishing his teammates well. That was followed by another tweet that was clearly intended to be an intentionally mis-spelled profane parting shot at Ohio State, or at least its coaches. The second tweet disappeared several minutes after being posted.
“Somebody told me there was a tweet. I’m going to get the details on what happened before I say anything,” Day said.