The Ohio State football team played its annual in-state opponent Saturday and left Columbus with a comfortable 35-7 win over Youngstown State. Junior quarterback Kyle McCord made a strong case for starting the rest of the season in his third career start, throwing for 258 yards and three touchdowns.
But McCord wasn’t what stood out, rather the five-man line in front of him. After September 2nd against Big Ten foe Indiana, questions surfaced about the experience of the Ohio State offensive line and how they’d hold up during the season.
Notably, the Buckeyes lost three of their five starters on the offensive line heading into 2023; losing tackles Paris Johnson Jr. and Dawand Jones, as well as center Luke Wypler, to the NFL.
The typically high-octane OSU offense was held to 23 points and 380 total yards against a Hoosier defense that was 119th in the FBS last season in yards per game given up. To many fans, the inexperience of the offensive line was evident and hoped the group would look better in front of a home crowd.
While at times inconsistent, the offensive line looked remarkably better against the Penguins, and in turn, the offense erupted in the first half and finished with 482 yards. Granted, Youngstown State was an expected comfortable victory, but it’s these types of games that allow a team to gel together and grow their confidence.
The group led by 2022 First Team All-Big Ten member Donovan Jackson only allowed two sacks over the course of 26 minutes of possession on offense. McCord when playing was never under serious pressure, allowing star wideouts Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka to flourish, combining for 254 yards and three touchdowns.
While the most glaring inconsistent play was at the tackle position, replacing a top-10 NFL draft pick does not come after two games. New starters on the offensive line Josh Simmons and Carson Hinzman were flagged for holding calls early in the first quarter, and at times looked shaky against the Youngstown State front seven.
Despite it being a comfortable win, the Ohio State football team didn’t assert itself much outside of the first half. But head coach Ryan Day has an opportunity to straighten things out next week against Western Kentucky before the upcoming slate against College Football Playoff contenders.
While they shouldn’t look ahead, the Buckeyes almost certainly have September 23rd circled, when they travel to South Bend, Indiana, to play No. 10 Notre Dame. The matchup against the Hilltoppers will tell Ohio State football fans a lot of things, but first Day and his staff must figure out how to fully replace last season’s production on the offensive line.