This article originally appeared on columbus-wired.com
COVER PHOTO: Ohio State running back TreVeyon Henderson high steps across the goal line for his and the team's first score of their game against Western Kentucky. He would finish with 13 carries for 88 yards and two touchdowns in their 63-10 win over the Hilltoppers. Photo by Sam Fahmi/Columbus Wired.
It was a game some had prognosticated could be somewhat close. Or at least a game where the opposing offense could give Ohio State’s fairly unproven defense a real run for their money.
Final score: OSU - 63, Western Kentucky - 10. The Buckeyes (3-0, 1-0 Big Ten) were a 28-point favorite over the Hilltoppers (2-1).
The Scarlet and Gray got it done on both sides of the ball, piling up 563 total yards while holding the Hilltoppers’ high-flying offense to 284 yards while forcing four turnovers, two of which were touchdowns.
Junior quarterback Kyle McCord led the Buckeyes with 318 yards through the air on 19-of-23 passing for three touchdowns and no interceptions. However, he took a three-yard sack on their second drive of the game where he fumbled the ball and WKU recovered for OSU’s only turnover resulting in WKU’s first score, a 43-yard field goal by kicker Lucas Carneiro.
Once again, it was wide receiver Marvin Harrison, Jr. who was McCord's favorite target, leading the team with 126 yards on five catches and one touchdown.
It was also the second quarter that made the difference for OSU, outscoring WKU 35-7 and posting 294 total yards.
McCord was 7-of-8 for 209 yards and three touchdowns in that quarter alone.
Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said a “good week of work” is what led his team to put together the dominating win.
“We needed to take the next step,” he said. “We know what we’re about to jump into in the middle of the season and we know we have to go on the road next week (against Notre Dame) and that was a good week of work right there.”
McCord said it was getting more game reps and having the distinction of being named the official starter on Tuesday that gave him confidence.
“I think it’s definitely nice getting the official nod from him (Day) but at the same time, the more experience I can get … the more reps, the better I feel like I’ll be. So I just kind of had that mind state going into practice this week and attacking it like a game every single day and I feel like we had a really good week of practicing offense and that showed today.”
It wasn’t just the offense though that was clicking on all cylinders. The defense came out and pretty much shut down a WKU offense that was averaging 449 yards largely on the arm of NFL prospect QB Austin Reed, who came into the game completing 67 percent of his passes for 589 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions.
He finished with 207 passing yards, completing 57 percent with one touchdown and one interception.
Receiver Malachi Corley, a guy NFL draft experts have potentially going in the first two days, ended with eight catches for 88 yards, one being the Hilltoppers’ lone TD on a two-yard screen in the second quarter.
Ohio State linebacker Tommy Eichenberg led all defenders with 10 tackles while fellow LB Steele Chambers had eight including one tackle for a one-yard loss, one pass breakup and snagged one of OSU’s two interceptions, which came with a minute left in the third quarter.
Chambers said the turnovers were a result of them playing aggressively and listening to their head coach communicating all week the importance of them causing havoc.
“It was just guys flying around, getting to the ball and … it’s just been something that coach Day has been preaching all week.”
He also almost recovered the fumble that resulted in the team’s first defensive score on WKU’s previous possession, which was only one play.
After both teams traded punts on their first two drives of the third quarter, OSU punter Jesse Mirco pinned the Hilltoppers at their own 5-yard line on his second boot of the game.
Western Kentucky running back Davion Ervin-Poindexter then coughed it up after finding running room up the middle but was met by OSU cornerback Denzel Burke, who was able to strip the ball that went careening backwards into the near corner of the end zone. A scrum towards the ball ensued that included Chambers, but he was unable to reel it in. However, defensive tackle Tyliek Williams lurched into the pile and simply grabbed the ball that several Buckeyes and Hilltoppers couldn’t corral resulting in the score.
Chambers attributed his age and little league baseball as to why he couldn’t get to it.
“I’m getting old, my hips, I couldn’t get down enough. And they moved me to the outfield whenever I was little so I don’t have any work, like, getting grounders. So, I don’t know. As long as the Buckeyes got a touchdown, I’m okay.”
The defense had more explosion in their back pocket, though.
With under six minutes to go in the game, WKU backup QB Bronson Barron flung a dart to the right sideline only to have it swallowed by true freshman CB Jermaine Matthews, Jr. for a 58-yard pick six. It was the first interception and touchdown of his OSU career.
That was the final score of the game to give the Buckeyes the 53-point victory.
Burke said he felt the defense played at a “high level” but they still have some work to do.
“I feel like we still got a lot of stuff to clean up and we’re trying to play at a high level so when these matchup games come, we’re ready.”
Going into the game, he said they knew they were going to face an opponent that was pass-heavy and felt they were actually tested for the first time this season.
“I felt like we weren’t really tested as a whole back end the first two games and I feel like we got tested this game and I feel like that’s really what we needed going into week 4 against Notre Dame.”
Tight end Cade Stover had five catches and was second on the team with 90 yards. Receiver Emeka Egbuka led the team with two touchdowns on four catches for 57 yards.
Running back TreVeyon Henderson led the Buckeyes with 88 yards on 13 carries and followed up last weekend’s two-TD game against Youngstown State with two more against the Hilltoppers. His first was a 21-yard scamper to give OSU a 7-0 lead within the first four minutes of the game and his second was a seven-yard run with more than 10 minutes left in the first half.
Redshirt freshman QB Devin Brown and true freshman receiver Carnell Tate hooked up for a 28-yard score early in the fourth quarter, the first TD for each of them in their OSU careers.
Brown finished 3-of-4 passing for 40 yards, (all of which went to Tate on two completions while his first completed pass went to TE Gee Scott, Jr. for no gain), the one TD and no interceptions while carrying the ball twice for four yards.
Ohio State’s next game is against No. 9 Notre Dame (3-0) in South Bend, Ind. with the kickoff set for 7:30 p.m. ET and will air on NBC.
Watch: Andy Evans talked with Patrick Murphy from Bucknuts247 about the game in the latest episode of Hey Bucks