Ohio State football film study: The good and bad from the Western Kentucky win

It’s officially Notre Dame week.

Ohio State took care of business on Saturday, blowing out Western Kentucky 63-10 in a performance that was needed to build confidence.

We’ll look back on the win today before we move on to Notre Dame.

Here’s the good and bad from the game. Spoiler alert: There wasn’t a lot of bad.

The good

Fourth-down throw to Emeka Egbuka on the first drive

Marvin Harrison Jr. gets a lot of attention from the media and for good reason — he’s the best non-quarterback in the country — but I thought Egbuka was terrific on Saturday. This was one of my favorite plays of the game, and it just so happened to be on the first drive.

I want to start with Kyle McCord.

McCord 4th down throw

He’s shown so much growth in just three weeks. It’s against inferior competition, but this was a fantastic read.

On the pre-snap look, Ohio State is getting exactly what it wants, Harrison in one-on-one coverage. This is an easy quick slant for the first down, but Ohio State motions Egbuka to confirm man coverage.

McCord makes the right initial read, but Western Kentucky drops a blitzer into Harrison’s window. McCord does a nice job of double-clutching and going to his second read right away.

At first glance, from the press box, I thought this was a high throw that Egbuka had to make work. But on the replay, you can see that McCord had no choice but to throw the ball high. This is perfect ball placement, and Egbuka makes the catch despite the hit in the air.

This is such good execution. Beautiful play from both players.

The DE pressure was better than you might’ve thought

Saturday was the first real chance we were able to see Ohio State’s defensive line get after the quarterback.

On paper, it might’ve looked like an unproductive day for JT Tuimoloau and Jack Sawyer because they didn’t record a sack. While you’ll want to see them tally some sacks in the future, this game was always going to be a challenge in that area because WKU quarterback Austin Reed gets rid of the ball quickly. Unless it’s a free run, he’s not going to get sacked often.

There were plays, though, where you really saw the impact of Ohio State’s edge guys.

This was one.

JT pressure Josh PBU

On third-and-2, Tuimoloau wins his one-on-one almost immediately on the left side of the screen. His pressure forces Reed to get rid of the ball earlier than he wanted to, and because of that, safety Josh Proctor was in a good position to stop the wheel from Malachi Corley. That’s a matchup the Hilltoppers would take any day, but when Tuimoloau comes off the edge, there’s not much you can do there.

Then there’s double-edge pressure from Tuimoloau and Sawyer that also forces an incompletion.

JT and Jack pressure

There’s nothing you can do if you are Reed here other than just throw the ball near your receiver and hope something good happens. It was an incomplete pass.

Also, this play on fourth down by Tuimoloau was impressive.

JT pressure on 4th

He wins, again, and chases Reed down. At this point of the game, Reed was feeling the pressure and started backing up instead of stepping into the pocket. That’s an underrated part of pressure. Hits and pressure change the internal clock of a quarterback even if he isn’t getting sacked, often forcing the ball out quicker than the QB would like. The farther Reed backs up, the more time the secondary has to make a play on the ball.

On this play, Tuimoloau’s pressure nearly causes an interception.

Sawyer had seven quarterback pressures in the game. Tuimolaou had six — season highs for both.

This was the first game Ohio State faced a team that wanted to throw on them, and both Tuimoloau and Sawyer did a fine job of pressuring Reed even though neither recorded a sack. The sacks will come. Maybe as early as this week.

Right side of the offensive line rounding into form

On the second watch, I thought Josh Fryar was terrific at right tackle.

There are two plays that stood out, the first being TreVeyon Henderson’s second touchdown.

Trey TD

Ohio State goes pistol and hands the ball off to Henderson to run outside to the right. Watch Fryar here.

He takes his initial blocker and pushes him inside to Matt Jones and Carson Hinzman and then gets upfield to locate another defender to block. It looks like he whiffs, but in the replay you can see him get a hand to push him outside of the play, opening that hole for Henderson.

We talk about Josh Simmons’ athleticism on the left side, but that was a nice sequence from Fryar.

Now let’s go to Chip Trayanum’s 40-yard touchdown.

Chip TD

Offensive line coach Justin Frye talked last week about wanting his group to play violently, and Fryar and Jones did that on this play. Just watch Fryar drive his player from the hash nearly to the numbers, opening this hole for Trayanum. That’s as violent and dominant as it gets for a right tackle.

The offensive line is still far from perfect, but I think the right side is getting better in large part because Fryar is becoming more comfortable. We’ll see how that goes against Notre Dame, but I thought Fryar was much better on Saturday. He and Jones look like a formidable duo.

Simmons played well on the left side, but there are still things to clean up with him. His athleticism jumps off the film, but there’s more to playing left tackle. Still, I think he’s improving. Saturday will be an important game for him.

Steele Chambers changes the game

Ryan Day pointed this out as a game-changing play, and he’s right.

Ohio State just scored on the long touchdown from Harrison and really needed a quick stop.

Steele 3rd down

I think this is a good play by Western Kentucky, but Ohio State plays it perfectly.

Sawyer seals the quarterback, forcing him to pitch the ball, and Chambers is there immediately to make the tackle. I thought Chambers played well on Saturday. He made some impressive open-field plays en route to finishing with a season-high eight tackles and one interception.

The Bad

McCord’s fumble

There weren’t many bad plays by Ohio State in this game, but I’ll point out two things. First is McCord’s fumble.

First of all, Western Kentucky isn’t even lined up when the ball is snapped. Ohio State has an advantage right away and then the line picks up the blitz well. Pressure eventually arrives, but McCord has plenty of time to step into the pocket. He has to realize, “OK, I have to get rid of this.” He didn’t. He held onto the ball trying to make a play downfield and he paid for it.

Ideally, you want your quarterback to make a play, but if he’s going to get sacked, he has to take care of the ball going down.

McCord will learn from this. I think it was his only poor play of the game, so I won’t harp on it too much. Still, ball security will be key against Notre Dame.

Corley’s touchdown wide receiver screen

The was poorly defended by Ohio State.

This wasn’t the first wide receiver screen the Hilltoppers ran in the game, so I’m not sure what Ohio State was doing here. They go four strong on the sideline, all outside of the hashmark, setting up the most obvious wide receiver screen possible.

This is a good play call by the offense because you send Reed to the line with the option to switch to a quarterback draw if you have numbers in the box.

Regardless of whether Ohio State thought a run was coming, this has to be communicated. You can’t have three defenders on four receivers and expect to just shed a block and make a tackle. There had to be a miscommunication there, and it cost Ohio State seven points.

Again, we’re nitpicking here because Ohio State’s defense was terrific in this game, but this drive was a disaster that ended in a confusing alignment and allowed the Hilltoppers to make this a one-possession game at the time.

Yes, there’s a hold (that wasn’t called) on the play, but if there were a fourth defender, that play is blown up. You bring a fourth guy over, play with six in the box and get a stop if Reed keeps the ball because you still have the numbers advantage in the box even if the safety walked outside.

Just a confusing play.

(Photo of Kyle McCord: Lauren Leigh Bacho / Getty Images)

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