As Chip Trayanum crossed the goal line to give Ohio State a thrilling 17-14 win over Notre Dame on what appeared to be the final play of the game, Kyle McCord raced across the back of the end zone, arms raised to the sky in pure elation as he circled back toward the sideline.
Once there, he stood on top of a bench, facing the crowd, and made sure everyone sitting behind the Ohio State sideline in Notre Dame Stadium knew exactly what they had just witnessed.
The moment was a rare glimpse at an emotional side McCord’s teammates may see behind the scenes but few in the public eye ever get to see from someone who always seems to remain even-keeled regardless of the circumstances. The outpouring of joy, however uncharacteristic it may have been, was fitting, though, for a guy who’s waited patiently for a moment just like that since coming to Ohio State in 2021.
“You can’t draw it up any better than that,” McCord said after the game. “Down four points with a chance to go win it there in the end in a historic stadium, a great environment, and against a great defense, you just can’t draw it up any better than that. To come away with a win, it wasn’t perfect and there’s still a lot to grow on, but it feels really, really good.”
While he would never come forward to say it directly, McCord surely must have felt personally vindicated in that moment given everything that was said and written about him this offseason and even into the start of the season as the Ohio State offense searched for a rhythm in uninspiring wins over Indiana and Youngstown State.
Even after showing signs of growth in a week-three blowout win over Western Kentucky, detractors were quick to diminish the performance given the level of competition while pointing to the daunting task ahead as a true measuring stick.
McCord was hardly perfect against Notre Dame, completing just 57% of his passes and sometimes looking indecisive against an aggressive Notre Dame defense. He made throws, however, giving his offense multiple golden opportunities to put points on the board that were ultimately squandered for a variety of reasons.
Through it all, McCord’s demeanor never changed, perhaps underscoring his best trait. The moment never seems to be too big for him, something that can’t always be said for a quarterback starting at a program where the lights always shine the brightest.
That stoic nature was on full display as Ohio State took possession at its own 35 for one last drive on Saturday, trailing 14-10, and so much riding on how the final 86 seconds played out.
All McCord did was proceed to complete a third-and-10 pass to Emeka Egbuka for 23 yards, a fourth-and-7 to Julian Fleming, and the third-and-19 pass to Egbuka to the Notre Dame 1-yard line to set up Trayanum’s walk-off touchdown.
For a quarterback whose biggest flaw is a shortage of experience, McCord has now added an invaluable building block as he continues to take steps in his progression as a quarterback. And if there were still any lingering doubts inside the locker room about who should be leading the Ohio State offense, McCord put those questions to rest for good as he engineered a drive for the ages.
“We practice those two-minute situations all the time and, at that point, it was just reverting back to our training,” McCord said of the moment. “My job is to get the ball in the hands of the playmakers and let them do special things, and that’s exactly what it was. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but at the end of the day, we found a way to make it work and that’s all that matters.”
McCord’s performance in the biggest of moments certainly had his head coach excited about what’s to come from the junior quarterback after the signature win.
“You judge a quarterback on third down, red zone, and two-minute (drill),” Ryan Day said. “Third downs were pretty good. We were 10-17 with some nice conversions there. And then to win the game on a two-minute drill, that’s what great quarterbacks do. For his first top-10 road game, to be put in that situation and come through says a lot about his future. There were some big-time throws in there. He hung there, was poised, and what a great win for our program.”
One game hardly means there won’t be some growing pains for McCord. But just two weeks removed from Day being unsure who he would turn in moments just like the one that played out on Saturday, he and his team now have a clear answer and one that should inspire confidence with more big stages still to come.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.