COLUMBUS — Down a host of key contributors on both sides of the ball, including their starting quarterback, No. 10 Ohio State took care of business with a 59-7 thumping of Akron on Saturday night in Ohio Stadium.
With C.J. Stroud resting an injured shoulder this week, true freshman Kyle McCord got the nod for the first start of his career and shook off a lackluster start to complete 13 of his 18 attempts for 319 yards and two touchdowns in just two and a half quarters of action.
Garrett Wilson recorded four catches for 124 yards, while Chris Olave and Jaxon Smith-Njigba each caught a touchdown pass in just over a half of football before subbing out.
On the ground, true freshman running back TreVeyon Henderson turned in yet another impressive performance, wracking up 93 yards and two touchdowns on only eight carries. Alongside McCord, the two became the first true freshman duo in the history of the Buckeyes program to start together in the backfield.
Despite being relegated to backup duties, Master Teague made the most of his second-half attempts, adding two scores and 71 rushing yards on eight carries.
As a team, Ohio State totaled more than 600 yards of total offense, while the Buckeyes defense forced two turnovers and held Akron to just 229 yards on the night while also recording nine sacks. Haskell Garrett recorded a career-high three sacks and Tyleik Williams added two.
While the final tallies were indicative of the lopsided matchup, the game got off to a rather inauspicious start for Ohio State. After trading stops to begin the game, it was Akron who scored the first points of the game, sending a collective groan throughout the 95,000 in attendance at Ohio Stadium.
Akron quarterback D.J. Irons capped off a nine-play drive with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Konata Mumpfield to give the Zips the early 7-0 lead.
In an early hole, Ohio State wasted no time in mustering a response. A 22-yard completion from McCord to Smith-Njigba had the Buckeyes out and running, and a run of 35 yards by Henderson had them set up inside the Akron 10-yard line with a new set of downs.
One play later, McCord notched the first touchdown pass of his career after a touch pass to Chris Olave went five yards into the end zone. Noah Ruggles’ extra point drew the Buckeyes even at 7-7 with 5:27 remaining in the first quarter.
Following a quick stop by the Ohio State defense, McCord and the offense were once again back on the move. A 57-yard catch and run by Wilson to open the drive had the Buckeyes threatening, and Henderson’s 3-yard touchdown run gave them their first lead of the game just before the end of the opening quarter.
Ohio State built on its lead early in the second quarter when McCord connected with Smith-Njigba for a 34-yard touchdown strike that increased their lead to 21-7 over Akron. Following an interception by Buckeye linebacker Cody Simon on the ensuing drive, Henderson added his second score of the game to officially signal the rout of an overmatched and overwhelmed Akron team.
Not to be outdone by the offense, the Ohio State defense got in on the scoring as well later in the first half. Irons’ pass was bobbled by his receiver before ultimately being intercepted by Buckeye safety Ronnie Hickman, who returned the ball 46 yards for a defensive touchdown.
Ruggles added a 32-yard field goal just before halftime, sending Ohio State into the locker room with a 38-7 lead and affording head coach Ryan Day the ability to substitute liberally in the second half.
McCord was intercepted on Ohio State’s opening drive of the second half, his lone blemish on the evening, but the turnover proved to be harmless as the Buckeye defense forced an Akron punt. McCord quickly atoned for the mistake on the next possession, finding fellow true freshman Emeka Egbuka for an 85-yad catch and run down to the Akron 2-yard line.
Teague finished off the two-play drive a play later with a 2-yard touchdown carry, and Ruggles’ extra point had Ohio State up 45-7 and in cruise control just four minutes into the third quarter.
Ohio State’s next offensive possession was more of the same as it was Teague again busting into the end zone, this time from 15 yards out to increase the lead to 52-7. Jack Miller, who came in relief of McCord, completed two of his three passes for 37 yards on the drive. Miller finished the night 5 of 8 for 66 yards.
Another true freshman, running back Evan Pryor, rounded out the scoring with a fourth-quarter touchdown run that marked the first of his career.
Following the game, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said he will need to watch the film to truly assess how his quarterbacks played, although he said both McCord and Miller had their moments.
“I thought there were some things that were ok, I thought there were some things we certainly need to clean up. I have to find out where their eyes were at times,” Day said. “With Kyle, he does a really good job of preparing, an excellent job. He puts a lot of work into this … I think the game was moving pretty fast for him early on, but he was working at hyperspeed, I think.
“One of the things we talk about with young quarterbacks is finding the speed of the game, and I think there were times where he did. And then I thought Jack came in and had some poise in there and made some nice throws as well.”
Day said he told McCord to “take a deep breath and find the speed of the game” following an opening drive that netted negative yardage before the Buckeyes had to punt the ball away.
Asked about the status of Stroud next week, Day said he will see how practice goes and how Stroud feels tomorrow before developing a plan for the week. Day said Stroud was feeling stronger on Saturday and “hopefully we can get him going this week.”
Ohio State returns to conference play next week when they travel to New Jersey to take on Rutgers. Kickoff for the game is set for 3:30 p.m.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.