Each week, we’ll analyze the Ohio State game (and occasionally other games as well) through the lens of cinema. If this game were the next “Remember the Titans,” “Space Jam” or “The Notebook,” what storylines would keep us talking? What would make us laugh, reach for the box of tissues, or have us on the edge of our seats? Grab your popcorn and get ready for pop culture references, a hint of snark, and a trip back in time to the Blockbuster Video days.
While the Buckeyes came away with the win last week in their season opener at Indiana, many OSU fans left Bloomington with their share of doubts, particularly about our starting quarterback Kyle McCord.
The NCAA Committee seemed to agree with the doubters, dropping OSU two spots from No. 3 to No. 5.
McCord (and his backup Devin Brown who stepped in for a single three-and-out drive) struggled, the offensive line looked shaky, and the play calling? Oh my gosh, the playcalling was horrid. Jim Knowles’ defense was a bright spot in an otherwise lackluster win.
But this weekend, our young padawan McCord channeled the great Elle Woods from “Legally Blonde” in the Buckeyes’ 35-7 victory over the Youngstown State Penguins.
The Indiana game could be likened to Elle Woods getting off to a shaky start in her first law school class, leading many to underestimate her.
But then, she goes on to prove people wrong.
This weekend so did McCord, who went 14 for 20 for 258 yards and 3 touchdowns (with no interceptions). As they say in the “Legally Blonde” musical, he was “so much better than before.”
*This is not the point of the article, but I did promise my editor I would plug “Legally Blonde: The Musical” because it is perfect, so if you haven’t seen it, find a production near you. But I digress.
Back to McCord, all that’s missing is a signature move like the Bend and Snap, and we could have ourselves the football equivalent of a Harvard Law grad.
When we first meet Ms. Woods, she is the perfect stereotype of a “dumb blonde” hoping for a proposal from her boyfriend Warner. Instead, she is blindsided when Warner dumps her, claiming she’s “not serious.”
Elle doesn’t let her breakup break her down. She sets out on a journey to prove Warner wrong by spending her summer very seriously getting into Harvard Law School in an attempt to win Warner back. And as I mentioned before, even getting into Harvard Law didn’t squash the doubters. She had to deal with the low expectations and ridicule of her peers and professors until she showed them her unique outlook was a fresh take that could be useful.
Be honest with yourself. Based on my Twitter (X?) feed and the many, many, many think pieces I read last week, how many of us watched last week’s game against Indiana and thought, “McCord just isn’t a serious enough quarterback to cut it at Ohio State” (*sheepishly raises hand*)?
It might seem silly to compare McCord’s journey at Ohio State to Elle Woods’ time at Harvard Law, but there are actually a lot of parallels (with the understanding that it’s still Week 2 and there is a lot of football yet to be played).
With her can-do attitude and deep confidence in herself, Elle is able to not just get into Harvard Law but thrive there. Her friends had her back and believed in her, but those on the outside didn’t quite see her vision. She didn’t fit the mold.
Neither does McCord. He’s not the versatile quarterback OSU is used to having as a weapon. It might take a few weeks for us to figure out his true skill. But his coaches and teammates seem to trust him at the helm, and he seems to believe in his ability to lead them.
Elle also has a knack for seeing the best in people and helping them to showcase it. Whether she is befriending the local beautician or helping her nerdy classmates get dates, Elle is great at helping other people shine.
Similarly, McCord allowed his teammates to do that today, evidenced by Marvin Harrison Jr.’s sensational game. They connected on the third play of the game for a 71-yard touchdown and again later in the 1st for a 39-yard touchdown. McCord’s arm was a tool for Harrison to be the star, something truly reminiscent of Elle’s generous spirit.
The rest of the team seemed to find its groove too (as did Elle’s classmates at Harvard with her help). While McCord and Harrison found their stride in the air, running back TreVeyon Henderson had two touchdowns on five rushes, and as a group, OSU ran for 123 yards on 27 carries.
Defensively, the Buckeyes held Youngstown State to a lone touchdown on the opening drive. Cornerback Denzel Burke added a little icing on the cake with an interception.
Now let’s be clear, Youngstown State was a seemingly small potatoes game, I know that. Then again, Indiana should have been as well.
But McCord really stepped up as a surprising on-the-field presence this week. We saw Devin Brown come in during the 2nd Quarter (going 7 for 13 for 101 yards and no touchdowns), but by the end of the quarter, McCord was back.
And as Elle Woods famously said, “I don’t need backups! I’m going to Harvard!” Maybe McCord proved he is ready to be The Guy.
Perhaps the trait McCord shares most with Elle is the ability to break the mold. Elle’s greatest strength is her ability to be herself, which allows her to see things others don’t always see. She is playing by her own rules and reinventing the playbook.
McCord isn’t the type of quarterback we’re used to having at Ohio State (some might call us the Harvard Law of football programs). But he seems to be finding his way as a team leader, albeit differently than the quarterbacks before him.
And maybe that’s OK. There can be power in bringing your own value to the table, the things you do differently. Not all quarterbacks have to be Heisman-caliber to lead their team to victory. There’s more than one path, and on Saturday, McCord found his.
As the season continues to unfold, let’s hope McCord continues to show us “just how valuable Elle Woods can be.”