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Minnich’s Musings about Ohio State vs. Western Kentucky

The Hilltoppers were “just what the doctor ordered.”

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

“Just what the doctor ordered,” an old expression, meaning what is wanted or needed. For example, having a strong cup of coffee first thing in the morning to help wake me up could lead me to say, “That’s just what the doctor ordered.”. In the case of 2023 Ohio State football, the positive results of the dominant 63-10 win over the visiting Western Kentucky Hilltoppers could lead someone to say, “That’s just what the doctor ordered...”.

Looking at these first three games for Ohio State, I have reflected that it was almost like an NFL team’s preseason schedule. The outcomes were not in doubt, but it felt like these were opportunities for the coaching staff to evaluate their personnel and schemes, knowing the first true test would be coming when Ohio State would travel to South Bend to face a talented Notre Dame team.

Ohio State fans, such as myself, were bracing ourselves for a challenging and potentially frustrating game versus the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. After all, Ohio State did not look especially dominant in the first two games of the season, defeating Indiana 23-3 and Youngstown State 35-7. Add in the fact that Western Kentucky, a pass-oriented offense was coming to Ohio Stadium to face a relatively untested Ohio State secondary, and it was understandable that there was anxiety. Heck, a close friend of mine from high school who is a proud Ohio State alum let our other friends know that he sold the best tickets he has ever had for an Ohio State game, as he was so certain of a loss to Western Kentucky.

We all saw that my friend’s pessimism was not warranted, as the Buckeyes exploded for 35 points in the second quarter. I had predicted a 42-20 win, with frustrating moments by the secondary — Ohio State had 42 points by the end of the first half.

  • Kyle McCord played well in his first game as the unquestioned starter, completing 19 of 23 passes for 318 yards and 3 touchdowns. Yes, he fumbled after being sacked by Western Kentucky, but that was probably the only blemish on the day, as the Hilltoppers were able to eventually get a field goal after gaining possession.
  • The defensive line made things difficult for Western Kentucky quarterback Austin Reed. The Buckeyes were not sacking Reed at first but were putting enough pressure on Reed where passes were being hurried, leading to incompletions.
  • In my estimation, the turning point of the game was in the second quarter, when Western Kentucky went for it on fourth down and was not successful. Ohio State was leading 21-10, and the Hilltoppers were in their own 40-yard line, trying to convert on 4th and 6. After the possession went to Ohio State, Chip Trayanum rumbled for a 40-yard touchdown run on the first play, and the game was pretty much done for the Hilltoppers at that point.
  • The much-maligned Ohio State defense came up big. The aforementioned 4th down conversion that led to points, plus interceptions and fumble recoveries, were crucial in the decisive victory.
  • It was in the second half — after the game was well-decided — but backup quarterback Devin Brown was inserted into the lineup. My thanks to Ohio State head coach Ryan Day for not just having Brown hand the ball off, as Brown was allowed to throw and completed the first touchdown pass of his career, as well as freshman Carnell Tate’s, to put the Buckeyes up 56-10 at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Yes, Brown did throw an interception, but that did not lead to any points by the Hilltoppers.
  • Similar to the quarterback position, the running back position has seemingly established a clear depth chart. TreVeyon Henderson is at the top, and the coaches clearly have a role for Chip Trayanum. Perhaps Miyan Williams is not fully healthy, as he was inserted into the game in the second half. And I was happy to see Evan Pryor get into the game late, after missing the entire 2022 season.
  • The offensive line, also a source of concern through the first two games of the season, played better. One sack allowed, the subsequent fumble, and some false start penalties, but overall, they played better than they did in the first two games. The upcoming trip to South Bend is going to be the offensive line’s biggest test so far for the 2023 season.

Following the game, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day stated,

“We wanted to build momentum into next week and everything was turned up in a big way so we need to get back to work...Notre Dame starts now. Usually, we start on Sunday. We’re starting to prepare tonight.”

Ohio State fans, “preseason football” is now over. It’s time to get ready for Notre Dame. Western Kentucky, thank you for coming - you were “just what the doctor ordered”.