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Ohio State starts slow, but picks up the slack in second half

The Buckeyes defeat Indiana in the season opener, 23-3.

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Indiana Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t the prettiest first half by any means, but considering the many new players on both sides of the ball are still acclimating and kinks being worked out, a 10-3 lead into halftime could’ve certainly been a lot worse.

On a positive note, TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams look 100% healthy, and both ripped off solid chunk plays of yardage at times in open space. Tack on two red-zone rushing touchdowns, and it appears the running back room is on an already upward trajectory.

Not enough credit is given to tight end Cade Stover. Still, it has become increasingly clear that he is a valuable weapon for the offense, being Kyle McCord or Devin Brown’s security blanket when the receivers are not open. His presence was felt so far through one game.

The offensive line is a work in progress, and you can tell by how the run blocking looked at times. They aren’t getting off quickly enough upon the snap. Other than Josh Fryar and Donovan Jackson, you have three entirely new linemen adjusting to game speed and reps. It’s going to take some serious time for them to gel, so it’s relieving to know Youngstown State and Western Kentucky are the opponents over the next two weeks and not Notre Dame. This will be the position group to monitor the most moving forward.

McCord showed signs of promise and potential, but also revealed areas of needed improvement. For the most part, McCord was on the money completing his throws on target. He did throw one interception, but it appears that ball was intended elsewhere, yet his primary receiver was tripped up on the play resulting in McCord having to go through his second and third reads.

Throwing for 239 yards on the day isn’t a bad feat for your very first career start. Decision-making can improve, but there’s no doubt he can sling the rock and move the chains when needed. Like with the offensive line, McCord will need more time to prove his worth, and with the best skill players in the country, he should get better.

Expect Brown to also get playing time, so don’t discount him entirely out of the picture just yet. This is a fascinating quarterback battle that still needs to be decided, so perhaps the extra pressure from Week 1 will propel one or the other in the right direction.

On an even brighter note, the defense was, by far, the strongest unit of the game. The defensive line wasn’t allowing much to get past them on the ground, linebackers were executing dropping back in coverage and tackling well, and the secondary was limiting receivers getting open and preventing them from putting up significant yardage. Only once did Indiana get inside field goal range, resulting in the Hoosiers’ only three points.

Otherwise, every drive either stalled or fell just short. The amount of speed and physicality displayed on defense thus far was most impressive, indicating good depth at every position. This may be their best defense in years, so if what we saw on Saturday continues, this could be a force to be reckoned with later in the year.

Special teams was another unit that looked not too shabby either. On punt and kickoff returns in the first half, they were giving up too many yards, but that eventually changed when the second half rolled around. Tackling and the time it took to get to the returner increased, further pinning the Hoosiers deeper into their territory.

Meanwhile, Jayden Fielding was perfect on kicking the ball, sinking both field goal attempts. As it stands, OSU has a reliable kicker, and that can never hurt when your offense is still sorting through things early on.

All in all, despite a shaky first game of the regular season, there were nonetheless still positives to come out of it. Winning by 20 points in a game such as this one is not the worst thing in the world. Historically speaking, OSU tends to be rougher around the edges this early in the season, so the rust should wear off some more when Youngstown State comes into town next weekend for a noon kickoff Saturday on Big Ten Network.