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If This Were a Movie: Breaking down Ohio State’s mismanaged quarterback battle

Based on the inspiring true story of Ohio State at Indiana.

Ohio State v Indiana Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Each week, we’ll analyze the Ohio State game (and occasionally other games as well) through the lens of a sports movie. If this game were the next “Remember the Titans,” “Space Jam” or “The Sandlot,” 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.

Starting the season with a conference game already feels a bit like a movie, and when the football game starts off closer than anyone expects it to, you start to wonder if you’re dealing with an “Angels in the Outfield” situation.

Don’t get me wrong, I love “Angels in the Outfield,” but when my team is heavily favored with big hopes for the season ahead, I’m not hoping for the inspiring tale of an underdog.

For about half of yesterday’s football game between Ohio State and Indiana in Bloomington, I was biting my nails, half-expecting Indiana to take the lead, shift the momentum, and turn this into the next great DCOM (Disney Channel Original Movie, for those of you who weren’t raised on “Luck of the Irish”).

It doesn’t really matter who the experts favor if momentum favors the other guy, so when Indiana was within one score at the half, I was worried. Momentum seemed to favor them, their coach, players, and fans were electric, and even though the Buckeyes were ahead, those on the OSU side were brought down to earth by how close the game was.

Thankfully, the Buckeyes seemed to find a little more footing in the second half, so we’ll never see the DCOM about the underdog Hoosiers handing OSU its first season-opener loss since 1999. We’ll probably also never get a movie about OSU winning 28 consecutive games against Indiana (the most consecutive wins by any team against another single team in the country) because frankly, it’s a little boring.*

*If for some reason, filmmakers feel compelled to make the latter of these two movies, might I suggest Creed Batton as inspired casting for Indiana’s head coach Tom Allen.

No, in the end, the real Hollywood storyline was “McCord vs. Brown.”

(As an aside: I am legally obligated to clarify that in NO way am I implying that there is ill will between Kyle McCord and Devon Brown. Hollywood might take those creative liberties, but I won’t).

Because the real story of this game wasn’t how close it was. There were no surprise standout guys that no one was expecting to hear from. There was just down-in-the-dirt football, with two guys getting a chance at the helm, both pretty lacklusterly if we’re being honest.

I went into this game nervous about our quarterback options, and frankly, this weekend didn’t do much to ease my nerves in reality. I don’t love that we don’t have a quarterback who can run the ball, something that OSU has been able to weaponize over the last few years, even in small doses. While the assumption has been that Brown is the better athlete of the two and capable of running the ball, his one attempt on a designed quarterback run on Saturday was less than inspiring.

Regardless, we’re here now. We knew going into the game that Ryan Day would favor junior Kyle McCord, the more senior of the two options, for the starting job. We also knew we’d see sophomore Devin Brown step in, with most of us expecting to see him take substantial reps.

Now remember, we’re not watching the game with real-life glasses on. We’re watching them with IMAX 3D glasses. And given the nature of how the game went down, the movie would be told from McCord’s point of view.

Picture the story through the eyes of a Hollywood producer: We see a young McCord dreaming of being an elite football player. He’s under a tremendous amount of pressure competing for a starting spot at a school where that starting spot could very well secure your professional future.

Add to this the lofty expectations of a coaching staff and fanbase who are used to having Heisman-caliber quarterbacks, and the stakes are high.

We’d get heartwarming music as McCord finally gets his opportunity to take the field as the starter, only to see him throw an interception at an inopportune time against a team he should easily be blowing out.

That moment came in the second quarter when McCord tried to throw across his body on 4th and 2 deep in Indiana territory and was picked.

Devin Brown went into the game on the Buckeyes’ next drive.

Ohio State v Penn State Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

In the world of cinema, Brown had a golden opportunity to prove he should be QB1 in this moment, to capitalize on McCord’s mediocre showing and go lights out for the rest of the game; to create a Wally Pip moment.

But alas, Brown went three and out on his first drive, and shortly after, McCord was back.

Perhaps Hollywood could help us make sense of Day’s logic here, because I’m not following. Giving Brown one drive with no passing opportunities before yanking him simply does not compute for me (nor does most of the Buckeyes’ play calling throughout this game).

I don’t think we learned enough about Brown in that one drive to even see what he is capable of, and I don’t think Day did his confidence any favors long-term. If Brown was good enough for Day to indicate on Tuesday that he was good enough to get substantial playing in the game, what possibly could have changed by Saturday?

But in the end, McCord would get his happy ending (at least for this week). He goes back in and finishes the game 20-for-33 for 239 yards, leading his team to victory.

It’s important to remember that this game could be a standalone film, but this was also the first game of the season. So perhaps this was just setting the stage for a longer arc where McCord starts slow and then lights it up over the course of the whole season, similar to what C.J. Stroud did in 2021.

Alternatively, Hollywood loves a franchise. So we could also have Part 2 where Brown could get a whole film where he gets to shoot his shot. Or we could get a whole “Fast and the Furious”-type series full of McCord victories, speed (probably courtesy of OSU’s running backs and receivers), and Brutus as Vin Diesel.

But after Week 1, it’s looking a little less “Fast and the Furious” and a little more “Alien vs. Predator” in that chaos ensued and we’re not really sure who the winner is here.

Technically the Buckeyes are, but it was a win that didn’t feel like the wins we’re used to. Let’s hope it’s setting us up for a Hollywood ending down the road, instead of setting our opponents up to come out on top.