QUICK HITTER STORY/Relentless Ohio State feasts on four WKU turnovers, throttles Hilltoppers 63-10


COLUMBUS, Ohio — Western Kentucky forced a second-quarter strip sack on Ohio State quarterback Kyle McCord, and later put together a 75-yard touchdown drive to pull to within 14-10 of the sixth-ranked Buckeyes on a sun-splashed Saturday afternoon at Ohio Stadium.

Those were the highlights, for the Hilltoppers.

Ohio State struck for 35 points in the second quarter, using a quick-strike offense and a sturdy defense, to dismantle Western Kentucky 63-10. The Buckeyes, playing before a largely scarlet-and-gray crowd of 100,217, picked up a sense of momentum while remaining unbeaten in three games.

Ohio State is on the road next week to face unbeaten Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.

Western Kentucky dropped to 2-1 overall, heading into next week’s game against the Troy University Trojans in Troy, Alabama. Troy (1-1) was playing host to FCS James Madison University on Saturday night, and the Trojans rallied in the second half to knock off WKU 34-27 last year at Houchens-Smith Stadium.

Ohio State quarterback Kyle McCord turned in a strong performance, completing 19 of 23 passes for 318 yards and three touchdowns. The Buckeyes also finished with 204 yards rushing, while keeping WKU quarterback Austin Reed bottled up for most of the game.

Reed turned in solid games in the first two weeks of the season, decisive victories over South Florida and FCS Houston Christian, but he labored in the face of the Buckeyes’ pass rush. Reed completed 21 of 37 passes for 207 yards and the Hilltoppers’ only touchdown, a 2-yard scoring strike to WKU star receiver Malachi Corley midway through the second quarter.

That’s the score that made it 14-10, and that left the Buckeyes’ home crowd a bit unsettled. But Kyle McCord unleashed a 75-yard touchdown pass to OSU teammate Marvin Harrison, Jr., on the next play from scrimmage, and the Buckeyes would three more touchdowns before halftime.

Fifth-year WKU coach Tyson Helton gambled on a handful of fourth-down plays, rather than punting, in the first half, including a fourth-and-6 play when Reed threw into triple coverage before the ball fell incomplete. On the next play, Ohio State’s Chip Trayanum broke through the WKU defensive front and scored on a 40-yard run, and the rout was on.

“We came here to try to win … we played on the edge today,” Helton said. “We got in a funk, defensively, in the first half. They stopped us on fourth down, made us turn the ball over.

“I own 30 or 40 of those points out there … they belong to me. The scoreboard doesn’t look good, but I’m not going to play scared.

“I came here to try to win.”

Once the Buckeyes were comfortably in front, Helton ditched the riverboat gambler approach, and the Hilltoppers’ defense had its moments in the third quarter. But WKU, a 29.5-point underdog, was never in much of a position to trim that deficit to anything manageable.

Any way you slice it, it was a rough day at the office for the Hilltoppers.

“We knew it was going to be tough, for our offensive tackles, in pass protection,” Helton said. “Austin had to get rid of it pretty quickly … They got after us.

“Defensively, early on, they had us discombobulated … it was easy pitch-and-catch.”

Western Kentucky is now 0-11, all-time against Big Ten opponents. Indiana slipped past the Hilltoppers, 33-30, in overtime last season in Bloomington, Indiana.

Helton and his squad are turning their attention to next week’s game against Troy, before returning to Houchens-Smith Stadium to square off with longtime rival Middle Tennessee State on September 30.

It’s full speed ahead for Kyle McCord and the Buckeyes, who will square off with Notre Dame next Saturday in another nationally televised game.

“We had a really good week of practice,” McCord said, “and I think it showed. The biggest thing today is we ran the ball well. It stretches the field, and gives us a chance to throw deep.”

Or, as Tyson Helton put it, “At the end of the day, you pick your poison.”