Defense Wins the Day As Gray Defeats Scarlet, 40-31, in Ohio State’s 2023 Spring Game

By Dan Hope on April 15, 2023 at 2:01 pm
Ryan Turner tackles Kaleb Brown
Barbara J. Perenic/Columbus Dispatch/USA TODAY Network

The defense won the day in Ohio State’s 2023 spring game.

Kyle McCord and Tristan Gebbia both got out to slow starts on Saturday as the Gray defense held Scarlet out of the end zone for nearly the entire first half with the exception of a 65-yard Chip Trayanum touchdown run. In a spring game that functioned as an offense vs. defense scrimmage with the defense receiving points for 3-and-outs, takeaways, sacks and forced punts, Gray took a 26-10 lead into halftime and went on to win the game 40-31, with the day’s only two touchdown passes coming in the fourth quarter.

  Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4  
SCARLET 3 7 7 14 31
GRAY 7 19 8 6 40

The defense started the game with three points as the Gray side forced a 3-and-out on the game’s opening series. McCord went 0-for-2 on the game’s opening drive as his pass intended for Cade Stover was nearly intercepted by C.J. Hicks on 3rd-and-7.

Gray scored two points on the Scarlet side’s second series, which also ended in a punt. The initial first down of the day came courtesy of a Gebbia completion to Kyion Grayes but a pair of off-target deep throws by Gebbia would doom the drive.

McCord’s first completion of the day came on the first-team offense’s second drive of the game when he connected with his former high school teammate Marvin Harrison Jr. for 21 yards. Another deep connection between McCord and Harrison for 36 yards later in the drive got the Scarlet side to the Gray 22-yard line. But the offense would end up settling for a 40-yard field goal attempt, which Jayden Fielding missed wide right, after a drop by Cade Stover and a pass breakup by Denzel Burke on a third-down McCord pass intended for Tate.

Kenyatta Jackson added two more points for the defense, making it 7-0, when he was credited with a sack on the game’s fourth series. The Scarlet team finally got on the board with its first three points of the day when Parker Lewis made a 38-yard field goal after a strong tackle by Ryan Turner stopped Kaleb Brown short of the line-to-gain on 3rd-and-3.

Tyleik Williams extended the Gray lead to 13-3 on the opening series of the second quarter with a sack that forced a 3-and-out and a punt, totaling six more points for the defense. Another 3-and-out forced by the defense against Gebbia and the second-team offense on the next series gave Gray a traditional two-touchdown lead two possessions into the second quarter.

The defense continued to stretch its lead on the next series as Hicks recorded a sack and Burke  notched his second drive-ending pass breakup of the day on a fourth-down McCord deep ball intended for Jayden Ballard. Another 3-and-out for the second-team offense on the next possession gave Gray a 20-point lead.

Ballard turned in the catch of the day to get the Scarlet offense across midfield on the next drive when he made a one-handed snag at the sideline while getting a foot down in bounds. The Scarlet left the field without points again, though, when a McCord deep ball on 4th-and-7 intended for Tate fell incomplete with Jyaire Brown providing tight coverage.

The first touchdown of the day finally came with 1:39 to play in the first half when Trayanum broke free for his 65-yard touchdown run, cutting the Gray lead to 23-10.

McCord got away with another near-interception on his final attempt of the first half when he forced a throw intended for Jelani Thurman into double coverage, with the ball going off of Sonny Styles’ hands. That third down incompletion forced the Scarlet side to punt again, making the score 24-10. A sack by Hero Kanu on the final play of the first half made the score 26-10 Gray at halftime.

For the first half as a whole, McCord went 11-of-22 for 114 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. Harrison led all Buckeye receivers with three catches for 62 yards, while Cody Simon and Davison Igbinosun tied for the first-half lead with five tackles each.

The defense picked up where it left off to start the second half as Hicks broke in front of another McCord pass for his second near-interception of the day, forcing another 3-and-out with the pass breakup.

Walk-on cornerback Cameron Kittle was the next to break up a pass on a near-interception on Gebbia’s first drive of the second half, forcing another 3-and-out to extend the Gray lead to 32-10.

The Scarlet offense’s second touchdown of the day would be a ceremonial one when two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin checked into the game to take a handoff and ran 25 yards to the end zone for a score.

Gebbia made one of the best throws of the day on the next series when he threw a deep ball exactly where it needed to be for Grayes to catch a 31-yard touchdown pass, but the redshirt freshman wide receiver was unable to haul in the throw with Turner in coverage, resulting in no points for the offense.

The first touchdown pass of the day finally came on the first play of the fourth quarter when McCord completed a 37-yard deep ball to Tate, with the true freshman beating Jyaire Brown in coverage.

A pair of three-and-outs on the next two possessions would help secure the win for the Gray squad. The Scarlet would get on the board for another touchdown, though, when Noah Rogers caught a pass over the middle from Tristan Gebbia and took it all the way to the end zone for a 57-yard touchdown, cutting the Gray lead to 40-31 with 2:02 to play.

Mason Maggs entered the game at quarterback for the Scarlet’s final series but was unable to lead the offense to points before the clock expired.

McCord finished the game with 18 completions on 34 attempts for 184 yards and a touchdown while Gebbia finished with 14 completions on 24 attempts for 127 yards and a touchdown. Trayanum finished as the leading rusher with 110 yards while Rogers finished as the leading receiver with 64 yards. Gabe Powers led all defenders with eight tackles.

Hicks and Styles each finished the game with six tackles and two pass breakups, with Hicks adding a tackle for loss. Kanu had five total tackles with two tackles for loss and a sack.

Game Notes

  • Twelve players were officially designated as unavailable for Saturday’s game: Emeka Egbuka, Julian Fleming, Xavier Johnson, Evan Pryor, TC Caffey, TreVeyon Henderson, Devin Brown, Avery Henry, Kourt Williams, Mitchell Melton, Steele Chambers and Tommy Eichenberg. Other players who were held out of the game due to injuries included Will Smith Jr., Caleb Burton, Reis Stocksdale, Cayden Saunders and Ja’Had Carter.
  • With Scarlet always on offense and Gray always on defense, Saturday’s scrimmage featured a modified scoring format for the defense, which received three points for takeaways, three points for three-and-outs, two points for sacks and one point for forced punts along with the opportunity to score defensive touchdowns.
  • The starting lineup for the Scarlet offense: QB Kyle McCord, RB Miyan Williams, WR Marvin Harrison Jr., WR Carnell Tate, WR Jayden Ballard, TE Cade Stover, LT Josh Fryar, LG Donovan Jackson, C Carson Hinzman, RG Matt Jones, RT Zen Michalski
  • The starting lineup for the Gray defense: DE Jack Sawyer, DE JT Tuimoloau, DT Tyleik Williams, DT Ty Hamilton, LB Cody Simon, LB C.J. Hicks, CB Denzel Burke, CB Jordan Hancock, S Cameron Martinez, S Josh Proctor, S Lathan Ransom
  • Marvin Harrison Jr. and Paris Johnson Jr. were honored during the first quarter for their unanimous and consensus All-American honors while Garrett Wilson was honored for his NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award between the first and second quarters.
  • 75,422 fans was the announced attendance for Saturday’s scrimmage.

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