Breaking Down Kyle McCord’s Passing Chart from Ohio State’s Win Against Michigan State in Primetime

By Josh Poloha on November 14, 2023 at 7:30 am
Kyle McCord

Have yourself a game, Kyle McCord.

McCord made it look easy throughout much of Ohio State's dominant 38-3 win over Michigan State Saturday night. He had career highs in completions (24) and yards (335), completed 77.4% of his passes and threw three touchdowns against the Spartans before being pulled for freshman Lincoln Kienholz at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

Keep in mind, this was against a Spartans defense that ranked 47th nationally in total defense and 57th in passing defense entering the game. Add in the fact that three of those incompletions were either throwaways or dropped passes and it adds to just how precise and accurate McCord was Saturday night in Columbus.

Although McCord completed only two passes on the first drive of the game, his focus and sharpness to begin the night was easy to notice. In the first half, McCord completed 21-of-25 passing (84%) for 263 yards and three touchdowns, matching a season-high in touchdowns and falling just 53 yards short of a season-high in passing yards in the first two quarters alone.

“That’s the kind of start we’ve been shooting for all year,” McCord said after the game. “Getting out of the gate, putting points up on the board and being consistent that entire half. (The coaches) took some of the starters out pretty early in that second half, but I think this was a pretty complete game.”

Two days after the game, Ryan Day praised his quarterback's fast start, something the Buckeyes have been looking for as the season has gone on.

"I think statistically in the first half it was (his best game). I thought we came out of the gates operating much more efficiently," Day said Monday night. "I thought Kyle made some good throws, made some plays in the red zone, a couple of third-downs."

Heading into Ohio State's final two games of the regular season, McCord seems to be playing his best football.

“I thought his feet moved better in the game,” Day said following the game. “Just watching the rhythm of the game, the feet – he started off a little better in the Rutgers game, then he started off a little better in this game – the game is slowing down for him. You’re beginning to see that happening. Not that it’s all perfect all the time, it’s not. But when his feet are right and he’s found the rhythm of the game, that’s when he’s playing at his best and he threw some really nice balls tonight.”

McCord agreed, while also crediting his offensive line for giving him time in the pocket, making things much easier for him.

"I felt like my footwork was definitely better today, and that’s something that we focused on during the week – a good base, having my weight distribution right," McCord said. "Then I think the O-line did a great job today as well in pass protection. ... I was able to step into the throws the way I wanted to."

His career-best night was a long time coming, as McCord has continued to prepare off the field in order to reach his full potential on the field all while fighting through ups and downs all while gaining more experience as the season goes on.

“The biggest thing is film study during the week,” McCord said. “I think when you put the work in, you put the hours in, that allows you the opportunity to go step on the field and play with confidence, play a step ahead and play with anticipation, which is extremely important at this level. Then I think the second part of the edge is having trust in yourself and the guys around you.”

To dive into how McCord performed in Ohio State's blowout win over Michigan State, we charted all 31 of his passing attempts in the game. (Note: The passing chart is categorized by how many yards the quarterback threw the ball in the air past the line of scrimmage on each attempt and whether the ball reached its target inside or outside the hashes, though the stats listed include yards gained after the catch on each completion.)

Kyle McCord's passing chart vs. Michigan State

McCord's 98.1 QBR against the Spartans was not only the best of his career but the third-best in the country this past week, behind only Toledo's Dequan Finn (99.5) and LSU's Jayden Daniels (98.9). McCord's 84.9 QBR through 10 games this season ranks No. 6 in the country and is the second-best rating in the Big Ten behind only Michigan's J.J. McCarthy (92.6).

McCord has learned to use his checkdown options more often in recent weeks as defenses have adjusted their schemes to prevent the long ball, as he threw just four passes over 20 yards through the air in the previous two games against Wisconsin and Rutgers. Against Michigan State, though, he completed three of four passes thrown 20 or more yards downfield for 108 yards and a touchdown. The three completions in that area of the field are the most McCord has had in a game since he completed three passes on six attempts of 20 or more yards for 112 yards a month ago at Purdue.

His four attempts (two completions for 49 yards and a touchdown) between 10-19 yards against Michigan State are his fewest throws in that area of the field since the win over Western Kentucky on Sept. 16, when McCord also threw only four intermediate passes. That said, he completed 15-of-16 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown within nine yards of the line of scrimmage, not including passes thrown behind the line of scrimmage. That's not only one of McCord's most efficient games of the season in that specific area of the field, but the 144 yards are the most in that part of the field since the season opener at Indiana, when McCord had 150 yards on passes thrown within nine yards of the line of scrimmage.

A look at McCord’s two best throws of the night and the three throws he’d probably like to have back:

Great throw: 26-yard touchdown to Marvin Harrison Jr.

Route Man Marv certainly made a great play here, no doubt, but don't discount McCord's throw. He dropped it right in the bucket and Harrison didn't have to break stride whatsoever to make his first of two touchdown catches.

Great throw: 18-yard touchdown to Cade Stover

The tight end made a great adjustment, proving why he's one of the best at his position in college football, but McCord threw it to a spot where only Stover could get it. Well done all around.

Bad throw: Kyle McCord overthrows Emeka Egbuka

McCord just can't connect with Egbuka on a comeback route near the sideline on what would have been about a 13-yard completion.

Bad read: Kyle McCord throws into double coverage, misses Marvin Harrison Jr.

McCord seems to have had his eyes locked in on Emeka Egbuka here. He not only throws into double coverage, but McCord also seems to have missed Harrison open (or at least much more open than Egbuka) in the end zone.

Bad throw: Kyle McCord underthrows Marvin Harrison Jr. in the endzone

As a quarterback, McCord knows he has to miss long/deep in the end zone here. The ball should be as close to the pylon and back of the end zone as possible. Instead, McCord short-arms it and Harrison can't catch a would-be touchdown due to that.

While McCord still wasn’t perfect against Michigan State, the junior seems to be gaining confidence with more experience under his belt. Through 10 games, McCord has now completed 191-of-288 passes (66.3%) for 2,687 yards, 20 touchdowns and four interceptions.

Dating back to halftime of the Wisconsin game just over two weeks ago, McCord has completed 50-of-64 passes (78.1%) for 610 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception over the last two-and-a-half games.

McCord’s passing chart for the full 2023 season:

Kyle McCord's passing chart through 10 games in 2023
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