Breaking Down Kyle McCord’s Performance From Ohio State’s Loss to Michigan in Ann Arbor

By Josh Poloha on November 28, 2023 at 7:30 am
Kyle McCord

Kyle McCord wasn’t necessarily bad against Michigan.

In fact, if we were to leave a review of his overall performance, it would likely be labeled as “above average,” as McCord was good throughout more than 2.5 quarters of the game. But it was his two interceptions – the only two turnovers of the game – that proved costly and were the difference makers in Ohio State's loss against Michigan in Ann Arbor last Saturday, the Buckeyes' third straight loss to the Wolverines.

Whether it was nerves or just trying to find his rhythm, McCord struggled early on, completing just four of his 10 passes for 47 yards. One of those non-completions was a throw to Marvin Harrison Jr. that was intercepted on the Buckeyes' third possession of the game, giving Michigan the ball inside the 10-yard line. The Wolverines scored the game’s first touchdown four plays later, a deficit that Ohio State never fully overcame as it would never take the lead in the game.

Following that interception, McCord completed six consecutive passes and 10 of his next 11 attempts overall for 138 yards and a touchdown, finding his groove in the middle third of the game. But then he completed just four of his final nine attempts, with his last throw of the game being a game-clinching interception for Michigan, his second of the day. Although each of McCord's final six completions went for at least 14 yards, with three going for at least 21 yards, it wasn't enough for the Buckeyes to get a win in Ann Arbor.

“Games like this come down to one or two plays, and you prepare all offseason, you prepare all year long and your season really comes down to a handful of plays, whether you make them or you don't,” McCord said after the game. “The margins of error, especially in games like this, are slim. So obviously, not the result we wanted.”

To dive into how McCord performed in Ohio State's first loss of the season at Michigan, we charted all 30 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 at Michigan

McCord had an 89.4 QBR and 144.5 passer rating (his worst since the Penn State game five weeks prior) against Michigan. For comparison's sake, J.J. McCarthy had a 94.5 QBR last weekend. McCord finishes the regular season with an 89.4 QBR, the third-best mark in the Big Ten, behind Maryland's Taulia Tagovailoa (96.0) and McCarthy (94.5) and No. 17 in the FBS.

After completing just 10 throws over 20 yards the previous four games, McCord had his most productive game of the season with the deep ball. In total, he completed six of nine passes thrown at least 20 yards for 171 yards, all of which were career-highs in that area of the field.

That said, it was also McCord's second game of the season that he didn't complete a single pass between 10-19 yards, with the win over Youngstown State in Week 2 being the only other time he went 0-fer in the intermediate part of the field. McCord's second interception of the game, which was thrown between the hash marks in that intermediate part of the field, was an area in which McCord has struggled to find any consistency all season, completing only 33% of his passes between the hash marks 10-19 yards down the field.

After completing a career-high 9-of-14 play-action passes for 132 yards and a touchdown against Minnesota the previous week, McCord completed 5-of-7 such passes for 85 yards, one touchdown and an interception against the Wolverines. It was his second-fewest play-action pass attempts of the season.

A closer look at his best and worst throws against Michigan:

Bad throw: Kyle McCord underthrows a wide-open Marvin Harrison Jr. on a stop route

If McCord is able to complete the pass to Harrison, it goes for at least 10 yards and a first down, at the very least. Instead, it's incomplete and the Buckeyes are forced to punt on 4th-and-1 three plays later.

Worst throw: Kyle McCord's first interception of the game

This one is really tough to figure out. Whether it was forcing Harrison the ball, not seeing the defensive back, a poorly thrown ball or a combination of all of that, this was one of McCord's worst throws of the season and one that he would love to have back because it changed the rest of the game entirely.

“If I could have it back, obviously, probably just want to run that one in the ground and live to see the next play, because we put our defense in a tough situation there,” McCord said following the game.

While Michigan cornerback Will Johnson made a good play, Day agreed that it wasn't a good start (or throw) on Ohio State's third possession of the game.

“Not a good start," Day said. "You want to have a quick start. The kid made a nice play ... Will Johnson jumped inside on a slant.”

Good throw: Back-shoulder completion to Marvin Harrison Jr.

There's just something about a wonderfully thrown back-shoulder pass. McCord did just that and completed a 24-yard pass to Harrison.

Bad throw: Kyle McCord underthrows Cade Stover on what could have potentially been a touchdown

Another underthrow, another what-if pass. Instead of a potential touchdown, McCord throws an incomplete pass to Stover that could have been intercepted if Stover didn’t break it up.

Good throw: 32-yard completion to Cade Stover

On the second play after Michigan took a 14-3 lead, McCord connected with Stover in stride for his second-longest pass play of the game.

Good throw: Kyle McCord moves up in the pocket, finds Marvin Harrison Jr. for 44 yards

McCord used his legs to move up in the pocket and throws a deep ball on which Harrison makes a miraculous catch while getting tackled for a 44-yard completion.

Bad throw: Kyle McCord throws behind a wide-open Chip Trayanum

Immediately following that completion to Harrison, McCord throws behind Trayanum underneath on what would have likely been a completion for at least 10 yards.

Biggest What-If Throw of the Season: Kyle McCord throws a game-clinching interception

This one is hard to blame solely on McCord, which is what makes this so tough. If he wasn't getting hit and had a little bit more time, this could very well have been a touchdown to Harrison, giving the Buckeyes the lead with less than 30 seconds remaining. What if, should've, could've....whatever. But this one is tough to watch on replay given what could have been.

In the 2023 regular season, McCord's first full season leading Ohio State's offense, the junior completed 229-of-348 passes (65.8%) for 3,170 yards, 24 touchdowns and six interceptions while leading the Buckeyes to an 11-1 record.

Here's McCord's passing chart throughout the 2023 season:

Kyle McCord's passing chart through 12 games 2023
View 173 Comments