Football player carries the ball between 2 tacklers
Ohio State tight end Cade Stover lowers his shoulder between two tacklers at Indiana on Saturday, Credit: Photo courtesy of The Ohio State University

The overreactions are as hot as the Labor Day weekend grills across central Ohio today.

Ohio State’s lackluster showing in a 23-3 win at Indiana Saturday has set off a firestorm of panic among a fanbase spoiled with wild success.

Coach Ryan Day’s team was a 30-point favorite against a school it hasn’t lost to since 1988. But the Buckeyes looked nowhere near as impressive as the third-ranked team they’re supposed to be.

The following photos are courtesy of The Ohio State University.

In fact, a drop in the college football rankings is almost certain this week — and it’s deserved.

But subpar showings in openers, especially with first-year starting quarterbacks are fairly common. Put that setting on the road against a Big Ten opponent and Saturday’s outing shouldn’t be so surprising among realists.

Ah, but we’re talking about Ohio State football here. Reality is frequently an elusive element in the conversation.

It’s true, junior quarterback Kyle McCord was mediocre-at-best against a bad Indiana defense. Going 20-of-33 passing for 239 yards, 0 TDs and 1 INT isn’t going to get it done — especially with two first-round NFL Draft picks starting at receiver.

photo of man with sports coat and tie
Larry Phillips is the editor of Richland Source, Ashland Source and Knox Pages.

That was probably the most disappointing aspect of an unsettling day. Marvin Harrison Jr. (2 catches for 18 yards) and Emeka Egbuka (3 catches for 16 yards) combined for 34 yards.

There’s no excuse for that.

Lexington grad Cade Stover was really the lone bright spot in an otherwise subpar passing game.

Stover had 5 catches for 98 yards, including a 49-yard reception — the lone explosive play for the Buckeyes all day.

The running game wasn’t any better.

No running back cracked 60 yards, and the Buckeyes gained just 143 yards on 31 carries (4.6 avg.). Not a single running play went for 20 yards or more.

Offensively, Ohio State managed just 380 yards against a team that figures to be an underdog in every Big Ten game it plays.

There’s no excuse for that either.

But there were some positives.

The Ohio State defense seemed aggressive. The Buckeyes allowed Indiana just 8 first downs and only 153 yards of total offense.

That’s solid no matter the quality of foe.

It’s easy to say nothing can be learned in the next two weeks either, as cannon fodder Youngstown State and Western Kentucky roll into Columbus.

And the cries for backup quarterback Devin Brown will probably only grow. Brown still hasn’t taken a meaningful snap at Ohio State, but message board warriors are already insisting he’s the savior of a sluggish offense.

No one has seen enough of Brown to draw that conclusion — including Ryan Day. But that’s something that can be corrected in these next two games.

Clearly by the time Ohio State travels to South Bend on Sept. 23, some answers need to be found — or reality will bite hard in that matchup at Notre Dame.

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I've lived in Richland County since 1990, married here, our children were born here. This is home. I have two books published on a passion topic, Ohio high school football. Others: Buckeyes, Cavs, Bengals,...