BLOOMINGTON, Indiana (WCMH) — It wasn’t pretty but the No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes got the win in their season opener against Indiana.

Coach Ryan Day said quarterback Kyle McCord’s performance was “mixed bag” of good and bad but pointed at several areas of improvement for OSU’s first home game against Youngstown State next Saturday at noon.

Below are three takeaways from the Buckeyes’ season opener.

Kyle McCord era begins

In his second career start as a Buckeye, Kyle McCord had some good moments and plenty of moments to learn from. Let’s start with the positives. McCord completed 60% of his passes including two fourth-down conversions and led OSU to a touchdown after one was called back because Marvin Harrison Jr. stepped out of bounds before the catch.

The negatives: McCord threw an interception, misread a block that would’ve given him a rushing touchdown, and never got into a rhythm with his two future NFL receivers Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka.

“I thought in the third quarter, during those couple of drives, we got into a rhythm, he made some nice throws,” Day said. “I think it was a mixed bag overall. I’ve got to see if it was a mixed bag to the positive or the negative and that’s part of watching the film.”

On the interception, Ohio State was facing 4th and 2 from the Indiana 29-yard line. Day opted to go for it and ran a play designed for a quick pass in the flat. But the receiver was cut down, so McCord improvised and threw the ball across his body to the middle of the field where it was picked off. Ohio State would’ve turned the ball over anyway, so aggressiveness wasn’t the problem so much as it was McCord’s decision-making.

As for the missed touchdown, Day called a designed quarterback draw on 3rd and goal from the 4-yard line. McCord was supposed to follow Chip Trayanum’s block and veer right but instead went left and was tackled for no gain, forcing OSU to settle for a field goal.

Being out of rhythm with Harrison and Egbuka was a bit troublesome because Indiana lost three defensive backs throughout the course of the game. The two receivers combined for five catches for 34 yards. Early in the game, McCord opted to go for the deep ball to Julian Fleming in double coverage instead of taking the 15-yard underroute to Harrison. There were a few times throughout the game McCord tried to fit a throw into double coverage, so that will be a point of emphasis moving forward.

“Whenever you’re given the opportunity to play, it doesn’t matter if it’s one series or the whole game,” McCord said about not knowing how much he would play. “I think it’s just maximizing that opportunity every single snap, being locked into what we’re trying to do, be locked into what they’re trying to do on defense.”

Sophomore Devin Brown only played two series and one game with the game out of reach. It looks like Day will give McCord a long leash and see what Brown can do in what should be a lopsided game against the Penguins next week.

Short-yardage yips

Ohio State struggled mightily in short-yardage situations against the Hoosiers. The Buckeyes were an abysmal 2-for-12 on third down, but a closer look at that stat is even more concerning. Eight of those third-down attempts came from four yards or less of the first-down marker, but OSU only converted on two of them. That’s a 25% success rate. Day said OSU should convert on those situations “about 80% of the time.”

“We’ve got to play better situational football,” he said. “We’ve got to finish in the red zone, we’ve got to finish in short yardage and we’ve got to do a better job on third down. When we’re not [converting those], that puts us completely out of whack and that happened today. That can’t happen moving forward.”

As far as the red zone is concerned, Ohio State settled for two field goals inside the 20-yard line, and three if you extend the red zone just two yards. A 50% success rate in the red zone is far from acceptable for Day.

It’s unclear how much of those struggles came because of play calling, a relatively inexperienced offensive line, or simply lack of executive, but Day said they’d look at the film to determine where they went wrong in those situations.

Buckeyes’ lights-out defense

Ohio State’s defense had to hear about its lackluster performances against Michigan and Georgia for the past nine months. On Saturday, the Buckeyes took the first step in showing they’re not the same team from a season ago. Granted, Indiana’s passing attack, or lack thereof, will be one of the worst they face all season. But the Silver Bullets didn’t know who the Hoosiers quarterback was going to be and they definitely didn’t know Indiana was going to run the triple option out of the shotgun.

Watch Day’s full post-game press conference in the video player below.

“We can handle adversity real well. You can make adjustments off the field but I think being on the field and them coming out with the triple option . . . it’s part of the game,” defensive end J.T. Tuimoloau said. “As you just stay within your technique, stay within your plan, know what your cues are, you know you’ll do well.”

The Buckeyes wasted no time adjusting to the unfamiliar look and only allowed 153 yards of total offense. Indiana converted on just five of 15 third-down attempts as the Buckeyes forced four three-and-outs.

“We wanted to hold them to zero [points] honestly. Three is too much for us,” cornerback Denzel Burke said with a smile. We want to be a dominant defense, we want to be a dominant force. You know we want to bring the Silver Bullets back and we hope to show you guys these next 11 games coming up.”