K.J. Hill knew something was off.
Early in the second quarter of Ohio State’s 42-0 win over Cincinnati on Saturday, Hill was lined up as the slot receiver when he approached Kyriq McDonald, a safety for the Bearcats.
Hill needed to block McDonald. After a handoff in the backfield, running back J.K. Dobbins was headed in their direction.
Then McDonald shook his head.
“At first, I thought he was trying to intimidate me,” Hill said. “People do that in football all the time.”
But there was too much wobbling.
Hill had moved within 2 yards of McDonald before he stopped short of blocking him. McDonald was having a seizure and collapsed onto the Ohio Stadium turf.
As he recalled the sequence Tuesday afternoon, Hill said he was able to recognize the episode because his grandma has had seizures.
“I just kept going with the play,” Hill said, “but at the same time, I was a little shook.”
Dobbins ran for a gain of 24 yards before trainers stepped onto the field, pausing the game for about five minutes, in order to treat McDonald, who was seen shaking at times while on the field.
During the rest of Dobbins’ run, Hill kept thinking about McDonald’s fall.
“I knew after the play that someone needed to come to him,” he said.
Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell told reporters this week that McDonald had been cleared by doctors to return to the team, but they had more decisions to make about his long-term health.
McDonald, a third-year sophomore, had transferred from Alabama this summer and was granted immediate eligibility by the NCAA. He had a tackle in the opener against UCLA.
Teague coming on
Among Buckeyes running backs, Master Teague III has the second-most carries, behind Dobbins.
Through two games, Teague has rushed for 109 yards on 19 carries, including 60 yards on 11 carries against the Bearcats.
Coach Ryan Day suggested Teague’s role could grow after he was limited for most of preseason training camp.
“If he can continue to practice the way that he has the last couple weeks, I think he's going to only improve as he goes on,” Day said. “We'll feel more comfortable with him handling more snaps in the game.
“It's clear to see once he gets a momentum going, he can run through contact. That's what we're looking for.”
Teague is a physical runner, listed at 5 feet 11 and 220 pounds.
In the previous two seasons, with Day in place as the offensive coordinator, a feature of Ohio State’s passing game involved crossing routes over the middle of the field.
They have been less visible through two games.
Day attributed the infrequency to quarterback Justin Fields’ inexperience, and the routes could be added to subsequent game plans.
“When the time is right, we'll use them,” Day said.
Hill proposed another reason: Opposing defenses had seen enough of the crossing routes in previous seasons that they have placed an emphasis on stopping them.
“It’s the same offense — people are just prepared for those things,” Hill said.
Ohio State was penalized 116 times last season, more than any other team in the Football Bowl Subdivision. That averaged out to 8.3 penalties per game.
This season, the Buckeyes have been penalized nine times, an average of 4.5 per game. Only 27 FBS teams have been penalized less often.