COLUMBUS, Ohio — whereas many exterior this method have been ready to see No. 2 Ohio State unveil but one stronger offense in direction of an overmatched opponent, Buckeyes coach Ryan Day was ready for this: the sport when the passes weren’t crusing by the air with precision and ease to future NFL draft picks, when the offense needed to grind it out with the working sport and the protection made the distinction.
“That was one factor we spent a terrific deal of time inside the offseason saying, ‘we have to have the vitality to win ugly on offense, we have to cease the run on protection,'” Day acknowledged. “all of them rely the identical. And it is important to get your hands on out primarily based on who you are going in direction of, how do it is important win that sport? whereas you have gotten that versatility, man, it is going to repay down the road.”
Ohio State’s offense, which was No. 1 inside the nation final yr in effectivity, underwhelmed Saturday as in contrast with the lofty preseason expectations that pegged the Buckeyes as a sturdy favourite to finish inside the school soccer Playoff. With main vast receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba sidelined ensuing from an harm he suffered inside the predominant quarter, Ohio State struggled early in direction of a gritty Notre Dame protection.
The stopping Irish, led by widespread first-yr coach Marcus Freeman, a former Ohio State linebacker, acquired here into Ohio Stadium and earlier than an introduced crowd of 106,594 gave the Buckeyes all they might deal with till late inside the fourth quarter. Ohio State, which acquired video games final season by a imply margin of 29.1 factors, was held scoreless inside the second quarter and trailed 10-7 on the half.
It wasn’t till decrease than 5 minutes remaining inside the fourth quarter that Ohio State solidified the win — thanks largely to a 14-play, ninety five-yard drive that took 7:06 off the clock and gave the Buckeyes the 21-10 lead.
“We have been struggling early on, simply making an try to get a connection, making an try to assemble that rhythm, however in direction of the tip, we started to get it, started clicking extra,” acknowledged Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud, who accomplished 24 of 34 passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns. “it is style of bizarre being on the market as quickly as extra, to be honest, seeing the followers, dealing with all of the floor noise, simply making an try to lock in.”
inside the fourth quarter, Stroud accomplished 9 of 10 passes for 107 yards and a touchdown. whereas it wasn’t precisely a splashy, Heisman Trophy-worthy efficiency, he reminded all people of his playmaking expertise.
Ohio State entered this season as a consequence of the No. 2 crew after dropping to rival Michigan and ending No. 6 largely consequently of offensive firepower coming back from a crew that led the nation in scoring and yards per play final yr. The Buckeyes have a quantity of Heisman hopefuls, collectively with Stroud and working again TreVeyon Henderson, however when Smith-Njigba was injured inside the predominant quarter, the Buckeyes have been off-kilter early. final yr, Ohio State averaged 27.2 factors inside the predominant half, basically the most of any crew inside the FBS. The Buckeyes had seven Saturday evening time.
“Early video games are a little bit of bit clunky,” Day acknowledged, “and dropping Jaxon threw us off a little bit of bit.”
The protection, which was the draw again spot for Ohio State final yr, was the spotlight on Saturday. It was a sturdy debut for first-yr defensive coordinator Jim Knowles, who was employed from Oklahoma State. The Irish accomplished with 253 yards and punted on their final six possessions.
“We have been referred to as smooth all final yr, and we would have favored to take a seat there and simply eat,” Ohio State defensive again Lathan Ransom acknowledged.
Day acknowledged the toughness was one factor your whole crew was in search of to show.
“We needed to be typically referred to as one factor aside from merely proficient,” he acknowledged.
Notre Dame’s sport plan was to maintain onto the ball, administration the clock and hold the Buckeyes’ offense off the sector. The Irish have been in a place to try this inside the predominant quarter, however they accomplished with solely three of thirteen third-down conversions.
Day acknowledged he may see extra teams making an try to do the identical this fall however that he isn’t involved regarding the passing sport transferring forward. in the end, there have been completely different, lesser-acknowledged gamers who emerged for Ohio State, collectively with former stroll-on Xavier Johnson, whose 24-yard touchdown seize put Ohio State up 14-10 late inside the third quarter.
“i like these guys,” Johnson acknowledged, “so with my legs empty, with all that, none of that mattered. It was all for the crew and the glory of God.
“i used to be in place to do what i used to be coached to do.”
inside the future, all of them have been — even when it wasn’t pretty.
“it has been an infinite emphasis to win this style,” Day acknowledged. “And it begins with protection. you’ll possibly play actually good, sturdy protection like we performed tonight, and we’re in a place to run the soccer — all of us know we’ll throw the ball, all of us know that — however after we have to go the place we ought to be and attain our goals, we have to have the vitality to do these two issues.”