After each Ohio State game during the 2022 football season, LGHL will offer its market analysis of the Buckeyes’ performance. Using a standard bond rating system, we’ll evaluate the offense, the defense, and the special teams, according to this formula:
AA: Very Strong
BB: Facing Major Uncertainty
Then, we’ll take a look at any individual players whose performance stood out (in one way or another!) and assign them a stock rating: Blue Chip, Solid Performance, Penny Stock (akin to a junk bond, dangerously high risk).
Opening games usually hold some surprises, and this one sure did. We probably expected the Ohio State offense to overwhelm the Irish, scoring quickly and often. They didn’t. We had questions about the new defense, questions that were largely answered Saturday night.
Notre Dame played conservatively, making C.J. Stroud throw in front of their safeties, preventing big plays. It was a good plan, by a solid defense. Stroud had a decent game, but his 6.6 yards per passing attempt were the lowest of his career. The Buckeyes eventually managed to mix the short passing game with a significant running attack and controlled the ball in the second half, but it took a while to find the rhythm.
Meanwhile, the OSU defense gave up several big plays (usually great catches on the parts of Irish receivers) but otherwise held firm, very firm, in fact.
The complaints that we had last year about physical toughness and about line play on both sides of the ball have been laid to rest — at least for this week. Ohio State took on a very tough Notre Dame team, a physical team with athletes capable of making big plays — and of preventing big plays — and out-toughed them. Not the win that we might have been expecting, but a huge win nonetheless.
Overall rating: A Strong
OSU’s first offensive possession — which included one run, a couple of poorly thrown balls, and a sack — certainly raised some misgivings. Then, No. 1 wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba was injured and missed several series; things weren’t looking great. But the Bucks scored a touchdown on their second drive, on a nice catch and run by Emeka Egbuka to take a 7-3 lead.
However, Stroud continued to be a little off. Coach Ryan Day seemed hesitant to trust the running game that Notre Dame was all but ignoring, and, after missing a late first-half field goal attempt, OSU went into the halftime locker room trailing 10-7. The third game in a row that the Buckeyes had lost the first half.
The halftime statistics told the sad story: 7 first downs, 50 rushing yards, 99 passing yards, and 3 minutes less possession time than the Irish. Not counting the final knee, Ohio State had five first-half possessions: 3 punts, the missed FG, and the TD.
The second half told an entirely different story, however, as new heroes emerged for the Buckeyes, and the team was able to dominate (sort of). The second half witnessed 15 OSU first downs (4-of-6 on third down attempts), 122 rushing yards, 124 passing yards, and almost 20 minutes of possession.
The key Buckeye drive came on their fourth possession in the second half. With a scant 14-10 lead, the Bucks drove 95 yards on 14 plays to make the lead a double-figure one, 21-10. The drive was a classic late-game mix of pass and run, and it ran more than seven minutes off the clock.
Last year, the Buckeyes seemed unable to seal games with such drives. And even on their final drive, the Bucks looked strong, picking up a couple of vital first downs to claim the win. As the second half wore on, the Irish were beaten, unable to compete physically with Ohio State.
For the game, the Bucks ran 69 snaps to the Irish’s 48. There weren’t any really big plays; the longest passing play was the 31-yard TD pass to Egbuka; TreVeyon Henderson’s 16-yard carry the Bucks’ longest run. Henderson and Miyan Williams had 29 carried between them, and neither of them lost a yard all night. Ball control is a new wrinkle, and in this game, it worked.
Overall rating: AA Very Strong
Notre Dame ran for a touchdown to take the lead at 11:56 of the second quarter. It was their last score, as the Buckeye defense shut them out for the bulk of the final three quarters. For the game, the Bucks stuffed the Irish running game, which gained a total net of only 76 yards, a measly 23 in the second half.
ND did manage to rack up 177 total passing yards, mostly on three long plays (including the first play from scrimmage, which went for 54). In the second half, though, they had only 49 through the air. The Irish punted on eight of their 10 possessions, including their final six, and all four second-half possessions. That’s dominance.
We were curious to see how new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles’ defense would do against a quality opponent, now we know. With a risky corner blitz, it got burned on the first play (yeah, a missed tackle too), that is going to happen from time to time. But, the line was dominant, stopping running plays for losses or short gains regularly and sacking quarterback Tyler Buchner three times.
The defense was led by a number of strong performances: Tommy Eichenberg, Cameron Brown, and Michael Hall to name a few.
Overall rating: BB Adequate
Well, Noah Ruggles missed his only field goal attempt, and Egbuka let a couple of punts roll a long way instead of making a fair catch. But the punting? It was wonderful — and, in this defensive game, extremely important. Jesse Mirco punted five times for the Bucks and averaged a respectable 45 yards per kick. More importantly, however, he put four of the five inside the Irish 20, and they started possessions deep in holes that they couldn’t climb out of. Field position was largely owned by the Bucks.
Xavier Johnson: Who? We saw him shine in the spring game, but certainly didn’t expect him to play much against Notre Dame, and we certainly didn’t expect him to be a star. But with JSN out of the game, Johnson got his chance. On a rare time when ND ran their safeties up, Johnson broke free over the middle and caught a nicely thrown ball for a touchdown. Then, to punctuate his success, Johnson made the tackle at the Notre Dame 15 on the following kickoff. Well done. I guess that we’ll be seeing more of Xavier Johnson, especially if Smith-Njigba and Julian Fleming are out for extended periods of time.
Miyan Williams. I’ve always liked Williams, and he looked especially strong in the second half against the Irish. He had 84 yards rushing, 64 after halftime, and his short touchdown run capped the Bucks’ 95-yard drive. Williams’s hard running is a nice complement to Henderson’s breakaway speed, and I would hope that we’ll continue to see them used in tandem.
Michael Hall. Again, here’s a player that at least I didn’t expect to stand out as much in this opener. His stats for the contest read like this: 4 total tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack, but throughout the game, Hall clogged the middle, stopping the run. And on passing plays, he often got around his blocker(s) to pressure Buchner.
Tommy Eichenberg. In Knowles’ defense, we’re going to see more blitzes. Which means that we’re going to see more of Tommy Eichenberg getting to opponents’ quarterbacks. He had two sacks last night and three tackles for loss.
C.J. Stroud. No, Stroud didn’t put up gaudy numbers like in the Rose Bowl. But he completed just over 70% of his passes, and he didn’t make major mistakes. He just did what he had to in order to win. He did force a couple of passes, and he misfired on some more, but after the first drive, he avoided sacks and kept plays alive. He had no turnovers. He just won.
Marvin Harrison, Jr. He didn’t have as many yards as Egbuka, but Harrison was the go-to guy in the second half to keep the drives alive, to control the ball and clock.
Jesse Mirco. See above. In a game like this one, a punter is a weapon. And Jesse Mirco was very effective.
Dawand Jones. Probably not fair to put Jones here, since, by and large, he did a good job, — on running plays especially. But he had three crucial false start penalties looking to get out of his stance early to block ND’s speed rush. In a tight game, when possession and field position are vitally important, such penalties can be killers.
The Notre Dame game was a big recruiting night for Ohio State. Many prospective players from the 2023, 2024, and even the 2025 classes were in attendance. They watched a tough Ohio State team beat a very good, No. 5-ranked team; they saw 100-year-old Ohio Stadium at its best. Let’s hope that they’re ready to commit and climb onto this big stage.