Overall, Buckeyes’ defense played well. Notre Dame managed to rack up 351 yards on the night, but Ohio State allowed just 14 points as they bent but did not break for the majority of the night. The main area of contention was once again the defensive line, as they failed to get really any pressure on Sam Hartman, but the secondary was strong. Guys like Sonny Styles and Lathan Ransom really stood out on the back end, and Denzel Burke was once again excellent.
Offensively, Ohio State looked a bit disjointed. It is uncharacteristic for a Ryan Day offense to muster just 17 points, but that final drive was really something special. Kyle McCord showed that he is capable of getting the job done when it matters most, as he was methodical and confident on the game-winning possession. While the third-and-short play-calling was again awful, the Buckeyes had a pretty solid mix of pass and run, and both were effective when put in a position to succeed.
Here is the good, the bad and the ugly from Ohio State’s victory over Notre Dame.
His stat line is nothing to write home about: six carries for 13 yards and a touchdown. But Ohio State trusted Chip Trayanum with the ball in his hands on third-and-1 with the game clock dwindling and no time outs remaining, and he delivered with a game-winning touchdown. Trayanum has been the Buckeyes’ most effective power back in the early goings of the season, and has been fantastic both carrying the rock and as a blocker. He likely could’ve had two scores in this game if OSU didn’t try to get cute on the goal line in the second quarter when a pass to Cade Stover failed on fourth down, but more on that later...
We talked about it after last week’s game as well, but TreVeyon Henderson finally looks fully healthy for the first time in a long time, and Ohio State is reaping the rewards. It was another stellar day on the ground for the junior, finishing the game with 14 carries for 104 yards and a long 61-yard touchdown to open up the third quarter and give the Buckeyes a two-score lead. Henderson has been taking what is available to him and not trying to make too much happen, but also playing smart and hesitant in finding the holes. He has made very few mistakes that led to negative yardage caused by his own decisions, and the home run-hitting ability has been on full display.
With so much attention on Marvin Harrison Jr., Emeka Egbuka got a chance to show out, and he made the most of it. Egbuka was a favorite target of Kyle McCord against Notre Dame, hauling in seven catches for a team-high 96 yards. He was officially credited with one drop, which came on a ball in the back of the end zone, but it would have been an easy touchdown on a better thrown ball as Egbuka had to get down to attempt the catch. It was a very Jaxon Smith-Njigba-type performance for Egbuka, as he did a fantastic job of getting open and finding the soft spots in the zone. When Ohio State needed a big play, it seemed like Egbuka was always there.
Xavier Johnson/Julian Fleming
I don't want to move on without acknowledging the unsung heroes of the game in Xavier Johnson and Julian Fleming, who both made key plays in this game in the fourth quarter.
With Notre Dame having just taken a lead, Johnson caught a quick slant and took it 40 yards on third-and-5 to prevent a quick three-and-out for Ohio State. The drive would stall out on Notre Dame’s 11-yard line, but it kept the Fighting Irish from completely taking over momentum had they scored to take the lead and then immediately forced the Buckeyes to punt.
Fleming, who only caught two passes for eight yards, made it count with one of the biggest plays of the night. Ohio State had gotten the ball to the Notre Dame side of the field with less than a minute to go, but a short pass and a pair of incompletions had the Buckeyes staring at 4th-and-7 with the game on the line. Fleming was able to work his way open over the middle, catch the pass and turn upfield enough to gain exactly the seven yards needed to keep Ohio State alive.
The Defensive Line
In what has become customary for this Ohio State defensive line, the Buckeyes finished the game with zero sacks and just three QB hurries — none of which were credited to a defensive end. The interior of the line was once again the strong suit, with Tyleik Williams the star of the show with one of those QB hurries in addition to a tackle for loss and a pass breakup, but the ends did virtually nothing in terms of rushing the passer. Jack Sawyer and J.T. Tuiomoloau have continued to underperform, and Larry Johnson continues to hamstring Jim Knowles’ defense by refusing to incorporate the Jack position despite LJ’s unit having no results to justify his input.
Marvin Harrison Jr.’s Injury
While Ohio State fans wanted to celebrate TreVeyon Henderson’s long touchdown run, the air was taken out of the sails when the camera cut back to Marvin Harrison Jr. laying on the ground in pay after getting inadvertently rolled up on during the play. It looked like it could have been really bad, and Harrison Jr. was taken to the medical tent putting very little pressure on the injured leg. Luckily, not too long later Harrison Jr. was showed jogging up and down the sideline, and would return to the game later on. Day said in his postgame that Marv likely sprained his ankle, so it will worth watching if it impacts the star receiver moving forward. Luckily, Ohio State now has its bye week to give MHJ some extra time to heal.
While it was nice to see him fired up both during his on-field interview and during the postgame presser — and also very funny that he called out 86-year-old Lou Holt for his pregame comments about Ohio State — it was once again a disasterclass for Day in the play-calling area.
So much of what the Buckeyes were trying to do made very little sense. It seemed like on every big third and fourth down, Day was drawing up a play for Cade Stover. No disrespect to Stover personally, but he is probably the team’s sixth-best pass-catching option on a good day. On the fourth down play at the goal line, neither Marvin Harrison Jr. nor Emeka Egbuka were even on the field for what turned out to be a bootleg intended for Stover. It is something we have seen consistently for Day in these big games, and it has never worked.
In addition, Ohio State got really predictable with all of the second down runs. It seemed like the Buckeyes ran the ball on pretty much every second down play, with very little in the form of play action to attempt to break that tendency. They also targeted Harrison Jr. far less than they should in a matchup of this magnitude. Even if Notre Dame was paying him extra attention, the Route Man has showed us week in and week out that he can make plays even if it looks like he is covered. You should probably make more of an attempt to get the ball in the hands of the best player in college football.