Are you still clenching your fists and gritting your teeth from the stress of last night’s 17-14 win by Ohio State over Notre Dame? I’m glad I didn’t have one of those heart monitors hooked up to me in the second half because it certainly would have been off the charts. Buckeye fans have seen games play out like that over the past few years and Ohio State ending up on the losing side — most notably CFP losses to Clemson and Georgia — so it was great to see Ohio State end up on the winning side of a close game.
Last night was one we won’t forget any time soon. Not only because of how the Buckeyes won, but also just because it was a really strange game. It felt like nobody was immune to the odd by the time it was all said and done. I figured a fun way to wrap up the win would be to take a look at all of the strange that happened in South Bend.
Ohio State’s 20-point streak ends
By scoring only 17 points last night, Ohio State saw their streak of 77 games where they scored at least 20 points end. The last time the Buckeyes had failed to reach the 20-point mark prior to last night was the 2017 contest against Oklahoma, where they lost 31-16 to the Sooners in Columbus.
There were some close calls along the way during the streak, with a few coming in the state of Indiana. Ohio State scored just 20 points in the loss at Purdue in 2018. Two years later, the Buckeyes had 22 points against Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis, and to start the season they scored 23 points in Bloomington against Indiana.
While it doesn’t really matter how many points you score, as long as you win, this game didn’t play out quite like a lot of people were predicted. I was thinking that Kyle McCord would have the offense moving a little crisper than they did, and had the final score in the 34-27 range. I guess I should have expected the game to play out more like it did in Columbus last year, which also had 31 total points scored.
The refs had a really bad night
I have seen some bad officiating performances while I have watched football over the years. What we saw last night was right up there. I did have to work through some of the first quarter and on my way home was when Notre Dame attempted a field goal. Since I couldn’t watch the game during that time, I had to rely on Paul Keels to tell me what was going on. The Big Daddy was even fooled on the attempt, calling it good at first because one of the officials started to raise his arms to signal the kick was good. Things didn’t get better for the refs during the rest of the game.
The most egregious call of the game came late in the second quarter when Marvin Harrison Jr. made what appeared to be a catch that would have put Ohio State at the Notre Dame 34-yard line. Instead, the refs ruled Harrison’s hand came down out of bounds, even though the star receiver had a foot down in bounds. Some of the sting was taken away since Notre Dame was flagged for pass interference, but had Harrison been given the catch, Ohio State would have declined the penalty and taken the better field position. How the refs didn’t even review the play was baffling.
There were a number of other small issues before the end of the game and all that happened on the touchdown. I still have no idea how the touchdown play by Chip Trayanum didn’t take three seconds. I feel like if you ran that same play 100 times, 99 other times the clock would have expired. In the end it didn’t matter since Ohio State won, it just added another 10 minutes of tension with the long replay, kickoff, and final play of the game by Notre Dame. Maybe the Big Ten refs figured if they gave Notre Dame some favorable officiating it would entice the Fighting Irish to join the conference.
The Buckeyes were ghastly in short-yardage situations... until they weren’t
One of my pet peeves in football is when a team needs a yard they line up in shotgun or the pistol. Just line up under center and show your opponents you want it more and plow ahead. Or take a page out of the Eagles playbook and do what they do when they push Jalen Hurts forward. Instead, why too many times Ryan Day tries to get too cute when Ohio State needs a yard.
A perfect example is on the 4th & 1 with about four minutes left in the fourth. Why a jet sweep to Emeka Egbuka was called is inexcusable. Not that Egbuka doesn’t have the speed to get to the edge, it’s just such a risk. Don’t run 10 yards east to west when you just need a yard. Day constantly tries to make things way more difficult for himself and his team what calls like that.
The series of plays earlier in the game when Ohio State was down near the goal line wasn’t much better. Obviously I’m not a coach, but it feels like the smarter thing to do would have been to go play-action on third down and back to the run on fourth if it didn’t work. Instead, the Buckeyes ran on three straight downs and passed on the fourth. None of those plays worked, keeping the game scoreless at the time.
For all the bad Ohio State did when they needed just a yard, at least the were successful when it counted the most. It just makes you wonder though, maybe they don’t need the late game heroics had they been better with a yard to go at earlier points in the game.
A massive injury against Notre Dame almost happened again
Last year in the season opener, Jaxon Smith-Njigba suffered a hamstring injury early in the game that would keep him on the sidelines for pretty much the whole year. Early in the third quarter, it looked like Ohio State might see their best receiver lost for a significant amount of time when Marvin Harrison Jr. was rolled up on while blocking during TreVeyon Henderson’s 61-yard touchdown run.
Obviously Harrison isn’t built like the rest of us because he was back out on the field for Ohio State’s next offensive series. Even though Harrison finished with just three catches for 32 yards, just his presence on the field was massive, since the attention he demands opened things up for the other Buckeye receivers. Now with a bye week, Harrison will get some extra time to shake off any lingering effects of the knock before having to get back out on the field.
Ryan Day cutting a wrestling promo on Lou Holtz
As soon as the game ended I was basking in the tough Ohio State win, and then all of the sudden Ryan Day is huffing and puffing about Lou Holtz to whoever was interviewing him on the field. As a wrestling fan, I did find the interview hilarious since it felt like Day was trying to set up a match with Holtz at WrestleMania.
The whole thing was also quite sad. How are you going to let a fossil like Lou Holtz live rent free in your head? I get wanting to defend your team after what the former Notre Dame head coach had to say on the show that a sleeveless punter dork has on ESPN, but Day’s only response to what Holtz said should have been along the lines of “Ok Grandpa, lets get you to bed”.
Not that it wasn’t great to see some fire from Day after his team won a huge game in a tough environment. It’s just really weird that the first thing Day did was go after Holtz. Save some of that heat for Jim Harbaugh, especially after how Harbaugh and the Wolverines have punked you the last two years.