COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Second-ranked Ohio State and No. 5 Notre Dame tangled under the lights at Ohio Stadium tonight, with the Buckeyes taking a hard-fought 21-10 victory over the Fighting Irish.
It wasn’t the typical offensive fireworks for Ohio State, which averaged less than six yards per play but played an aggressive, disciplined defense. That defense limited Notre Dame to just three-of-13 on third down conversions and 2.5 yards per carry.
The Buckeyes drove 95 yards on 14 plays on the game clinching drive, getting a two-yard burst from Miyan Williams to put things away.
Quarterback CJ Stroud was without favorite weapon Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who left the game in the first quarter with a leg injury, but Stroud was still able to put the offense on his back and lead them to a pair of second half touchdowns. Stroud finished 24-of-34 for 223 yards and two TD passes, while TreVeyon Henderson ground out 91 yards and Williams finished with 84 yards and a touchdown. Wideout Emeka Egbuka was super in the absence of Smith-Njigba, grabbing 9 passes — equaling his total for all of 2021 — for 90 yards and a score.
The Buckeyes face Arkansas State next Saturday at noon in Ohio Stadium.
The Ohio State defense has been the subject of much worry after last year, but did an excellent job of locking down the Irish after an opening play that covered 54 yards. Two big plays by the interior line helped limited the Irish to a 33-yard field goal.
Ohio State allowed a sack on the second play of its possession and was unable to pick up a first down, and Jesse Mirco rolls the punt down to the five yard line.
After a perfect pass fell out of Marvin Harrison Jrs. hands, CJ Stroud found Emeka Egbuka on a 31-yard pitch and catch, putting OSU ahead 7-3.
Neither team is running the ball very well, Notre Dame averaging 1.7 yards per carry, Ohio State 2.0
Notre Dame went 87 yards on 10 plays, going ahead 10-7 when running back Audric Estime leapt over the pile from the one-yard line with 11:56 remaining in the quarter. The Irish converted three first downs on two deep passes, their first conversions of the game.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba has been out since early in the game with a leg injury, suffered when he was rolled up near the sideline. It is uncertain whether he will return.
Ohio State’s offense has been inconsistent, converting just two-of-five third downs. Stroud has not been as precise as expected, possibly due to the absence of Smith-Njigba.
Mirco again pins Notre Dame deep in its own territory, rolling a 35-yard punt down to the five-yard line.
The Buckeyes covered 55 yards in 10 plays but ended the half coming up short as a Noah Ruggles field goal was pushed just wide with 36 seconds left.
The seven points scored by Ohio State is the fewest in a first half in Ryan Day’s tenure as head coach.
OHIO STATE PASSING: CJ Stroud 11-17, 99 yards, 1 TD
OHIO STATE RUSHING: TreVeyon Henderson 5-36; Miyan Wiliams 4-20
OHIO STATE RECEIVING: Emeka Egbuka 5-61-TD
NOTRE DAME PASSING: Tyler Buchner 8-10, 128 yards
NOTRE DAME RUSHING: Audric Estime 6-18-TD
NOTRE DAME RECEIVING: Lorenzo Styles 1-54; Matt Salerno 1-21
OHIO STATE OFFENSE: 99 Yards passing, 50 Yards rushing
NOTRE DAME OFFENSE: 128 Yards passing, 53 Yards rushing
Ohio State usually does well coming out of the half, but CJ Stroud was inaccurate on its opening drive, as Notre Dame has thrown him off rhythm with its pressure package. The Buckeyes offensive line needs to do a better job of recognition.
Notre Dame finally got out of a deep field position hole when Buchner hit tight end Michael Mayer for 17 yards and moved the ball to near midfield, but the Buckeyes tightened up and forced a punt, which Ohio State took at its own 29.
The Buckeyes took the lead just before the end of the quarter when Stroud found Xavier Johnson on a slant on a 24-yard pass. Notre Dame brought its safeties up toward the line of scrimmage and Stroud took advantage of the free space and fired a rocket to Johnson. OSU covered 70 yards in 4:43, using10 plays to find the end zone.
Ohio State’s defense got aggressive after Notre Dame hit a big pass play, forcing an Irish punt that was downed at the Ohio State five-yard line.
The Buckeyes used a workmanlike 14-play, 93 yard drive to push the advantage to 21-10 with less than five minutes remaining when Miyan Williams bulled in from the two-yard line. He gained 42 yards on 7 carries during the drive, and made a nifty sliding sideline catch to convert a third-down that kept the drive going.
Michael Hall Jr sacked Buchner on third and 10 with 4:33 left to play, forcing the Irish to punt for the fourth time in four second half possessions. Hall has been OSU’s best player up front, netting the sack and a pair of hurries.
Second-ranked Ohio State and No. 5 Notre Dame tangle under the lights at Ohio State tonight, with kickoff at 7:30. The Buckeyes are returning most of the vital pieces from the nation’s top offense, while the Irish ride into town with great expectations and a new head coach with Buckeye ties, Marcus Freeman.
OSU is 4-2 against the Irish, winning the last four meetings in the series. The teams have not played in the regular season since Ohio State won 29-16 in South Bend in 1996.
The Buckeyes have national title aspirations a season after losing two games for the first time since 2017, and dropping a contest to hated rival Michigan for the first time since 2011. The march begins tonight, and Ohio State is not shying away from the challenge.
“Well, every year the expectations are high,” OSU coach Ryan Day said earlier this summer. “You know, and that doesn’t change based on what happened the year before. The expectation is to win them all and that’s…just the way it is. Maybe some places 11-2 with a Rose Bowl victory is a good year. It isn’t at Ohio State. So, our three goals are to beat the team up north, win the Big Ten Championship, and win a national championship.”
Notre Dame is coming off of an 11-2 campaign, which culminated in a 37-35 Fiesta Bowl loss to Oklahoma State, and expects to hit the ground running in Freeman’s full season as boss.
“I believe in the talent that we have,” Freeman said in a recent interview. “We’re going to continue to bring in the best players. I think there’s place to enhance our roster — we always have to look to enhance it — but I believe in who these kids are in terms of the mind-sets that they have to find a way to achieve the desired results. It starts with talent, and then it’s a mind-set. It’s a culture that you have to promote in your place. I believe in the culture we have and what we’re continuing to build and what it’s going to do.”
The Buckeyes offense is led by Heisman Trophy favorite C.J. Stroud at quarterback, and he could be challenged by a very good Notre Dame front seven.
Ohio State’s defense is getting a massive makeover with the addition of former Oklahoma State coordinator Jim Knowles. The Cowboys were top five nationally in most important defensive categories and gained a reputation for being one of the most aggressive stop units in college football. Whether or not the Buckeyes can replicate that will be known shortly after kickoff.