SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Ohio State won a game for the ages Saturday night at Notre Dame Stadium.
Coach Ryan Day’s sixth-ranked Buckeyes snatched victory from the jaws of defeat when Chip Trayanum bulled into the end zone from a yard out with one second left on the clock to give Ohio State a 17-14 lead.
“I looked at the clock and knew there were three seconds left, so I’m thinking that’s the last play anyway. You know what I’m saying?” Day said. “I knew we couldn’t get two plays with no timeouts so I said, ‘Well, you know, at this point, it probably just makes sense (to run) for one yard.’ Not only do we need to get that yard for this program, but I felt like it was the right thing to do schematically.”
Here are five things to know about the game:
1. It was another defensive battle.
Both offenses found ways to move the ball, but the defenses made them work.
Four of the game’s five scoring drives were at least 11 plays with the exception being when TreVeyon Henderson went 61 yards on the first play of Ohio State’s first possession of the third quarter.
The Buckeyes outgained the Fighting Irish 366-351 and averaged 5.6 yards per play to Notre Dame’s 5.5.
Notre Dame’s average starting field position was its own 19, while Ohio State’s was not much better (the Buckeye 29).
The game in many ways resembled Ohio State’s 21-10 win over the Fighting Irish last season at Ohio Stadium.
2. Both teams had multiple scoring chances fall by the wayside.
Ohio State turned Notre Dame over on downs twice, first at the Ohio State 18 in the first quarter and then at the Ohio State 39 in the third — right before Henderson’s big run — and they also missed a field goal in the first quarter.
The Fighting Irish in turn posted a goal-line stand late in the second quarter and also turned Ohio State over on downs at the Buckeyes’ 11 with 4:10 to play
3. Notre Dame only had 10 players on the field on Ohio State’s winning touchdown play.
Irish coach Marcus Freeman said he knew they were short a man but did not send him out on the field because he did not want to draw an offside penalty and give Ohio State another chance to run another play — especially if the Buckeyes were going to throw again, as they had on the previous play.
“We were trying to get a fourth D-line man on the field and I told him just stay off because we can’t afford a penalty,” Freeman said. “I didn’t have any timeouts, right? So we couldn’t afford a penalty there, (but) yeah, it’s on us. We got to be better.”
4. McCord answered the bell at the end.
Ohio State’s first-year starting quarterback had an up-and-down game, but he found Egbuka for 23 yards to get the winning drive going then kept it alive with a 7-yard pass to Julian Fleming on fourth-and-7. He also completed a 19-yard pass to Marvin Harrison Jr. before setting up Trayanum’s run with a 21-yard pass to Egbuka that got the ball to the 1-yard line.
“As long as we’ve got the ball and got time left, the sky’s the limit for this offense,” said McCord, who completed 21 of 37 passes for 240 yards on the night.
5. Day saw the final play as a way to answer critics of his team’s toughness.
Ohio State failed on three of its first four short-yardage opportunities, including an end run to Egbuka on fourth-and-inches at the Notre Dame 11 with 4:10 to go.
Day had that on his mind as well as the words of critics including former Notre Dame head coach (and Ohio State assistant) Lou Holtz who questioned the Buckeyes’ physicality prior to the game during a radio interview.
“It’s always been Ohio against the world, and it continues to be to this day and I hope everybody in Buckeye Nation enjoys that win,” Day said.
Stat of the Game
Egbuka is sometimes overshadowed by Harrison, but he caught seven passes for 96 yards, including two grabs that kept the final drive alive. Egbuka also caught the 100th pass of his college career during the game.
Trayanum has to get it for grinding out the last, all-important yard.