Ohio State shows it can win hard against top competition despite attacking night

Ryan Day didn’t want to start his press conference after Ohio State’s victory over Notre Dame by talking about what went wrong.

Of course, the Buckeyes fell short of expectations on offense, as Ohio State scored fewer points than they had scored in any game since losing 49-20 to Purdue. in 2018. But the Buckeyes still left Ohio Stadium on Saturday night with a win over a top-five team, at least as far as preseason polls go, as they picked up a 21- 10 on Notre Dame, fifth in the standings.

So when the first question Day received in his postgame press conference was about offensive struggles, the Ohio State head coach immediately took things in a different direction.

“I refuse to answer that question out of hand. We just beat the No. 5 team in the country by 11 points,” Day replied. “And I couldn’t be more proud of our team and the way our team played, especially in the fourth quarter. A lot of people questioned our toughness in the offseason. Well, you’ll have to watch the movie, you’ll make up your mind if you thought this team was tough today. And for us to win the way we did, I couldn’t be prouder.

A win was in doubt for most of the night as the Buckeyes trailed for most of the second and third quarters and never trailed by multiple scores until less than five minutes remained in the match. But the Buckeyes made the plays they needed on both sides of the ball to survive the Fighting Irish with the game on the line.

Ohio State’s defense, as Day put it, was “the story of the night” as the Buckeyes held Notre Dame to just 10 points – fewer points than the Fighting Irish did. scored in any game last season, and fewer runs than the Buckeyes allowed overall. but three games last year. After two years behind on this side of the ball, the Ohio State defense made a massive statement on Jim Knowles’ debut as coordinator, holding the Fighting Irish to just 253 total yards on offense and zero points. on their last six possessions.

“We were called soft all last year and had to sit down and just eat it,” safety Lathan Ransom said after the game. “And I was looking forward to playing against Notre Dame and showing what our defense is really about.”

The Buckeyes’ offense, which entered Game 1 of the season hoping to be the best in the country again after leading the country in points and yards per game in 2021, didn’t look like a beater. world in their first game of the year. They scored just once on their first eight possessions of the game and clearly missed having a healthy Jaxon Smith-Njigba on the pitch after suffering a leg injury in the first quarter that would end up putting end his night early after attempting to fight.

On their last practice of the third quarter and first practice of the quarter, however, the Buckeyes staged back-to-back touchdowns that ultimately swung the game in their favor. Although he wasn’t as snappy as usual for most of the night, CJ Stroud completed nine of his last 11 passes for 107 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown pass to Xavier Johnson. And Miyan Williams and TreVeyon Henderson ran hard in the fourth quarter, combining for 85 rushing yards on 13 carries on the Buckeyes’ final two possessions to seal the win.

“To be able to get the running game started in this last quarter, man, that says a lot about our team,” Day said. ” It was perfect ? No. But I didn’t expect that. First game, things like that happen and we had to recalibrate a bit and make some adjustments. But we will.

Certainly, Ohio State does not want to get into the habit of scoring only 21 points. The Buckeyes know they’re capable of being much more explosive on offense than they were on Saturday, which will give them plenty to work on coming out of Game 1.

Day thinks the fact that they had to win hard from the start will pay dividends as they continue to push forward through a season that could feature plenty of tough opponents along the way. He’s confident his offense will get explosive again in games to come, and if the Buckeyes can combine the ability to put in big numbers on offense with the ability to pick up tough wins by playing solid defense and getting tough yards in the race game, Ohio State will have a chance to win any game it plays.

“We have to find ways to win like this. Because there will definitely be Big Ten games like this. And Notre Dame is kind of built like some of the Big Ten teams we play with,” Day said. “It’s something we spent a lot of time in the offseason saying we have to be able to win on offense. And we have to stop the run in defense. And that’s what happened.

“When you have that versatility, man, it’s going to pay off down the road… if we can keep building like this and growing, and the defense playing like they do, then watch out.”

“For us to win like we did, I couldn’t be prouder.”–Ryan Day

When asked if he felt extra satisfaction in Saturday night’s victory because the Buckeyes had to fight and win tenaciously – something they were asked a lot about after their losses to Oregon and Michigan last season – Day said yes.

“Yeah. Yeah. Because we can. And winning that way was a huge priority,” Day said. , if we can run football; we know we can get the ball going, we know that. But if we’re going to get to where we need to be and achieve our goals, we’re going to have to do both of those things. And tonight we’re going to do it. Have done.

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