‘Down and soiled’: Ohio State finds a method to win ugly

By Laken Litman
FOX Sports activities School Soccer Author

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ryan Day walked into Ohio State’s postgame interview room Saturday smiling. Truly, he was giddy.

Sure, the second-ranked Buckeyes had simply overwhelmed fifth-ranked Notre Dame 21-10 at a roaring Horseshoe to open the season. However this wasn’t the 45-point, offensive explosion of a efficiency we have been all anticipating. This was gritty. 

Ohio State’s offense needed to run the ball and the protection needed to grind it out and make massive performs, which is the alternative of a signature Day win. His groups go the ball. A significant storyline for months this offseason was simply how deadly Ohio State’s passing sport was going to be with the connection between C.J. Stroud, a Heisman Trophy finalist final 12 months, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba, in all probability the nation’s finest huge receiver.

[How Jaxon Smith-Njigba became the next great Ohio State receiver]

However that’s not how this sport was gained. And Ohio State’s teaching employees couldn’t have been extra enthusiastic about it.

“A lot of people questioned our toughness this offseason and for us to win the way we did, I couldn’t be any prouder,” Day mentioned.

“Who said it had to be a track meet?” Ohio State offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson yelled within the tunnel after the sport. “We can get down and dirty!”

No. 2 Ohio State outlasts No. 5 Notre Dame

No. 2 Ohio State outlasts No. 5 Notre Dame

RJ Younger breaks down Ohio State’s 21-10 victory over Notre Dame. C.J. Stroud was large for the Buckeyes, finishing 24 of 34 passes for 223 yards.

Ohio State’s unique sport plan derailed early when Smith-Njigba was shaken up within the first quarter. He was knocked out of bounds after a catch, which pressured him to overlook the following few sequence. He tried to come back again within the second quarter, however was favoring his left aspect. He additionally tried jogging on the sideline below the supervision of an athletic coach, however was out and in of the damage tent.

Ohio State wanted to win with out him. 

“Yeah, it was a struggle early on,” mentioned Day, who expects Smith-Njigba to be again someday this week. “When we lost Jaxon, we got a little bit out of rhythm, couldn’t convert on third down, a lot off schedule with a couple penalties that we’ve got to clean up. 

“However you understand, early video games, we’re a little bit bit clunky. And once more, shedding Jaxon form of threw us off a little bit bit, and we needed to reply.”

Ohio State has a plethora of receivers at Stroud’s disposal, like Emeka Egbuka, who had nine catches for 90 yards, and Marvin Harrison Jr., who had five catches for 56 yards. Stroud also has Xavier Johnson, a former walk-on turned scholarship player, whose 24-yard touchdown with 17 seconds left in the third quarter put the Buckeyes up 14-10. But Smith-Njigba has a shot at winning the Biletnikoff Award, so the vibe is off when he’s not playing.

Plan B was committing to the run, which Ohio State did in the fourth quarter. TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams combined for 175 yards and a touchdown. And on a 14-play, 95-yard touchdown drive that clinched victory, Ohio State ran the ball 10 times, seven by Williams, who racked up 49 of his total 84 yards right then. He also had a catch.

[Heisman Watch: How the preseason top 10 performed in Week 1]

It’s worth wondering how the game might have unfolded had Ohio State committed to the run earlier. If Day hadn’t waited until the fourth quarter, maybe the Buckeyes would have put Notre Dame away sooner. 

“We now have to have the ability to win that means, we do,” Day said. “We now have to seek out methods to win like that. As a result of there’s going to be video games definitely within the Massive Ten like that, and Notre Dame is form of constructed like a few of the Massive Ten groups we play. And so for groups that wish to run the ball and eat up the clock and maintain the offense off the sector, we’ve got to run the ball in these moments. And we did. We had to try this. And that was one thing that we spent lots of time within the offseason saying, we’ve got to have the ability to win ugly on offense and cease the run on protection. And that’s what occurred. 

“They all count the same. When you have that versatility, it’s going to pay off down the road. So this is a huge start for us. We have a lot to improve on, a lot to build on, but I’m proud of our team.”

Stroud went 24 of 34 for 223 yards and two touchdowns and made some large performs down the stretch. Lots of these have been scrambles on the run the place it regarded like he was about to exit of bounds, however as an alternative accomplished a 12-yard go to Williams right here and a nine-yard go to Harrison Jr. there. 

“I think you can see who C.J. wants to be,” Day mentioned. “He could want to go out there and have all these yards and everything like that. It’s not important to him. What’s important is winning, and he’s a winner.”

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Notre Dame was a formidable opponent that seemingly stunned everyone exterior of South Bend. It held Ohio State to 99 passing yards within the first half and one landing earlier than the ultimate three drives. For chunk of the sport, the Combating Irish have been extra dominant within the trenches, which is an space Ohio State has strived to be higher. 

Finally, Ohio State’s protection, a retooled group below new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles, held the Irish to at least one landing and 253 complete yards. They stopped the run, holding Notre Dame to 76 yards on 2.5 yards per carry.

“The story of the night was the defense,” Day mentioned. “It turned around after what’s been said about them in the offseason, questioning their toughness.”

“We were called soft all last year and had to eat it,” added security Lathan Ransom.

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There was lots of hype surrounding Ohio State this offseason. Day’s crew is a favourite to win the nationwide championship, and that trickled down into the ambiance on the dwelling opener. Famous well-known Buckeyes fan LeBron James was strolling the sidelines earlier than kickoff, as was Jayson Tatum, Andre Iguodala, Justin Fields, Ezekiel Elliott, Joe Burrow, plus the complete 2002 Ohio State nationwide championship crew, which was honored in the course of the sport. It took awhile for the Buckeyes to settle in and click on, and whereas they relished the atmosphere, the strain didn’t assist. 

“I mean, thinking about the game, we’re playing the No. 5 team in the country,” Stroud mentioned. “It’s kind of weird being out there again, to be honest. It’s like, seeing the fans, dealing with all the outside noise and trying to lock in. At the end of the day, we got the win.”

The expectation at Ohio State is to win the nationwide championship. This can be a group that actually believes final 12 months’s 11-2 season, wherein it gained the Rose Bowl, was a failure. The Buckeyes’ targets are to beat Michigan, win the Massive Ten and win a nationwide title. All of these issues are nonetheless very a lot attainable, however there’s work to be completed. This crew will not be fairly on the identical stage as Alabama or Georgia simply but, however there’s nonetheless time to get there.

“If we can continue to win games like that, then that’s how we’ll win games,” Day mentioned. “And when you can win in different ways, it says a lot about your team and I think this game is going to pay dividends down the road.”

Laken Litman covers school soccer, school basketball and soccer for FOX Sports activities. She beforehand wrote for Sports activities Illustrated, USA Right now and The Indianapolis Star. She is the creator of “Strong Like a Woman,” revealed in spring 2022 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Title IX. Observe her on Twitter @LakenLitman.


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