‘Down and dirty’: Ohio State finds a way to win ugly

By Laken Litman
FOX Sports activities Faculty Soccer Author

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

Sure, the second-ranked Buckeyes had simply crushed 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 had 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 huge 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 recreation was going to be with the connection between C.J. Stroud, a Heisman Trophy finalist final 12 months, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba, most likely the nation’s greatest extensive receiver.

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

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

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

“Who mentioned it needed to be a observe meet?” Ohio State offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson yelled within the tunnel after the sport. “We are able to get down and soiled!”

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 recreation plan derailed early when Smith-Njigba was shaken up within the first quarter. He was knocked out of bounds after a catch, which compelled him to overlook the following few sequence. He tried to return again within the second quarter, however was favoring his left aspect. He additionally tried jogging on the sideline underneath 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 wrestle early on,” mentioned Day, who expects Smith-Njigba to be again someday this week. “After we misplaced Jaxon, we obtained just a little bit out of rhythm, couldn’t convert on third down, loads off schedule with a pair penalties that we’ve obtained to scrub up. 

“However , early video games, we’re just a little bit clunky. And once more, dropping Jaxon type of threw us off just a little bit, and we needed to reply.”

Ohio State has a plethora of receivers at Stroud’s disposal, like Emeka Egbuka, who had 9 catches for 90 yards, and Marvin Harrison Jr., who had 5 catches for 56 yards. Stroud additionally has Xavier Johnson, a former walk-on turned scholarship participant, whose 24-yard landing with 17 seconds left within the third quarter put the Buckeyes up 14-10. However Smith-Njigba has a shot at successful the Biletnikoff Award, so the vibe is off when he’s not taking part in.

Plan B was committing to the run, which Ohio State did within the fourth quarter. TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams mixed for 175 yards and a landing. And on a 14-play, 95-yard landing drive that clinched victory, Ohio State ran the ball 10 instances, seven by Williams, who racked up 49 of his complete 84 yards proper then. He additionally had a catch.

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

It’s value questioning how the sport may need unfolded had Ohio State dedicated to the run earlier. If Day hadn’t waited till the fourth quarter, perhaps the Buckeyes would have put Notre Dame away sooner. 

“We have now to have the ability to win that manner, we do,” Day mentioned. “We have now to search 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 type of constructed like a number of the Massive Ten groups we play. And so for groups that need 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 a number 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. 

“All of them rely the identical. When you’ve that versatility, it’s going to repay down the street. So it is a large begin for us. We have now loads to enhance on, loads to construct on, however I’m happy with our staff.”

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

“I feel you’ll be able to see who C.J. desires to be,” Day mentioned. “He might need to go on the market and have all these yards and all the things like that. It’s not essential to him. What’s essential is successful, and he’s a winner.”

[RJ Young’s Top 25 after Week 1]

Notre Dame was a formidable opponent that doubtless shocked 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 a great chunk of the sport, the Preventing Irish had been extra dominant within the trenches, which is an space Ohio State has strived to be higher. 

In the end, Ohio State’s protection, a retooled group underneath new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles, held the Irish to 1 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 evening was the protection,” Day mentioned. “It circled after what’s been mentioned about them within the offseason, questioning their toughness.”

“We had been known as tender all final 12 months and needed to eat it,” added security Lathan Ransom.

[Top plays from Week 1 in college football] 

There was a number of hype surrounding Ohio State this offseason. Day’s staff is a favourite to win the nationwide championship, and that trickled down into the environment on the residence 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 staff, which was honored through the recreation. It took awhile for the Buckeyes to settle in and click on, and whereas they relished the setting, the stress didn’t assist. 

“I imply, fascinated with the sport, we’re taking part in the No. 5 staff within the nation,” Stroud mentioned. “It’s type of bizarre being on the market once more, to be trustworthy. It’s like, seeing the followers, coping with all the skin noise and attempting to lock in. On the finish of the day, we obtained the win.”

The expectation at Ohio State is to win the nationwide championship. It is a group that actually believes final 12 months’s 11-2 season, by which it gained the Rose Bowl, was a failure. The Buckeyes’ objectives are to beat Michigan, win the Massive Ten and win a nationwide title. All of these issues are nonetheless very a lot doable, however there’s work to be achieved. This staff just isn’t fairly on the identical stage as Alabama or Georgia simply but, however there’s nonetheless time to get there.

“If we will proceed to win video games like that, then that’s how we’ll win video games,” Day mentioned. “And when you’ll be able to win in numerous methods, it says loads about your staff and I feel this recreation goes to pay dividends down the street.”

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

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