It wasn’t the night anyone expected from Ohio State’s offense, but the Buckeyes still found a way to beat Notre Dame in their first game of the season.
On a night where Jaxon Smith-Njigba missed most of the game with a leg injury, Ohio State’s offense scored on just one of its first eight drives, but a strong debut from Jim Knowles’ defense and a strong finish offensively led the Buckeyes to a 21-10 win over the fifth-ranked Fighting Irish.
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The game got off to an inauspicious start for Ohio State’s defense when a whiffed tackle by Josh Proctor led to a 54-yard gain by Notre Dame wide receiver Lorenzo Styles – a Central Ohio native and the son of former Ohio State linebacker Lorenzo Styles – with a 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty against J.T. Tuimoloau bringing the Fighting Irish into the red zone right away on their very first offensive play of the game. The Buckeyes held Notre Dame to a field goal from there, though, to limit the Irish to three points on their first possession.
Ohio State scored its first touchdown of 2022 on its second possession of the game when C.J. Stroud threaded a perfect pass by two defenders on 3rd-and-6 to Emeka Egbuka. The sophomore wide receiver, who made his first career start on Saturday night, finished the job from 31 yards out for the first touchdown of his Ohio State career.
Ohio State’s first touchdown of the 2022 season was a good one. pic.twitter.com/m5dtRPYLqD
— Eleven Warriors (@11W) September 4, 2022
But the Buckeyes wouldn’t score again on their next six drives.
The Fighting Irish retook the lead early in the second quarter on a 10-play, 76-yard drive that was capped by an Audric Estime 1-yard touchdown run. The touchdown was set up by a 31-yard circus catch by Notre Dame wide receiver Matt Salerno, which was immediately followed by a 22-yard pass to Kevin Bauman to get the Fighting Irish into the red zone for the second time.
Ohio State’s most promising drive of the second quarter reached Notre Dame’s 21-yard line, but after the Buckeyes were forced to settle for a field goal, Noah Ruggles – who missed just one field goal attempt for the entire 2021 season – missed his first field goal attempt of the year from 39 yards out, allowing the Fighting Irish to take a 10-7 lead into halftime.
The Buckeyes’ seven first-half points were the fewest they scored in a first half since their second game of the 2021 season against Oregon, when they also scored just seven points before halftime in a game they ultimately lost 35-28.
The second half didn’t start much better for Ohio State’s offense, which went 3-and-out on its opening drive of the third quarter. The Buckeyes went a sixth straight possession without points on their second drive of the half as they were forced to punt again after a pair of first downs.
Fortunately for the Buckeyes, their defense kept them in the game by forcing five straight punts on each of Notre Dame’s final six possessions.
Ohio State finally scored its second touchdown of the night with 17 seconds left to play in the third quarter when Stroud connected with Xavier Johnson on a 24-yard touchdown pass. Like Egbuka, Johnson – a former walk-on who was placed on scholarship in 2021 – scored his first career touchdown on the play.
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) September 4, 2022
The Buckeyes finally gave themselves some breathing room on their next drive, going 95 yards in 14 plays to take an 11-point lead with 4:51 to play on a 2-yard touchdown run by Miyan Williams, who also had three runs of more than 10 yards and a 12-yard catch on the drive to lead the Buckeyes down the field.
Defensively, the Buckeyes held Notre Dame to its fewest points since a 34-10 ACC Championship Game loss to Clemson in 2020. The stars of the night for the Buckeyes defensively were Tommy Eichenberg, who had a game-high nine total tackles with three tackles for loss and two sacks, and Mike Hall, who was a force in his first start at defensive tackle with four total tackles, two tackles for a loss and a sack.
Stroud finished the game with 24 completions on 34 passing attempts for 223 yards and two touchdowns, while Egbuka was the Buckeyes’ leading receiver with nine catches for 90 yards and his touchdowns. TreVeyon Henderson and Williams combined for 175 rushing yards.
With the first win of the season under its belt, Ohio State will continue non-conference play next Saturday at Ohio Stadium at noon, when the Buckeyes will host Arkansas State in their second game of the season.
- Saturday’s game drew a large crowd of professional athletes to Ohio State including NBA stars LeBron James and Jayson Tatum and former Ohio State football players Justin Fields, Ezekiel Elliott, Terry McLaurin, Jeff Okudah, Chase Young, Curtis Samuel, Binjimen Victor, Thayer Munford, Baron Browning, Dre’Mont Jones, Ryan Shazier, Orlando Pace, Bradley Roby, Sam Hubbard, Joe Burrow, Tyquan Lewis, Noah Brown, Eli Apple and Jonathon Cooper among others. Ohio State basketball recruiting target Bronny James was in attendance with his father.
- In his first game as Ohio State’s defensive coordinator, Jim Knowles called the defense from the press box rather than coaching from the field.
- Ohio State’s starting lineup on offense consisted of C.J. Stroud, TreVeyon Henderson, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Marvin Harrison Jr., Emeka Egbuka, Cade Stover, Paris Johnson Jr., Donovan Jackson, Luke Wypler, Matt Jones and Dawand Jones.
- Ohio State’s starting lineup on defense was Zach Harrison, J.T. Tuimoloau, Taron Vincent, Mike Hall, Steele Chambers, Tommy Eichenberg, Denzel Burke, Cameron Brown, Ronnie Hickman, Josh Proctor and Tanner McCalister. Lathan Ransom replaced Proctor at safety after the first defensive series and played a majority of his snaps in his place for the remainder of the game.
- Julian Fleming did not play in Saturday night’s game after being listed before the game as a game-time decision due to injury.
- Smith-Njigba left the game in the first quarter after taking a big hit and was evaluated for a leg injury, according to ESPN’s Holly Rowe. He was able to return to the game in the second quarter, but still appeared to be hindered by the injury and ended up leaving the game for the rest of the night early in the third quarter. With Smith-Njigba sidelined, Jayden Ballard saw extensive playing time as an outside receiver while Egbuka and Xavier Johnson split time in the slot.
- Members of Ohio State’s 2002 national championship team were recognized on the field at the end of the first quarter. The players from that team lifted Jim Tressel up on their shoulders to receive special recognition from the crowd.
- Ohio State’s national championship-winning women’s hockey team was recognized during a media timeout in the second quarter.
- 106,594 people were at Ohio Stadium for Saturday night’s game, the highest attendance since Ohio State’s win over Michigan State in 2017 (107,011).