SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Much had been said about head coach Ryan Day and his No. 6 Ohio State Buckeyes heading into a road showdown with the No. 9 Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the days leading up to the game.
When all was said and done, it was Day and his team who were doing all the talking after the game following a memorable final drive that won’t soon be forgotten in the Ohio State program and fan base.
Chip Trayanum’s 1-yard touchdown run with one second to play essentially gave Ohio State a 17-14 walk-off win, and a previously-raucous crowd inside Notre Dame Stadium was left utterly deflated as one last Notre Dame gasp was turned away to seal the win for Ohio State.
Following the game, Day was in rare form as he wasted no time taking aim at those who had been the loudest throughout the week, particularly the ones questioning his team’s toughness.
“It was brewing for a couple of days,” Day said of his demeanor after the game. “A lot of people took a lot of shots at this team over the last 48 hours, and it really hit home for me. The way that we played tonight — not only did we physically get after (Notre Dame) last year, we did it here again at the end of the game. I think it says a lot about this team.
“I’m really upset and disrespected by what (former Notre Dame head coach) Lou Holtz said publicly about our team and Ohio State and Buckeye nation. We’re not going to stand for that because that’s not even close to true.”
Making just his fifth start and first in a truly hostile road environment, Ohio State quarterback Kyle McCord completed 21 of his 37 attempts for 240 yards and no touchdowns or interceptions. While the stat line may have been rather pedestrian, McCord’s poise on the final drive epitomized why Day handed him the offense for good in week three.
Notre Dame quarterback Sam Hartman was limited to just 175 yards passing on the night, and running back Audric Estime was mostly contained as the Ohio State defense limited him to 70 yards on 14 carries.
Notre Dame was poised to strike first on its opening possession of the game, but a 14-play, 71-yard drive came to an end when Hartman was stopped short of the marker on a fourth-down scramble.
Another once-promising Notre Dame drive proved to be fruitless early in the second quarter after a missed 47-yard field goal by Spencer Shrader as the game remained scoreless.
On the ensuing possession, it was Ohio State that was knocking on the door to take the first lead of the game.
McCord’s 10-yard completion to Egbuka, one of seven between the two on the night, extended the drive on third down and gave them a fresh set of downs at the Notre Dame 10. A pair of rushes by Trayanum moved the ball to the 1-yard line, but Miyan Williams was stuffed on third down to force Ohio State and Day into a key early decision.
Day’s decision did not pay off as McCord’s bootleg was snuffed out on fourth down, and his desperation throw was knocked to the ground, turning the ball over on downs.
The scoreless battle was finally broken late in the second half as Ohio State’s Jayden Fielding connected on a 31-yard field goal to send the Buckeyes into halftime with a 3-0 lead.
Ohio State was held to just 147 yards of offense in the half, but a strong defensive effort kept the Notre Dame offense grounded despite being on the field for much of the half.
The second half began much like the first half as Notre Dame received the opening kickoff and looked threatening as it crossed into plus territory. Lathan Ransom’s tackle of Hartman on fourth down prevented Notre Dame from extending the drive, however, and Ohio State took over with solid field position to begin its first drive of the second half.
One play later, Henderson was racing 61 yards to the end zone to increase Ohio State’s lead to 10-0 and gain some breathing room with 11 minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Henderson finished with 104 rushing yards on 14 carries to go along with the touchdown.
That breathing room proved to be shortlived, though, as Hartman and Notre Dame quickly engineered a crucial response.
Jeremiyah Love’s 16-yard run had Notre Dame on the move, and Gi’Brian Payne’s 1-yard touchdown run on a direct snap capped a 13-play, 75-yard drive to cut Ohio State’s lead to 10-7.
Ohio State’s ensuing drive ended with a punt that came on the first play of the fourth quarter, and it was a good one as Jesse Mirco’s boot was downed at the 4-yard line.
The tides continued to shift heavily on Ohio State, though, as the poor field position was no matter for Hartman and Notre Dame. Two plays into the drive, the ball was out to the 35-yard line, and a Buckeye defense that had played so well for most of the night began to show signs of faltering as the game grew late.
Hartman’s 2-yard touchdown pass to Rico Flores Jr. finished the drive 96-yard drive and gave Notre Dame its first lead of the night at 14-10 with under nine minutes to play.
With its collective backs against the wall, Ohio State showed immediate life on the ensuing drive. Xavier Johnson’s 40-yard catch and run on third down had the offense into Notre Dame territory, and a pass interference call on J.D. Bertrand had Ohio State in the red zone in rather quick fashion.
But the familiar short-yardage issues that have plagued Ohio State dating back to last year once again showed up at the most inopportune of times, and it nearly cost it a win.
Facing a 3rd and 1 from the Notre Dame 11, Henderson was stopped for no gain by former Buckeye Javontate Jean-Baptist. Day, once again staring at a 4th and 1, elected to keep his offense on the field. Day did not to call a quarterback sneak, however, ultimately deciding to give the ball to Egbuka on an end-around play.
Egbuka never had much of a chance to reach the first down marker as Jean-Baptiste again came up with a huge play, giving the ball back to the Notre Dame offense with a chance to salt away the rest of the clock.
In desperate need of a stop, the Ohio State defense managed to get the ball back to its offense. Hartman was sacked by J.T. Tuimoloau to put Notre Dame behind the chains, ultimately leading to a punt.
Egbuka’s 8-yard punt return moved the ball to the Ohio State 35, and McCord and the offense took the field for one last opportunity.
With the chance to make his first true impression on the storied history books of the Ohio State program, McCord proved up to the task. His 23-yard completion to Egbuka on 3rd and 10 kept the drive alive, and he again came up clutch with a 4th down completion to Julian Fleming that breathed new life into the Ohio State sideline.
A 19-yard throw to Marvin Harrison Jr. moved the ball to the Notre Dame 13, but disaster struck two plays later when McCord’s pass attempt was ruled to be intentional grounding after he heaved the ball toward the Notre Dame sideline to avoid taking a sack.
The penalty, which included a loss of down in addition to the five yards lost, forced Day to take his final timeout to avoid a 10-second run off of the clock.
Faced with a 3rd and 19 from the Notre Dame 22, McCord stepped up in the pocket and delivered the throw of his career, finding Egbuka across the middle at the 1-yard line.
Egbuka did well to hang onto the ball after taking a big hit, and the Ohio State offense quickly clocked the ball to stop the clock with seven seconds remaining.
A quick attempt from McCord to Harrison was wide, taking four seconds off the clock and setting up one final play.
Despite all of its struggles in similar situations, Day went back to the conventional running attack with the game on the line, and it paid off. Trayanum took the handoff from McCord, made one cut, and dived toward the end zone.
The Ohio State bench spilled onto the field in elation and celebration as Ohio State as the official signaled for a touchdown, seemingly giving the Buckeyes a walk-off 16-14 win for the ages.
The play underwent a lengthy review as Day and his team stood on the field to await confirmation, which was finally given a short time later, but a second was put back onto the clock. Ohio State was forced to kick the extra point to increase the lead to 17-14, and after the kickoff went out of bounds, Notre Dame had one last shot at magic.
Hartman was hit before he could extend the lateral fest, however, and a loose ball was pounced on by multiple Ohio State defenders as the sideline spilled on the field to celebrate.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.