As the third quarter wound down Saturday, all hell broke loose for Ohio State.
With a narrow three-point lead, Ohio State had points taken off the board after an unnecessary roughness penalty was called on offensive tackle Josh Fryar for jumping on a defensive lineman who had been driven into the ground on the second-to-last play of the quarter. The penalty wiped out a Buckeyes’ third-and-long conversion, leaving Ryan Day befuddled.
As the Ohio State offense came off the field and over to the sideline for a debriefing, Day had some, let’s call them “motivational talking points” for his players, and not ones that were particularly G-rated.
On the ensuing Notre Dame possession, Fighting Irish quarterback Sam Hartman picked apart what had otherwise been a stout Ohio State defense all night, exploiting the Buckeyes for gains of 28 and 25 yards before he eventually capped off the drive with a go-ahead touchdown pass to freshman wide receiver Rico Flores Jr., a player who was once heavily recruited by the Buckeyes.
For the first time all game, Notre Dame had taken the lead and simultaneously erased a 10-point deficit with a little over eight minutes remaining. You don’t even want to know what Eleven Warriors’ Twitter mentions looked like when Day elected to run a jet sweep with Emeka Egbuka on 4th-and-1 in the red zone.
By that point, Notre Dame took over with four minutes and 12 seconds left, with the prospects of a Buckeye win looking increasingly grim considering they only had two timeouts left. Two straight first downs by the Fighting Irish had writers in the press box furiously putting the finishing touches on their game stories and preparing for what would have been a very interesting two-week discourse surrounding the Buckeyes.
Then, everything changed.
Defensive end JT Tuimoloau made two game-changing plays in a row, starting with tackling Hartman for a 5-yard loss on first down. The next play, he broke up a screen that could have been returned for a touchdown if Tuimoloau secured an interception on the tip. Realizing they had inadvertently gone to the Philadelphia Eagles’ version of Andy Reid’s school of clock management, Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman and offensive coordinator Gerad Parker opted to run the ball on third and a mile and give the ball back to the Buckeyes.
Ohio State quarterback Kyle McCord only had 1:26 to play and one timeout at his disposal, but he lived up to the calm, cool and collected moniker bestowed on him by people who know him best by driving the Buckeyes 64 yards to the 1-yard line and gave them a shot to win the game with a few ticks left on the clock.
As the team broke the huddle, you could tell by the look on some Ohio State players’ faces they understood the significance of the upcoming play. In the final season of a four-team playoff, a single loss is enough to put you on the brink of elimination from the College Football Playoff, even if it’s a top-10 opponent on the road.
Before he put his hand on the ball on the line of scrimmage for the 69th time Saturday, center Carson Hizman looked up and pointed to the sky before taking a deep breath and getting into a stance. A few seconds later, left guard Donovan Jackson clapped his hands and followed Hinzman’s gesture by pointing to the sky himself.
Well, whatever help Ohio State’s offensive linemen were asking for presnap, they received, because Notre Dame apparently forgot it was allowed to deploy 11 players on defense. The Fighting Irish lined up with only 10 players on both of the final two Ohio State plays of the evening, somehow leaving a defensive lineman tasked with filling the left gap on the sideline in the most crucial moment of the game.
With a wide hole on the left side, you’ll never guess where Chip Trayanum ran to cement the biggest Ohio State win of the season, and arguably the biggest win by any college football program four weeks into the very young 2023 season. Once the referee standing by the pylon signaled touchdown, the Ohio State sideline was sent into a frenzy.
McCord sprinted to the sideline in elation and was warmly greeted by a host of Buckeyes, including his backup, Devin Brown. Several Ohio State offensive linemen jumped into the air and unofficially set new personal bests in their vertical leaps. Trayanum was mobbed by a small army by the time he emerged from a pile in the end zone and re-joined his teammates. Offensive line coach Justin Frye and safeties coach Perry Eliano grinned from ear to ear and embraced.
With the clock showing zeros and Ohio State leading 16-14 after Trayanum’s score, Ohio State’s staff instructed McCord and the Buckeyes’ offense to stay on the field for a two-point conversion “attempt” that would have simply been a kneel down rather than risk a blocked PAT that Notre Dame could have returned for two points. But after a lengthy review, officials determined Trayanum scored with a single second remaining, so the Buckeyes sent their kicking unit out after all.
Enough time had passed from the touchdown review that Ohio State’s assistants who normally coach from the booth had made their way to the field, thinking the game all but over. That included defensive coordinator Jim Knowles, who frantically shouted instructions to the Ohio State defense before Notre Dame tried a failed hook and ladder on the final play of regulation.
Finally, the win was cemented for the Buckeyes, and arguably not a soul in the stadium was happier than Day. Ohio State’s head man celebrated with a heap of Buckeye coaches and players, including tight end Cade Stover, as the two shared a lengthy embrace after Day concluded the traditional postgame handshake with Freeman.
Throughout his tenure at Ohio State, Day has been relatively mild-mannered, polite and nearly non-controversial in any media setting. But that changed on Saturday.
Day fired back at former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz, who essentially called the team soft the day before by blaming each of Day’s losses in his OSU tenure to a lack of physicality.
“I’d like to know where Lou Holtz is right now,” Day said after the win. “What he said about our team, I cannot believe. This is a tough team right here. We’re proud to be from Ohio, and it’s always been Ohio against the world.”
TELL EM, COACH! pic.twitter.com/Se7zs18oHO— Eleven Warriors (@11W) September 24, 2023
Coincidentally, half a dozen or so of his players borrowed an “Ohio against the world” banner from Buckeye fans in the stand and ran with it to midfield around the same time Day left the field, but not before pumping his fist and waving his arms to fire up a small handful of OSU fans by the tunnel.
Day doubled and tripled down on his distaste for Holtz’s comments in his radio hit and his postgame press conference, which caused a bit of confusion from fans who don’t follow OSU all that closely.
No, I don’t think Day has some random vendetta against an 86-year-old former coach. But, he’s consistently heard critics call his team soft ever since OSU lost to Michigan in Ann Arbor two years ago. He’s clearly sick of it, and wanted to stick up for his guys.
Holtz was just the latest and most prominent figure to criticize Day for a perceived lack of physicality, so love it or hate it, OSU’s head coach decided to use his platform afforded by taking down a top-10 team on the road courtesy of a one-yard touchdown run to fire back.
Ironically, had the Buckeyes gotten stuffed on that one play, we’d be having a very different conversation this Monday. But to the victor, go the spoils.
Elation from the win aside, Notre Dame continued to expose flaws the Buckeyes have showcased far too often in short-yardage situations this year, which should make for a productive bye week a third of the way through the 2023 campaign. But the Buckeyes’ defense also kept a top-10 team in check for the most part on the road, in turn OSU continues to have all its season goals ahead in front of it, while Notre Dame fans are tormented by arguably their worst loss since the infamous “Bush Push” defeat to USC in 2005.
Just goes to show that sometimes multiple things can be true.
Brian Ferentz has a no-good, very bad day
We usually wait until everybody’s favorite section to bring up Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz. And that will continue this week.
But seriously, what the hell, Brian?
Iowa suffered a 31-0 defeat to Penn State that truly was more humiliating than it looks, as the Hawkeyes’ offense mustered a measly 76 total yards of offense with a paltry 2.3 yards per play.
Let’s put some things in perspective, quickly, shall we? In the entire game, Iowa delivered 11 more yards than Ohio State had on its final possession of the game. Through four games, the Hawkeyes are averaging 245.5 yards of total offense per game, which is somehow WORSE than last year’s 251.6 yards per game clip that had the Hawkeyes ranked 130th of 131 FBS teams in total offense and put contract stipulations on the coach’s son.
Saturday, Iowa had 10 offensive possessions. It lost fumbles on four of them (fumbled six times total), and punted on the rest of them. Iowa only had four first downs the entire game.
Oh yeah, by the way, Penn State is really good. So far the Nittany Lions have dominated every team they’ve played, and their win against West Virginia looks more impressive weekly as the Mountaineers start to rack up a couple of wins.
Oct. 21 will be fun.
Dabo and Clemson earn a one-way ticket to playoff damnation
The path to a spot in the final four-team College Football Playoff looks more wide open than ever this season. Unless you’re Clemson.
Considering no team with two or more losses has ever qualified for the four-team field, we can officially close the book on the Tigers’ playoff hopes for this season, guaranteeing they’ll miss the CFP for the third straight season following Clemson’s 31-24 overtime loss to Florida State.
There were a variety of reasons for the Tigers’ failure against the Seminoles, but the short version is the offense sputtered in key situations yet again, and Dabo Swinney played for a go-ahead field goal attempt in the fourth quarter from a kicker who has been on the roster all of one week instead of staying aggressive.
Swinney is in no danger of losing his job after delivering two national titles and six straight CFP appearances to Clemson from 2015 to 2020 in his tenure, but at some point, it’s fair to wonder if his reluctance to use the transfer portal is keeping him behind the modern era of college football. Either way, Clemson is 0-2 in the ACC for the first time since 2010, so never forget a fall from grace can happen anywhere.
What was fun and what was wacky about Week 4
Week 4 had a lot of things that were fun
- For the life of me, I cannot get over Puddles the Duck’s masterful troll job of Deion Sanders on Saturday.
- Dan Lanning letting cameras film his pregame comments to his players about Colorado chasing clicks and Oregon chasing wins, he spoke with the confidence of a man confident he was going to crush Colorado 42-6 and then not have to face the Buffs again after conference realignment takes hold next year.
Oregon head coach Dan Lanning didn't hold back in his pregame speech against Colorado— ESPN (@espn) September 23, 2023
"They're fighting for clicks, we're fighting for wins." pic.twitter.com/imo4OHA4fA
- On a day that Deion Sanders’ team took an absolute ass-kicking, he answered every question asked to him in his postgame press conference rather than shut it down early like his public relations staffer encouraged him to. If nothing else, mad respect to him for not shying away from anything.
- Big man play of the week goes to Hawaii defensive lineman Daniel "Sauce" Williams.
: A top play in my book from #HawaiiFB win.— Mitch Riberal (@Mitch_Riberal) September 24, 2023
Daniel "Sauce" Williams (@saucefrom210) getting the strip, recovery and the big return.
This would set up UH for their first points of the night.#HawaiiFootball I #Hawaii pic.twitter.com/17WoagGZ6J
- North Carolina’s Drake Maye out here throwing touchdown passes left-handed.
- Florida wideout Ricky Persall Jr. with arguably the catch of the year.
- USF’s Khafre Brown wasn’t too far behind Persall.
- Kansas’ Cobee Bryant sent a poor soul from BYU into oblivion.
- Somebody’s grandfather made one hell of a sign.
Week 4 had a lot of wacky things too
- Just to revisit this for a second, how in the world can you just accept getting beat with 10 men on the field if what Marcus Freeman said after the game is true? Asked about the 10-man mishap following the game, Freeman said he and the coaching staff were aware they were one player short on the field, but didn’t want to risk substituting a player late at risk of drawing a penalty. But considering the Buckeyes were already on the one-yard line, the penalty would have given them what, an inch? Presented with that scenario, Freeman said he didn’t want OSU to have another opportunity to set up its offense. Maybe it’s negligence, but I’d take the penalty and roll with 11 guys on the next snap, personally.
Theres no way ND wanted to align without a down lineman over the left side of the OL pic.twitter.com/tvBmjWsfmt— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) September 24, 2023
- Alright, hold the hell on. We’ve got a Louisville offensive lineman who can’t find anyone to block, and knows ‘Ah hell no, if I just stand around, coach is going to chew my ass out in the film room tomorrow,’ so what does he do? A literal cartwheel. Louisville won the game by a mile, in case you were wondering.
Louisville players doing cartwheels on our defense. pic.twitter.com/JsrEzXd0fA— Boston College Football Fans (@BCFootballFans) September 23, 2023
- Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher is literally standing on the field in the middle of an Auburn scoop and score, as the Tigers’ Eugene Asante runs by him. How was this not a bigger deal? Also amazing restraint by Asante to not just try and have the perfect excuse to send Fisher flying into Timbuktu.
This angle of Jimbo Fisher on the field during Eugene Asantes scoopnscore pic.twitter.com/8fIyJXrMIf— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) September 23, 2023
- Down by eight with less than a minute remaining, Virginia scores a potential game-tying touchdown against North Carolina State with a two-point conversion pending. Then, it commits an unsportsmanlike penalty, bringing the attempt to the 17-yard line. Somehow, Virginia still ties the game on the two-point attempt, though it fell in overtime.
Quite a collapse from Virginia, Part 1:— The Comeback (@thecomeback) September 23, 2023
Down 8, the Cavaliers get a touchdown. They are called for a dead ball unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, moving the game-tying two-point attempt back to the 17-yard line.
Despite that, Virginia converts to tie the game. pic.twitter.com/lko7aLvAU2
- Caleb Williams normally does things no human should be capable of doing on a football field. This… was not one of those times.
- Just how they drew it up, Ohio State edition.
- How well are things going for Indiana right now? Well, the Hoosiers needed four overtimes to defeat 1-3 Akron, in case you were wondering.
- Minnesota somehow blew a 21-point lead and eventually lost in overtime to Northwestern, a team that had been prognosticated by some to be the worst Power Five team in 2023. That boat sure seems to have plenty of leaks, P.J. Plays like this sure didn't help.
MINNESOTA DOWNS THE PUNT in the end zone??? pic.twitter.com/UqibY53lG4— Sickos Committee (@SickosCommittee) September 24, 2023
- Apparently a Texas State band member was kicked out of the stadium after he threw a trident, yes, a trident, onto the field.
Ever since this hero threw a trident at Nevada, the Texas State Bobcats have scored 35 unanswered points lol pic.twitter.com/FapgJs6UUl— RedditCFB (@RedditCFB) September 24, 2023
- James Madison coach Curt Cignetti tried to (illegally) plead his case to an official on a replay review by using a cell phone video.
James Madison's coach pulled out the phone with video evidence pic.twitter.com/7kYVZHNgY4— The Sporting News (@sportingnews) September 24, 2023
Oh, Brian, take a seat, my man. You’ve got some ‘splaining to do.
The goal: 325 points across 13 games, for an average of 25 points per game.
Last game: Penn State 31, Iowa 0
Points tallied this season: 85
If the season ended today: Iowa would average 21.25 points per game. Brian Ferentz would have Simon and Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence on repeat.
Up next: Iowa faces Michigan State, who allowed 31 points in a 31-9 loss to Maryland.
Game of the Week
No. 11 Notre Dame (4-1) at No. 17 Duke (4-0), 7:30 p.m. ABC
Season record: 3-2
My pick: Notre Dame -5
Breakdown: After a complete heartbreaker, it’ll be curious to see just how resilient this Notre Dame team is. On the flipside, Duke has ample opportunity to prove it’s for real in the ACC with a statement victory against the Fighting Irish.
Led by a veteran quarterback, a stout offensive line and a talented secondary, I think Notre Dame rebounds with a victory against the talented Blue Devils.
Hodgepodge team classifiers after Week 4
CFP contenders: Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Florida State, Georgia, Texas, USC, Washington, Oregon, Utah, Oklahoma
Better win out if you want to be in the CFP: LSU, Alabama, Notre Dame
New Year’s Six Bowl contenders: Washington State, North Carolina, UCLA, Miami
Fun Group of Five teams: Tulane, Fresno State, Toledo, Wyoming, Ohio, Texas State, James Madison, Liberty, Georgia State, Marshall
Could be a fun year for them: Colorado, Kansas, Duke, Louisville, Maryland, Syracuse, Air Force, BYU, Oregon State
One of these teams might win the B1G West: Iowa, Wisconsin
Could be a long year for them: Texas Tech, Baylor, Nebraska, Arizona State, Texas A&M, Stanford, Pittsburgh, Houston, Clemson, Virginia Tech, Minnesota, Auburn
Might be looking for a new coach at the end of the year: Virginia, Boston College, Indiana
There’s already an interim coach: Northwestern
A former head coach is back with the team as an assistant because Mel Tucker is fired: Michigan State