Notre Dame Quotebook: Lathan Ransom Says “We Were Called Soft All Last Year,” Jim Knowles Says “We Expected” Great Defensive Performance

By Griffin Strom on September 4, 2022 at 8:35 am
Ohio State Football

A win over the fifth-ranked team in the nation didn't come easy for the Buckeyes on Saturday.

But even on an uncharacteristically out-of-sync night for the typically high-octane Ohio State offense, the scarlet and gray pulled out a double-digit win over a college football powerhouse at Ohio Stadium.

After a gritty effort that saw the Buckeyes lean on their defense and run game, third-year safety Lathan Ransom – who finished with a team-second-best seven total tackles – said the 21-10 win should silence critics who doubted Ohio State's toughness in 2021.

"That's one thing that we worked on a lot and that's one thing that we had in the back of our mind. We were called soft all last year and we had to sit there and just eat it. Couldn't wait to play against Notre Dame and show what our defense is really about."

In his first game with the Buckeyes, defensive coordinator Jim Knowles helmed a unit that held Notre Dame without a point in the second half, and to just 72 yards in total in the final two quarters. The Fighting Irish had just 12 yards in the fourth quarter, and averaged just 2.5 yards per carry on the night.

But Knowles wasn't the least bit surprised by what his defense accomplished.

“It's a matter of confidence and leadership. It's a matter of, they expected this. Our players expected this, I expected this. So when they come in tomorrow, we're able to show them why it worked, how it worked. You just gotta give them that added motivation and confidence. But we expected this on defense. So I'm pleased and happy for them. But I'm not surprised. We expected it.”

When asked what he was most pleased with on the evening, Buckeye head coach Ryan Day lauded Knowles and company for allowing Notre Dame just two scores before the final buzzer.

“10 points. For them to stop Notre Dame to 10 points, and I guess total yards was 253, rushing yards 76. I think it was the front, guys running to the ball. I think you just saw what I was talking about leading into the game, just energy running to the ball. The decisive, playing fast. If they gave up a big play, it wasn't a panic. It wasn’t like, ‘Oh my God the world’s coming to an end.’ They just keep fighting. Like the first play, we brought a corner blitz, we missed a tackle. We hung in there and then forced them into a field goal. There was no panic there. 

“Maybe last year we would’ve gotten our heads down, you know, but we didn’t. I thought we played tough. I thought the energy was off the chart on defense tonight, and I'm proud of our guys. Jim called a great game, the whole defensive staff, but it was our players. Players play. and they do, They have something to prove. We all have something to prove. And I think they proved that they can be tough.”

After dropping two games in the regular season a year ago, Day said the Buckeyes talked all offseason about the need to win ugly in 2022. Given the lack of offensive firepower Ohio State brought to the table against the Irish, it's safe to say Ohio State proved it can find other ways to win a big game against a top-flight opponent.

“It's been a huge emphasis to win this way. And it starts with defense. And when you can play really good strong defense like we played tonight, if we can run the football; we know we'll be able to throw the ball, we know that. But if we want to go where we need to be and reach our goals, we're gonna have to do those two things. And tonight, we did.”

One of the surprise stars of the contest was former walk-on wideout Xavier Johnson, whose first career catch went for a 24-yard go-ahead touchdown at the end of the third quarter. The Buckeyes were without Julian Fleming for the entire game and Jaxon Smith-Njigba for most of it, and Johnson stepped up to put six points on the board when Ohio State needed it most during an offensive rut.

Day praised Johnson's effort, which might just have earned him more playing time on the Buckeye offense moving forward.

"For him to come in and play in that moment in this game right here, I just couldn't be happier for him. Because it goes to show you that good things happen to good people who work hard, and that's exactly who Xavier Johnson is. He was a walk-on and earned a scholarship, and he's really turned into a really good football player. And we trusted putting him in the game and look what happened. So very happy for him, well-deserved."

View 27 Comments