Despite entering the game as a three-score favorite and struggling to get its offense on track for much of the night, Ohio State beat No. 5 Notre Dame in a very satisfying performance in the Shoe.
The Buckeyes trailed 10-7 for nearly half the contest but Ryan Day's offense and defense showed a toughness lacking last year in the third and fourth quarters as they outscored the Irish 14-0 in the decisive second half.
It wasn't the type of win I was expecting - one that cost me a first set of Phish on night three of another Dick's run out in Denver - but the way it played out was more satisfying than the expected blowout in many ways. This game was about toughness and for the Buckeyes to own the second half - because it owned the trenches - should be a nice springboard for the minds and bodies within the WHAC.
So hey, I'm hungover, sluggish, dehydrated but I'm also satisfied with the 11-point win over a game Notre Dame squad. With that, let's get Five Things off the ground so I can go back to bed.
MIYAN F. WILLIAMS
Running the ball when everyone knew it was coming was a problem for Ohio State last year but when it needed tough yards to both score and burn some clock, the revamped offensive line and tailback Miyan Williams were up to the task last night.
Holding a precarious 14-10 lead with 11:57 left in the fourth quarter, Ohio State's offense took the field at its own 5-yard line looking to make a statement.
Starting tailback TreVeyon Henderson joined the offense for the first few plays but Miyan Williams entered on the fifth play of what became a 14-play, 95-yard touchdown drive with Chop a central figure in salting the game away.
To get things started, he turned in a nifty 12-yard catch along the sideline to move the chains on a crucial 3rd-and-3 from the OSU 24.
From there, he logged seven carries for 49 yards including a 2-yard score to ice the game with 4:51 left.
His drive featured bursts of 11, 15 and 12 yards via an array of cutbacks and a physical style mirroring his offensive line's attitude. Each time he fell forward at the end of a gritty runs served as body blows and exclamation points on exactly the kind of game Ohio State couldn't win last year.
Williams churned out 49 yards on seven carries during the thundering drive and finished the game with 84 yards on 14 rushes along with the clutch 12-yard snag along the sideline.
DROP THE MIKE
Holy hell defensive tackle Mike Hall proved he's ready for prime time last night. The redshirt freshman was sensational while playing what I assume were more snaps than he logged all of last year (35) in the trenches.
Most fans were probably expecting names like Taron Vincent, Tyleik Williams and Jerron Cage to hunker down in the trenches and make some plays but Hall stole the show with four tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack and a hurry in a breakout performance.
In addition to those numbers, my notepad scribbles showed at least four other instances when he didn't make the stat sheet but was chiefly responsible for disrupting a play after beating his man off the snap.
Right before Ohio State put the game away with that long touchdown drive, it was Hall who blew up a 3rd-and-18 play as he knifed into the backfield for like the tenth time in the contest.
Rewind to the first quarter and he was central in holding Notre Dame to a field goal after a 54-yard pass boosted by a personal foul call put the Irish in business at the OSU 16. On 1st-and-10, he logged a tackle on a 3-yard gain and on second down, he swim-moved his man and recorded a 2-yard tackle for loss, forcing a 3rd-and-9 and eventual field goal giving Marcus Freeman's squad a 3-0 lead.
Forcing red zone field goals didn't happen much last year but in Drive One, the Buckeyes did exactly that thanks in large part to Hall.
Midway through the second quarter, Hall blew up a 3rd-and-4 play with a fierce pass rush ensuring the Irish wouldn't pad their 10-7 lead before intermission.
Overall, just a man-sized effort from a guy who apparently did a lot of what he did last night in spring and fall camps, paving the way for a much-needed performance along Ohio State's defensive front.
I LIKE EICH
In our season preview series last month, I predicted Tommy Eichenberg would not only lead Ohio State in tackles this season but that he'd also become the first Buckeye since Raekwon McMillan in 2016 to record at least 100 tackles.
We'll see if either of those proclamations pan out but Eichenberg was a stud last night posting nine tackles, three tackles for loss and two sacks in a thrilling performance.
Like the rest of the defense, Eichenberg made plays from sideline to sideline and brought a physicality not seen much from anyone in scarlet and gray a season ago.
His first sack came on a 3rd-and-4 play, leading a 7-yard loss just after the Buckeyes took their first lead at 7-3 late in the first quarter. His second came midway through the third quarter, leading to a punt three plays later, before Ohio State went on it's 14-play touchdown drive to retake the lead.
Eichenberg was a stud in last year's Rose Bowl, turning in 17 tackles in a springboard performance and he looked even faster last night. Get on the Tommy Train friends, he's got a shot to get the Buckeyes back on track with developing legit linebackers. It's been too long.
BLITZ AND GLAMOUR
Irish head coach and former Buckeye linebacker Marcus Freeman had his guys ready to play last night, make no mistake about that. Those dudes came in expecting to win and never backed down.
Unfortunately for Freeman and defensive coordinator Al Golden, a greedy blitz call with Ohio State facing a 3rd-and-11 at the ND 24, trailing 10-7 late in the third quarter, proved to be the beginning of the end.
With a 41-yard field goal try potentially on tap, the Irish braintrust blitzed both safeties instead of taking a keep-it-in-front-of-you approach and C.J. Stroud made them pay.
Identifying the blitzing safeties, with both deep in the secondary before breaking forward, Stroud patiently waited for Xavier Johnson to cross his man's face from the slot, leading to a 24-yard pitch and catch for the go-ahead touchdown.
On a night when Stroud wasn't his best, he read the blitz and delivered a strike helping Ohio State to the winner's circle.
I'm too tired to look but I wonder how many times Ohio State's defense pitched a second-half shutout last season?
With new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles calling plays from up above, the Buckeyes showed grit, speed and toughness at all three levels.
The defensive line got pressure without the aid of a blitz, disrupted the run and kept he linebackers clean.
Eichenberg and Steele Chambers looked in sync roaming the field.
The secondary, featuring an improved Lathan Ransom alongside Ronnie Hickman and others held the Irish to 10 total completions and all-everything tight end Michael Mayer to five catches on eight targets for a modest 32 yards.
Sack-adjusted, the Irish averaged just 3.5 yards per carry and converted only three of 13 third downs.
I'm pretty sure Notre Dame won't lead the country in total offense this year lol but even a Buckeye hater has to acknowledge the defensive turnaround thanks to Knowles.