Updated: Sep 19
Photo: Getty Images
Ohio State came in to Week 1 of the season with the only Top 5 matchup of the week. The Buckeyes took on No. 5 Notre Dame and took them down 21-10. This game for Ohio State marked the first time since pre-COVID football the defense won the game for Ohio State. Both sides of the Buckeye team struggled initially in the game, as the offense would score just once in the first half, and the defense allowed first-time starter Tyler Buchner to start the game 8-for-8, but when both sides started to click, it was lights out, and the haters were silenced as the Buckeyes claimed the first win of the season in dominating fashion, as they would not allow a single point in the second half and allowed only two completions.
Player Of The Game: Linebacker Tommy Eichenberg
We were told by Jim Knowles coming into the season that Eichenberg, and this linebacker group made huge steps in their development in the offseason, and this was evidence of that. Three tackles for loss, and two sacks is what shows up in the box score for Eichenberg, but his role as the leader of the defense was felt. He was constantly communicating and making changes to the plays like a QB running a perfect offense. If not for his efforts, this game goes a completely different direction.
For a team that has averaged 40+ points per game over the last 5 seasons, this will be seen as an underwhelming performance for Ohio State, but given the fact this was the first time we have seen what C.J. Stroud is without some of the greatest wide receivers in Buckeye history, it wasn't all bad. Stroud finished with a 70.5% pass completion, 200-plus yards and two touchdowns while not throwing an interception against one of the best secondaries in the nation.
There is plenty to work on and address in practice this week, but that was exactly what the offense needed to win. The biggest problem that needs to be addressed for Stroud is his ability to look off defenders and make it to his second and third reads. He stared down his receivers on every throw and never dumped it off to his check downs, and this led to him throwing into double coverage on a handful of occasions.
While you might not have guessed by watching the game but the running game was fantastic for Ohio State. TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williamson combined for 175 yards and a touchdown while both averaging over 6 yards per carry. The O-Line wasn't great, but as they improve throughout the season, this offense will be right back to 40+ points per game.
Ohio State's top wideout in Jaxon Smith-Njigba was knocked out of the game early on and this led to a showcase of the next group of guys that will lead the passing game after Smith-Njigba likely leaves for the NFL Draft in the Spring. Jayden Ballard and Xavier Johnson who came into the season opener with just 1 collegiate reception between the two of them combined with Emeka Egbuka and Marvin Harrison Jr. to keep up the elite status set by Brian Hartline. Everyone could have played better, but considering the lack of true big game experience for the majority of these guys this was a solid performance.
This defensive showcase is exactly what was promised by Jim Knowles and Ryan Day: The best of the best, and they were precisely that after some expected early struggles. After allowing eight straight completions to start the game, they would allow only two more throughout the rest of the game. They locked down the line of scrimmage at a level we haven't seen from them in years, holding Notre Dame to just 2.5 yards per carry and just 76 yards on the night. Michael Mayer made catches for Notre Dame pretty much all night, and this was expected, but his run after catch was neutralized by Ohio State, and this took the game out of his hands and forced Marcus Freeman to go elsewhere with the ball to win, but the new three safety defensive scheme covered the entire field.
The only negative takeaway for the defensive side was the lack of turnovers. Fans expect turnovers and were a little disappointed the Buckeyes were unable to force any against a rookie QB. Along with that goes the lack of pass rush from the D-Line for Ohio State. The D-Line played great against the run, and that's a huge upside for this team after last year, but no sacks definitely has some Buckeye fans looking to Larry Johnson for improvements next week.
Jim Knowles gave his thoughts postgame on his defenses' first performance. The biggest note about his defense during the interview was the defense they ran against Notre Dame was basic. As the season goes on, and these players get more used to the system, they are going to add on to the playbook and make it more complicated, adding more disguises, bringing more blitzes, etc. This should provide hope to Buckeye fans that every little problem from the new defense in game one will be addressed next week.
vs. Arkansas State (1-0),Sep. 10th, 12:00 p.m.
vs Toledo (1-0), Sep. 17th, 7:00 p.m.
vs #18 Wisconsin (1-0), Sep. 24th, TBD
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