In the 2022 season opener, Ohio State defeated Notre Dame 21-10 in front of a capacity crowd. Former Buckeyes head coach Jim Tressel and the 2002 national championship team were in attendance, and the performance by the Buckeyes seemed to elicit strong memories of "Tresselball," the style of play Ohio State used when Tressel was in charge.
Tresselball relied upon strong defense, good special teams play, and a consistent offense that would chew up the clock. Below are three takeaways of how the Buckeyes did all of that to move their all-time series versus the Fighting Irish to 5-2. The two teams won't have to wait long for the rematch either. They are slated to play in South Bend on Sept. 23, 2023.
Ohio State Football: 3 Takeaways from the Buckeyes' Win over the Fighting Irish
1. Defense has improved
All of Ohio State's fans worried about how the Buckeyes would play defensively under new coordinator Jim Knowles. Notre Dame was able to connect on a 54-yard pass on the first play of the game, but the defense stiffened, forcing the Fighting Irish to settle for a field goal. The visitors took the lead in the second half following a 10-play, 87-yard drive that took 5:10 off the clock. A one-yard Audric Estime touchdown run capped it off and Notre Dame went into halftime up 10-7.
But that was it for the Irish's scoring as the Buckeyes pitched a shutout in the second half. Granted, Notre Dame's Tyler Buchner was making his first start at quarterback, but the fact remains that the first impression of the Knowles-led defense was a strong one. Linebacker Tommy Eichenberg led the effort with nine tackles, three of those for a loss, along with two sacks. Following the game, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said, "I thought the energy was off the charts for the defense tonight."
2. Special teams made a difference
After trailing 10-7 at the half, Ohio State retook the lead for good on a 24-yard touchdown pass from C.J. Stroud to Xavier Johnson late in the third quarter. On the previous possession, Notre Dame had started from its own 12-yard line thanks to a 50-yard punt by Jesse Micro. For the game, Micro averaged 45 yards on his five punts with four of them landing inside the 20. This ability to consistently pin the Irish deep in their own territory helped the Buckeyes control the battle for field position. Additionally, after hauling in the go-ahead touchdown pass, Johnson made a big tackle on the subsequent kickoff return, again setting up Notre Dame's offense inside of its own 20. Without the special teams units doing their jobs all game, the final result could have been different.
3. Tough running plays a big role
While the defense was the focal point of Ohio State's concerns all offseason, another critical area centered around the running game. In 2021, the Buckeyes were often unable to run the ball when needed against quality opponents.
In the fourth quarter, Ohio State's final touchdown was the result of a 14-play, 95-yard drive that chewed up seven minutes of clock time. Fittingly, the drive was capped by Miyan Williams scoring from the one-yard line. Williams and TreVeyon Henderson formed quite the 1-2 combo in the backfield, combining for 175 yards on 29 carries. There may not have been many long runs but the running game did its job by helping the Buckeyes find some rhythm on offense while also wearing down Notre Dame's defense.
While one game does not portend how the remainder of the season will go, Ohio State did well against a talented opponent in Notre Dame in prime time. It will bear watching to see if these three takeaways continue to play a key role in how the Buckeyes' 2022 season unfolds.