Buckeyes happy to win in throwback style if necessary

COLUMBUS -- Ohio State typically celebrates its history during home football games.

More often than not, a player of the year or team champion from the past will be introduced between quarters or a commercial break and receive a rousing ovation from the Ohio Stadium crowd.

Full-game tributes are more rare, but that’s pretty much what the Buckeyes delivered Saturday night while beating Notre Dame 21-10.

This was not the high-flying offense Ohio State fans are used to seeing since Ryan Day came to Columbus.

In fact, it was the lowest-scoring game of his tenure as head coach and the fewest points Ohio State has scored in a win since a 17-16 squeaker at Michigan State in late 2016.

But if nature of the action surprised prognosticators who expected the Buckeyes to be in a shootout similar to the ones that began (45-31 over Minnesota) and ended (48-45 over Utah) last season, the game had to look very familiar to many people in the stadium.

Members of the 2002 national championship team, including their head coach, Jim Tressel, knew the feeling of winning close without many style points.

They did so nearly every week, especially in the second half of the season when all but one of their seven wins were by seven points or less, and the ability to close out such games has a lot to do with them being at the stadium Saturday night to be recognized for winning it all.

Winning that way was not necessarily Day’s intention, but he was not about to apologize when it was over.

“If we can continue to win games like that, then that’s how we’ll win games,” he said Saturday night. “If we can win different ways, that says a lot about your team as well, and I think this game is going to pay dividends down the road.”

Three days later, he was singing much the same tune.

“I think you guys have probably heard me use that term, ‘competitive stamina,’” he said Tuesday, referring to a something he previously identified as a focus of the offseason. “I thought that that showed up in the game. On Saturday night, the way that we played in the second half and certainly in the fourth quarter was tremendous because we knew we were going to be in those styles of games.”

A year ago, the Buckeyes led the nation in scoring and in total yards, but they came up short against teams from Oregon and Michigan that were constructed similarly to the Fighting Irish.

The Ducks ran for 269 yards while the Wolverines ended up just three shy of 300, and Ohio State managed just 192 combined.

“We didn’t respond like that, like we did on Saturday night,” Day said. “And that was a job well done, but it doesn’t mean anything this week.

“We have to move on because nothing we did last week matters, and it goes back to that term competitive stamina. Can we bring it every single week? And you’ve heard us say this, but we create the standard. And what is our standard? So it’s been about us. Always has been about us. And we’ll continue to use that message this week.”

After struggling for much of the first half and into the third quarter, Ohio State leaned on its running game. That helped develop a rhythm that opened up some things in the passing game for quarterback C.J. Stroud then carried the Buckeyes home after they took the lead.

It took some time, but Ohio State started to look like the team Day and his staff want to see — tough, coachable — and the head coach guessed it did so in a way plenty of fans appreciated.

“I think that there’s a huge part of Buckeye Nation that likes the way we played,” Day said. “You know, just gritty, tough, physical.”

He added they had an offensive package with a fullback in the game plan that would also look familiar but did not make it onto the field.

“Didn’t quite get to them, but they were they were ready,” he said with a grin. “We did get pretty big down in the red zone once. I know Coach Tressel was looking for the ‘power’ play. We didn’t get that one in there, but it was great.”


Arkansas State at Ohio State, Noon, BTN, 1410

About the Author