Ohio State scored with one second left to get a 17-14 win over Notre Dame.
The Buckeyes got the ball back with 1:26 to go and just one timeout and needed nearly every second of that drive as Chip Trayanum got the ball just across the goal line on a dive play.
Ohio State needed 15 plays to go 65 yards on the game-winning drive that included multiple conversions on third and fourth downs. After failing to pick up a yard on its first two plays of the drive, Ohio State converted a third-and-10 for 23 yards to Emeka Egbuka. Four plays later, Kyle McCord found Julian Fleming for 7 yards on fourth-and-7 with less than 45 seconds to go.
Not long after that, McCord was called for intentional grounding and Ohio State was forced to use its last timeout with 15 seconds left. On the next play — a third-and-19 — McCord hit Egbuka for a 21-yard gain to the Notre Dame 1-yard line with seven seconds to go.
Three plays later, Ohio State scored.
Trayanum's run came on the left side of the offensive line and at an area of the Notre Dame defense that was exposed. Notre Dame had just 10 players on the field for Ohio State's game-winning score. And based on the way the team was aligned before the snap, that missing player could have been assigned to that area of the line of scrimmage.
Notre Dame only had 10 players on the field for Ohio State's game winning TD. pic.twitter.com/QcZsU8CI7H
— Yahoo Sports College Football (@YahooSportsCFB) September 24, 2023
Ohio State’s game-winning drive capped a second half that was much more exciting than the first. The Buckeyes led 3-0 at halftime before taking a 10-0 lead on a TD run by TreVeyon Henderson.
Notre Dame then scored 14 consecutive points and took the lead for the first time with 8:22 to go on a TD pass from Sam Hartman to Rico Flores Jr. That Notre Dame TD drive took 6:29 as the Irish controlled the ball for much of the second half. Notre Dame’s first TD drive of the game took nearly half the third quarter and the Irish had run 33 plays in the second half to Ohio State’s eight when they went up 14-10.
Missed fourth-down opportunities
Both teams were left to rue their missed chances on fourth downs throughout the game. Each team failed to convert on two short fourth-down attempts in the other team’s territory.
Notre Dame QB Sam Hartman was stopped short of the sticks in the first quarter after the Irish got inside the Ohio State 20. At the end of Notre Dame’s first drive of the second half, Hartman ran for no gain at the Ohio State 39 on fourth down.
Ohio State turned the ball over on downs a yard away from the Notre Dame end zone in the second half when McCord’s fourth-down pass fell incomplete with 6:53 to go before halftime.
In the second half, Notre Dame stopped Ohio State from getting a yard on consecutive plays at the 11-yard line. After Henderson got stuffed on third down, Ohio State called a timeout ahead of fourth down. Instead of trying to run it up the middle again, the call was for an end-around to Egbuka. That got stuffed in the flat.
That missed conversion could have sealed the win for Notre Dame. But Ohio State DE J.T. Tuimolau nearly single-handedly forced Notre Dame to punt the ball away after the Irish had gotten two first downs. A third first down could have run the clock out.
Hartman finished the game 17-of-25 passing for 175 yards and a TD while McCord was 21-of-37 for 240 yards. Henderson had 14 carries for 104 yards and Notre Dame RB Audric Estime had 14 carries for 70 yards.
Notre Dame’s case for the playoff
Whoever lost Saturday night’s game was going to be playing catch-up the rest of the season to get back into the College Football Playoff mix. But if there’s ever going to be a team to make the playoff with two losses, this Notre Dame team could have a compelling case if it doesn’t go undefeated the rest of the season.
The Irish have games against Duke, USC and Clemson remaining on their schedule. A close loss to either USC or Clemson and a win over the two others would give Notre Dame a solid case at 10-2 if there’s a debate among multi-loss teams for a playoff spot.
But the chances of that being a real debate are slim. No two-loss team has ever made the four-team playoff. Notre Dame will likely have to beat everyone else remaining on its schedule to get in.