No. 6 Ohio State emerged victorious over No. 9 Notre Dame on Saturday as DeaMonte Trayanum scored a 1-yard touchdown with one second left on the clock to lift the Buckeyes to a 16-14 win in a thrilling classic between two of college football's top brands. The Buckeyes led 10-0 late in the third quarter before surrendering 14 unanswered to Notre Dame. Ohio State junior quarterback Kyle McCord, making just his fourth career start, responded by guiding the Buckeyes on a game-winning drive in the final two minutes.
McCord connected with Emeka Egbuka for a 21-yard gain down the middle of the field that put the Buckeyes on Notre Dame's 1-yard line with seven seconds remaining and no timeouts. Before the clutch throw, McCord connected with Julian Fleming for a 7-yard completion on a fourth-down play with the game on the line. He then found Marvin Harrison Jr. on a 19-yard diving grab over the middle to push the Buckeyes even closer to the end zone.
From there, McCord was whistled for intentional grounding with 15 seconds left, which required Ohio State to burn its final timeout to avoid a 10-second runoff. Undeterred, McCord found Egbuka for the completion which set up Trayanum's score. With the win, Ohio State has now defeated an AP top-10 team for a 10th consecutive season.
The outcome denied Notre Dame its first victory over Ohio State since 1936 and gave the Buckeyes their sixth straight win in the series.
1 yard for 'tough team'
On a third-and-1 midway through the second quarter, Ohio State failed to get that single yard on consecutive plays and turned the football over on downs at Notre Dame's 1-yard line. A similar scenario played out in the fourth quarter with the Buckeyes trailing 14-10 and facing a third-and-1 at the Notre Dame 11-yard line. Ohio State failed to pick up the lone yard on consecutive runs and turned the football over on downs with 4:12 remaining.
It reeked of the "finesse" label often assigned to the Buckeyes under sixth-year coach Ryan Day. Without a stop from the Buckeyes defense, the offense wouldn't have gotten a third chance. But Ohio State forced a punt and the third time turned out to be a charm.
After McCord threw an incompletion to the right pylon that left three seconds on the clock, Day decided to trust his run game for the last and all-important yard. Even still, Trayanum's scoring run was close enough to warrant a video review before it was confirmed that the football reached the goal line before his knees hit the ground.
Day made it clear after the game that he and the Buckeyes were bothered by comments from former Notre Dame coach and Hall of Famer Lou Holtz this week. Holtz, 86, questioned Ohio State's toughness, saying of Day that "everybody that beats him does so because they are more physical than Ohio State."
But, when the Buckeyes needed a yard with the game at stake, they were just physical enough to get it.
"I'd like to know where Lou Holtz is right now," Day said during an impassioned postgame interview on the field. "What he said about our team …I cannot believe. This is a tough team right here."
Don't blame Notre Dame's defense
Notre Dame's defense is going to draw plenty of criticism for allowing Ohio State's late, game-winning touchdown. Sure, the Irish played some leaky pass defense and ultimately got pushed off the ball on their biggest play of the season to allow Trayanum to push ahead for the score, but the Irish's defense was great for a majority of the game.
They more than held their own against one of the best wide receiver groups in the nation. Marvin Harrison Jr., fresh off two-straight 100-yard receiving performances, had just three catches for 32 yards. Notre Dame held Ohio State scoreless for over 29 minutes to start the game. The defense gave the offense plenty of opportunities to score, but Sam Hartman and Co. failed to capitalize.
The Irish had two drives in the first quarter end in Ohio State territory without a score. In fact, Notre Dame made it onto the Buckeyes' side of the field in three of its first five drives and didn't have any points to show for it. The Irish had two failed fourth-down conversions and one missed field goal before they scored their first touchdown. Notre Dame's defense battled enough to win, but the offense left a lot on the field.
Kyle McCord's moment
McCord's prior starts came against Akron, at Indiana, against Youngstown State and against Western Kentucky. Playing a top-10 opponent on the road marked the liveliest atmosphere of McCord's career and the scene also produced his first chance to be a late-game hero. After mostly playing in garbage time behind predecessor C.J. Stroud, the No. 2 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, McCord shined on college football's biggest stage when his team needed him most.
After completing 12 passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns to Harrison the past two weeks, McCord relied on other targets Saturday. With the Fighting Irish draping Harrison, Egbuka and tight end Cade Stover caught seven passes apiece. Xavier Johnson added a 40-yard reception in the fourth quarter. McCord and this iteration of the Buckeyes don't appear quite so dominant as some of the program's other recent outfits, but he came through when it mattered in a big moment Saturday.