Ohio State batters Notre Dame in Fiesta Bowl

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

GLENDALE, Ariz. – One more opportunity on college football’s main stage ended in frustration for the Notre Dame football team.

Ohio State’s (12-1) 44-28 victory over the Irish (10-3) in Friday’s Battlefrog Fiesta Bowl extended Notre Dame’s drought in New Year’s Six Bowls that dates back to the 1994 Cotton Bowl.

Buckeye running back Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 149 yards and four touchdowns and quarterback J.T. Barrett rushed for 96 yards and threw for 211 as the defending national champs gave an indication they still belong in the discussion of the game’s elite.

Notre Dame’s offense was hard-pressed to get anything going against the Buckeyes until early in the fourth quarter. Trailing 38-21, quarterback DeShone Kizer hit Will Fuller with a quick out. Fuller caught the pass, made one move, and outran three Buckeyes for an 81-yard score.

It never got any closer. Ohio State hit a field goal, then turned up the defensive pressure to force great field position for a victory-clinching three-pointer.

The Buckeyes were impressive, converting on 10 of 17 third-down situations.

Before the game ever started, the Irish were hit with adversity. It was announced that defensive lineman Jerry Tillery had been suspended because of a violation of team rules. Defensive lineman Sheldon Day was hobbled, but played, with an ankle injury, as was the case with fellow DL Daniel Cage.

Eight minutes into the game, linebacker Jaylon Smith may have had his NFL plans change when he went down with what appeared to be a serious knee injury. His backup, Te’von Coney, lasted until the first play of the second quarter when he went down with an arm injury.

That left Jonathan Bonner as a regular on the defensive line and Jarrett Grace No. 1 at linebacker.

A few minutes after Smith was injured in the first quarter, the game’s defensive star power took another hit when Ohio State’s All-American defensive end Joey Bosa was ejected for targeting on a hit on Kizer.

Notre Dame’s Jarrett Grace (59) tries to bring down Ohio State’s Braxton Miller (1) during the 2016 Fiesta Bowl on Friday, Jan. 1, 2016, at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN