Quick hitters and other early observations that surfaced in No. 5 Notre Dame opener
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Early thoughts and observations by NDI columnist Tom Noie following Saturday’s game between No. 5 Notre Dame and No. 2 Ohio State, won by the Buckeyes, 21-10, in front of 106,594 at Ohio Stadium.
∎ There’s another game coming for Notre Dame, right? Season didn’t end with this one?
∎ Down one score on the road in the fourth quarter? Notre Dame was right there, but just had to make a play or two when a play or two needed to be made. No offensive pass interference that kills a drive. No empty plays. This one was right there for the taking. The Irish didn’t take it.
∎ Too quiet a night for Irish defensive end Isaiah Foskey. Rylie Mills too,
∎ Jon Sot. Big leg. Bigger night for the graduate transfer Irish punter.
∎ There may have been over 100,000 in the seats on Saturday, but a road venue? Meh. Ohio Stadium is a church compared to say, Sanford Stadium in Athens, Georgia on a Saturday night. Of course, once the home team finally got the lead, the big crowd decided to wake up.
∎ Forget all the potential of offensive fireworks, this felt like a Big Ten game in late October with a noon kick. A grinder. Irish defense just got ground down. Offense? Coulda/should did more.
∎ Time for Notre Dame to answer this loss and go on a road. This team can do it. This program should do it.
∎ Irish fans going to lose a lot of sleep thinking of that 24-yard C.J. Stroud touchdown toss on third-and-11 with 17 seconds left in the quarter. That Irish gamble sure didn’t pay off.
∎ Gotta figure out a way to get Chris Tyree in space more than he gets into space.
∎ Emeka Egbuka caught as many passes through three quarters Saturday (nine) as he had all last year.
∎ That first drive of the second half is one Notre Dame might want back. The Irish gained 35 yards on four plays and were bailed out by a late hit on Tyler Buchner. Up 10-7, the Irish needed more than what they did.
∎ Bo Bauer leaving on a cart with a right leg issue early in the quarter not something you ever want to see, even with the depth in that linebacker room. Bauer returned with five minutes left in the quarter. He ran out of the locker room. That was good. He was back in the game later in the quarter and making tackles.
∎ Up 10-7 with 5:31 remaining before halftime and Ohio State with the ball, a stop from Notre Dame was really needed given that Ohio State would get the ball back to start the third quarter. Almost required if the Irish wanted to haul momentum back to the locker room.
∎ The Irish defense held, the Buckeye field goal swung left and the visitors went to the locker room with the lead. Halfway home. How many of you would’ve taken that? Yeah, hands down. Everyone. Even more so when the Buckeyes opened the second half with a three-and-out. Momentum, all Irish.
∎ Irish defensive coordinator Al Golden stares down that high-octane Ohio State offense and hands it a total of 150 yards in the first half. Yeah, that’s a pretty good quarter for the Buckeyes.
∎ THAT’S the Audric Estime we’ve seen in bits and pieces in preseason camp, and the Estime we wondered if we’d see once the season arrived. We saw him.
∎ All Irish wide receiver Matt Salerno seems to do is make catches when the ball comes his way. Nothing like the catch, bobble, tip, bobble, snare he made on that 10-play, 87-yard drive, but it’s the regular season, so style points count now.
∎ Didn’t have Buchner completing his first eight attempts before his first incompletion, but that’s what we got from the first-time starter. First full half of football in seemingly forever, Buchner went 8-of-10 for 128 yards and added 15 yards on five carries.
∎ Better quarterback the first half — Buchner or Stroud? No contest. The rookie starter, not the Heisman hopeful. Then it flipped.
∎ Ten minutes hadn’t even run off the clock and Notre Dame was tagged with two personal foul penalties and a pass interference on Ohio State’s first two offensive series. Bad look. Can’t-have look. Irish had to settle down, and settle in. They did.
∎ First play from scrimmage this season for Irish? How about a 54-yard run and throw to Ohio native Lorenzo Styles. Nice.
∎ Andrew Kristofic picks up where he left off last season — starting at left guard. He opened there in place of Jarrett Patterson (foot) on the first drive. And for the game. Patterson just couldn't answer. No surprise.
∎ How’s that for a quick start for the visitors? Drive stalled, but early points are good points. Especially on the road. Especially in that atmosphere.
∎ Love the energy and the passion and the colorful quotes from Jayson Ademilola, but can’t have that personal foul call on the first play Buckeye play from scrimmage. Can’t.
∎Funny to say, but Notre Dame would take trailing 7-3 as it did after one. Irish were good to start, but seemingly on the ropes at the end of the first 15.
∎ Note to self — never, ever complain in any way, shape or form about the parking procedures of a Notre Dame home football Saturday, which really are pretty darn efficient compared to the Dumpster fire that is Ohio Stadium and Columbus on a gameday. Big crowd? Yes. Big game? Yes, but a 16-mile trip from your hotel to the stadium should never, ever take an hour and 38 minutes. Unless you’re in Columbus. Fail.
∎ Strawberry smoothies in the press box though, nice touch.
∎ LeBron James draws a crowd. He certainly did during warm-ups.
∎ Ohio State issued credentials for 43 NFL scouts, personnel directors, etc., from 27 teams for Saturday’s game. Will any remaining Notre Dame game (BYU? Clemson? USC?) draw anywhere close to that number?
∎ Games just feel differently when the Goodyear Blimp is hanging around. Just saying.
∎ Last words from referee Jeff Heaver after the coin toss — “Let's go. Football’s back.” That it is.