Author's Note: No film this week as well as a Virginia recap. For a solid recap, I recommend checking out WatchND's highlight vid, but here are a couple thoughts on that game before I take a look at Ohio State:
That is two straight games where ND hasn't played all four quarters and that is a problem
The Denver game was a tale of two halves, or a tale of three quarters and one quarter if you wanted to be more specific. In short, the Irish didn't play on a consistent level for the entire game against the Pioneers and it continued against Virginia. Against the Cavaliers, it looked like the game was going to get out of hand early. The Irish led 5-0 after the first quarter, 8-2 at half, and simply allowed Virginia to get back into the game. How? The Cavaliers outshot the Irish 37-29, with an absurd 26 shots in the second half alone. That meant that Virginia had the ball a lot. Also, the absence of Nick Ossello, who didn't play, affected the faceoff game, where the Irish went 11-24, though going 5-8 in the 4th quarter helped save the game. In addition, the Irish's even strength defense didn't step up, as there were assignment gaps that gave Virginia players open shots.
My hope is that Irish head coach Kevin Corrigan took this week to get the players focused on playing a complete game because, with all due respect to Virginia and their #8 ranking at the time, Notre Dame should've won that game with a Dartmouth-type score. Notre Dame was clearly the better team and just gave Virginia enough momentum to keep them in it late.
The Irish got another 50-50 game out of Shane Doss
My benchmark for a quality outing by a lacrosse goalie is if he can get 10 saves in a game. Doss did just that, nabbing 10 saves on 37 shots and letting 9 get past him. However, just like the Denver game, a lot of those shots were uncontested, which looks bad on his sheet but doesn't really tell the whole picture. Against Ohio State, I'd like to see Doss continue his rhythm and get some more help from the Irish back end.
The Irish have an offense that knows it is good, and that can be a problem
As I wrote above, the Irish completely dominated Virginia in the first half. Attackman Mikey Wynne was basically left unguarded on the crease and Virginia had no answer for Matt Kavanagh and Conor Doyle, who put up five goals between the two of them. That said, the Irish got way too cute in the second half. Wynne was still open on the crease and Doyle was still rocking it playing from midfield, but the Irish deviated from their first half offense with limited results. Limited possessions in the second half also hurt, as the pressure mounted to put up points when they weren't readily available.
So...let's look at the Buckeyes!
Who: #15 Ohio State Buckeyes
When: 4pm ET
Where: Arlotta Stadium - Notre Dame, Indiana
TV: ESPNU and the WatchESPN app!
As a wrote in my subtitle, the 7-2 Buckeyes are a statistical enigma. For starters, they've played a ridiculous 9 games so far this season, but it's the details of those games that are puzzling. They lost their season opener to Detroit in a pretty significant upset and have also dropped a contest to 7-0 Marquette, who are padding their record on the backs of some cream puff teams. But, they beat Denver the week after the Pioneers stunned the Irish in OT and are coming off a one-goal win over Towson. So this team is capable of beating good teams, but losing to bad ones.
At attack, the Buckeyes have a Tewaaraton Watch Lister in Senior Jesse King, who is listed as a Midfielder but plays anywhere and everywhere. This season, King has almost exclusively played Attack in their recent games, and has 21 goals and 14 assists to lead Ohio State. Alongside him is Junior Carter Brown (16g, 11a), who is just as deadly at the position and his 38% shooting percentage leads all Ohio State starters. The third attack spot has rotated but Freshman Colin Chell (9g, 2a) has started the last three games for the Buckeyes. Ryan Hunter (10g, 3a) has also seen action at Attack and poses a risk to the Irish defense.
At midfield, the Buckeyes have played around with lineups with the only 9 game starter being Senior David Planning (8g, 9a). Alongside him the most is Turner Evans (4g, 5a), who plays with a lot of punch despite his size. Like with the attack unit, Buckeyes Head Coach Nick Myers has toyed around with personnel, playing a number of players, including John Kelly (1g, 2a), Tyler Pfister (3g, 1a and started the last game against Towson) and Rick Lewis (3g, 2a). 2nd liner J.T. Blubaugh (7g, 0a) is also a threat at the position.
Outside of the Buckeye's attack, the defense is a strength, ranking #1 in the country in Man-Down Defense and 4th in Scoring Defense. Like the other units though, Ohio State has worked all season to find a unit that gels and seems to have found it. Their only 9 game starter is Robby Haus (12gb, 7 caused turnovers) and he has been joined recently by Evan Mulchrone (13gb, 11 caused turnovers) and Chris Mahoney (8gb, 3 caused turnovers). Brendan Barger (16gb, 3 caused turnovers) will also see action for Ohio State. This unit is among the nation's best but will really be seeing their first real test by the Irish attack.
In net, the Buckeyes go with one goalie, Tom Carey. His 7.29 goals against ranks 5th in the nation and his 57% save percentage ranks 10th. This is a good goalie with an even better defense in front of him and the Irish will have their hands full if they can't hit their marks today.
Another strength for Ohio State is at the face-off X, where Christopher May ranks 6th in the nation with a 68% winning percentage. Just as a point of reference though, he went 3-9 against Trevor Baptiste so the potential is there for the Irish to take advantage, but this is a strong FoGo.
This one is tough to pick. Like with Virginia, the Buckeyes' good record reeks of smoke and mirrors. The combined record of the teams that they beat is 20-26 and three of those teams, Robert Morris, Dartmouth and Bellarmine, only have 1 win apiece. Ohio State has also not really put away any teams this season, only winning two games by more than five goals and playing in five one-goal contests, where Ohio State went 3-2 in those games. Ohio State also boasts the 38th-ranked Strength of Schedule according to Laxpower. That is 38th out of 69 Division 1 teams, and that is not good.
In addition, like Virginia, this will be Ohio State's third game in a week of play, as the Buckeyes played Denver last Saturday and Towson in the middle of the week.
But that is the thing. Ohio State is a squad that beats good teams. They upset Denver when the Irish could not and then traveled to Baltimore on short rest and refused to let down, defeating Towson by a goal. If healthy and if the Buckeyes still have their legs about them, they are as dangerous as any team in the country. They have a stout attack unit, solid defense, a good goalie and an even better faceoff specialist.
But the Irish have Matt Kavanagh.
The attackman is making his case for college lacrosse's Heisman trophy by making dazzling play after play. With the addition of Mikey Wynne, Notre Dame finally has a crease rat that allows Kavanagh more room to run from GLE. His 7-goal outing against Ohio State last year might be a little bit more difficult this time around, but I fully expect him to have time to shoot and serve up shots to Wynne.
This game will pit Ohio State's highly ranked defense against an Irish offense that is clicking at every step. While Ohio State ranks #1 in Man Down Defense, the Irish rank #1 in Man Up Offense. I'm excited for that matchup and think it favors the Irish a little bit. Notre Dame is also one of the most offensively efficient teams in the country, ranking #2 with a 37% efficiency. They also like to score, with their lowest goal total being 10 in the loss to Denver.
For the Irish to win, they need to show that efficiency to Ohio State. The Irish will struggle from the faceoff X, so they need to make the most of their possessions when they get them. Perkovic might see a longpole when the Irish have the ball, so it'll be up to Will Corrigan and Nick Ossello to step up. If Ossello can't go this week, Ben Pridemore will need to step up on Ohio State's middies.
They'll also need another 10-save outing from Shane Doss, and they'll need to keep Jesse King and Carter Brown in check.
Oh, and if you didn't read the top of this post, they'll need to PLAY ALL FOUR QUARTERS.
For Ohio State to win, they'll need to do what they did to Denver, and that means shutting down the opponent's offensive stars.
I just don't see it happening.
The Irish are more rested and on paper are a better team. While the faceoffs will look ugly (especially if Ossello doesn't play), I expect the Irish offense to score and score a lot when they do get the ball. Ohio State is a good team and but for a couple stumbles out of the gate, would be higher ranked. Notre Dame kicks them down a peg and moves on to 5-1 as I chuckle listening to Eamon McAnaney (himself a former ND lacrosse player) and Paul Carcaterra complaining about the officiating because I agree with them. As Irish fans oogle over the helmets the lacrosse team will be wearing today, Butler will be distracted by the shininess and the basketball team will win by half a hundred. And we will all smile. And we will all give the credit to Matt Kavanagh.
Notre Dame 12 Ohio State 8