The #2 Fighting Irish traveled to The Horseshoe for a rematch of their 9-0 pasting of the then #15 Ohio State Buckeyes last year at Arlotta Stadium (Aprox. 0.025% of Div. I lacrosse games are shutouts). Coming into the game this year, Ohio State had fallen out of the top-20 with a record of 5-4 and was on the heels of a three-game losing streak. This was the 41st meeting between the teams, who have played at least once every year since lacrosse became a varsity sport in 1981.
The question again for Notre Dame coming into the game was their offense. Defensively, the Irish have been spectacular. Notre Dame came into the game with the #1 ranking in the Inside Lacrosse efficiency ratings, both raw and adjusted, and with a huge gap over the next best defense (the gap between ND and second-best Yale is the same as the gap between Yale and 13th best Providence). Offensively, the Irish’s ranking coming into the game was downright terrible, at #50 in Division I, behind even the Mercer Bears from the lacrosse wasteland of central Georgia. Part of their offensive woes included the continuing saga of The Hunt for Matt Kavanaugh. At the 2014 Ohio State game, Kavanaugh scored a whopping 7 goals. In the first six games of this season he had a total of just five.
The Irish started the game slowly, entering halftime down 4-3 behind two Mikey Wynne goals and a slick goal by Matt Kavanaugh. The fellas got their act together scoring 4 in the third and shutting down the Buckeye offense for a 20-minute stretch. They maintained their lead in the fourth quarter with the final score being closer than it should have been with two man-down goals scored by Ohio State in the final minutes after a Brendan Collins double penalty.
A win is a win, particularly on the road. Goalie Shane Doss wasn't up to his usual high standard and probably wishes he had 3 or 4 of those goals back,. 6-on-6 defense was solid, as usual, although I wish they would convert more ground ball opportunities. Man-down defense only gave up goals in 2 of 5, but it seemed worse live. The ride was fine, even if it didn't create its usually opportunities, and the Irish were a bit lazy in their clears. Statistically, Notre Dame was marginally worse than Ohio State in nearly every category. They should be glad only the score counts. To summarize, it was a middling performance in the aggregate. Having said that, it's good to see them win when they aren't at their sharpest.
ND-Atl 2.0’s pregame questions:
Will the Offense Improve? The Notre Dame offense, with its three recognized all-americans, had been MIA for a solid month. They showed some signs of life today, with Mikey Wynne again having a good day with a hat trick off 5 shots. Matt Kavanaugh was his old self much of the game with 2 great goals and 2 assists. He could have added a few more had it not been for the great performance of the Ohio State keeper. Kavanaugh was significantly more aggressive than he had been all year. Perkovic was a non-factor. He fired 5 shots to keep the Buckeyes honest, but didn't see the field as much the second half. Instead, the whole bench got a chance to show their stuff with Ben Pridemore, Pierre Byrne and Kyle Trolley making a nice impact. The offense is still not close to where it needs to be, but at least it is showing originality and seems to be on an upward trajectory.
Any improvement at faceoff X? Umm, No. After a respectable draw against Denver’s Kevin Baptiste, P.J. Finley had an abysmal game against Virginia, going 4 of 18 at faceoff X. Ohio State’s Jake Withers came into the game with a very respectable .592 win %. With Syracuse’s Ben Williams (.672 win %) next up, Finley needed vast and immediate improvement, and he did not achieve it. He statistically went 8 of 21, which is not good in and of itself, but it seemed much worse and he even earned a penalty for too many procedure calls. The wings didn't do him any favors, either. They were consistently boxed out by the Ohio State wingmen. The handful of times they did get the ball, they did push the ball up field nicely, and P.J. Finley does not lack effort, but I'm really searching for positives. Notre Dame will see nothing but excellent faceoff units for the rest of the season. They need a solution...fast.
ND-Atl 2.0's postgame comment:
Sergio needs to consider Quint Kessenich's scathing commentary earlier this week regarding the limitations of his game. Days like today he can look ordinary, and he needs to do better if the Irish are going to succeed. We don't agree that he should pass more, but he should not be afraid to move people aside with his 220 lb. frame or roll to his left when the defense over commits to his right. A simple and more elegant solution than completely reinventing himself midway through the season as suggested by Kessenich.
Since the Ohio State game was apparently filmed from a camera on the International Space Station, we did not include any highlights. Instead, enjoy the game-winning play from last week's overtime win:
While 3,106 fans were leaving Ohio Stadium, this happened:
-#1 Denver got pummeled by Penn State 15-10
-#5 Syracuse loses in OT to Duke.
Will the Irish reclaim the #1 ranking, or will they be leapfrogged by undefeated Yale or Brown? It has been a wacky lacrosse season so far.
Up next for the Irish: @ the-about-to-drop-from-#5 Syracuse. We're not sure what to make of the Orange. They looked strong all season then dropped a game in OT to Johns Hopkins and followed it up with a loss to Duke. Since Syracuse is lacrosse royalty, for your viewing pleasure, a snippet from the 1990 Syracuse team, generally regarded as the best team ever, even if their National Championship was vacated (what do you mean coaches can't co-sign car loans for players?).