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CFB Data Review: Notre Dame 14, Ohio State 17

The data story coming out of the Irish’s soul crushing loss to the Buckeyes.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 23 Ohio State at Notre Dame Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

I was sitting cross legged, in silence for about fifteen minutes once the final 14-17 call came in. I make the cardinal mistake coming into the game of having been way too overly committed to Notre Dame pulling off the win over Ohio State. It just seemed like even though it would be close, we deserved this and that for once in a VERY long time we had a team that could deliver. In my close to 15 years now of being a fan, I’ve never seen Notre Dame pull of one of those mythical “big wins.” And the leadup to this game from all angles indicated that this would be the time.

Alas, that dream wasn’t meant to be and the Irish fell to the Buckeyes at home in South Bend. There are a lot of takeaways and with how close this one was until the very end, I’ve got no doubt that we’re going to be reading about them for weeks to come.

Missed opportunities is probably going to be the biggest one but I still woke up this morning feeling like that was the most competitive performance I’ve seen the Irish put up in a “big game.” The numbers confirm that in the general senses but also point to a lot of the other things that caused the team to come up short.

So I guess it’s time to go through the data.

Opponent History

We’re all going to be hearing about this for years to come but the Buckeye’s tallied up the 6th in their win streak against the Irish. With Saturday night’s loss, Notre Dame’s last claim to victory over Ohio State on the football field dates back to 1936. That’s a tough pill to swallow (especially given how Ryan Day decided to go full-on Hulkamania following the game).

If there’s a reason for optimism, it’s that if you track the matchups Notre Dame is trending in the right direction. I know, I know. Almost doesn’t count. But if we’re talking about getting the Irish over the “big game” hump this stat trend as well as the closeness of the game indicate that the program isn’t in the tailspin we all likely dreamt about last night.

Schedule Summary

Notre Dame broke its four-game winning streak to open the 2023 season with Saturday’s loss to Ohio State. On the season, the team has still outscored opponents 198 – 64. NC State put up the most points (24) against ND in Raleigh and in back-to-back weekends Central Michigan and Ohio State scored 17 against the Irish at home. They’ll be 4-1 and looking for some redemption in their next matchup against Duke.

Scoring Summary

It was a pretty low scoring affair.

The teams ended the 1st quarter with a stalemate and Ohio broke the ice with a 31-yard field goal in the 2nd quarter. That score came following a missed 47-yard field goal from ND’s Shrader earlier on in the quarter.

From then, the teams would both match each other in touchdowns through the 3rd and 4th quarters but the 2nd quarter field goal mismatch would prove to haunt the Irish.

Removing the field goals, the game was largely decided by goal line stands with the exception of TreVeyon Henderson’s (Ohio State) 61-yard run following the Irish’s turnover on downs early in the 3rd quarter.

Team Comparisons – Ball Movement

Ball movement was a struggle for the Irish at key moments throughout the game. Notre Dame had the advantage in terms of total first downs but came up short in terms of 3rd down conversions (50% - 59%). That was on ten 3rd down attempts for ND and 17 for OSU. Notre Dame had the advantage when it came to overall time of possession, most of which was made possible by a hard-nosed rushing attack in the 2nd half.

Team Comparisons – Offense

The teams were almost even in terms of total offense, with Notre Dame tallying up 351 yards compared with Ohio State’s 366 yards.

The Irish passing game came up short by most metrics except for completion percentage. It took a while to get the ground game going but ND had the advantage in most rushing metrics except for average yards per carry. The rushing game was the Irish’s most potent offensive weapon but it unfortunately didn’t find its stride until it was too late in the contest.

Team Comparisons – Extra Stats

There were a lot of close calls when it came to turnovers but both teams walked away unblemished. The Irish secondary had its hands full most of the night and was characterized by some great stops by Ben Morrison, missed interception opportunities and ill-timed pass interference/holding calls (because I guess they’re interchangeable now).

There wasn’t a big gap between the ND and OSU in terms of penalties. Notre Dame have the advantage with only four compared with Ohio State’s 5. But the Irish tallied up more total yards ( 50 – 35).

Quarterback Comparisons

Kyle McCord won the QB battle, in terms of teal passing yards (240 – 175). While Sam Hartman had some early successes passing the ball, as things progressed much of the game plan shifted to the ground attack. Hartman bested McCord with a 68% to 59% completion percentage and the game’s only passing touchdown but ultimately the passing game wasn’t what I think any of us hoped it would’ve been.

Receiving Summary

When the Irish were successful in getting the ball to receivers, the wealth was shared. Tight end Mitchell Evans had the biggest night in terms of total yards with some strong contributions from Jaden Greathouse, Chris Tyree and Rico Flores Jr. Evans led in receptions and he, Greathouse and Tyree all tallied up longest completions of 20+ yards. Flores Jr. pulled in the Irish and overall game’s sole receiving touchdown.

***I’m not the biggest fan of player-level team comparisons in these reviews. But given how close it all turned out to be here is a similar stat set for Ohio State. For perspective purposes only.***

Rushing Summary

There were struggles early on that subsided as things progressed but the rushing came carried the big load for the offense. Estime led the group with 70 total yards and Love tallied up 57 total yards. In terms of carries, Estime, Love and Payne had their numbers called the most with Love making some key, bruising runs in the 2nd half. Gi’Bran Payne came up in a crucial goal line stand and put up the Irish’s only rushing touchdown of the game.

***I’m not the biggest fan of player-level team comparisons in these reviews. But given how close it all turned out to be here is a similar stat set for Ohio State. For perspective purposes only.***

Final Thoughts

It wasn’t the outcome most of us imagined but it’s still what we got. I cursed the football fates for a long-time last night for bringing us that close in the end but now that my pride is starting to recover a bit, things don’t seem so devastating.

Sure, we lost another “big game” but I can’t sit here and say that this felt like our other big losses. Say what you want about McCord’s lack of experience, the depth of Ohio State as a whole is still something to be reckoned with and at not point during the game did I feel like we didn’t belong. Definitely can’t say the same for the other games that the Irish have lost on the big stages over the last 15 years or so.

That doesn’t make it all roses and chocolates, but I went into the game way too invested as a true believer in where the program is and is going and the morning after, I still feel the same.

Cheers and Go Irish!!