'This week's a big opportunity:' Notre Dame football excited for Ohio State opener
Tyler Buchner has a lot of emotions heading into Notre Dame football’s first game of the 2022 season.
“It’s my first start, playing at Ohio State, a night game,” Buchner said. “I think I would be lying if there wasn’t a little bit of nerves. I think that’s pretty normal, pretty human.”
Heading into Saturday’s top-five primetime matchup against Ohio State, energy is high for Notre Dame: a program that is preparing to meet the expectation this type of matchup brings.
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“It’s two powerhouse programs going at it week one,” running back Chris Tyree said. “It’s a game you really dream of as a child, playing those big games, playing those Saturday night football games. Having the opportunity to play on a big stage is really exciting.”
Last season, the Fighting Irish finished 11-2 and was on the outside looking in in the College Football Playoff race, losing to undefeated Cincinnati and finishing the season No. 5.
Now, with a new head coach in former Ohio State linebacker Marcus Freeman, players like defensive lineman Jayson Ademilola are sensing the opportunity the Fighting Irish have heading into the first game of the 2022 campaign.
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“This week’s a big opportunity for the program and for the guys in this locker room,” Ademilola said. “Obviously it’s been No. 1 on our schedule for a long time. We’re blessed to have a big opener like this."
Tyler Buchner has an idea of what Ohio State's defense could look like
Buchner, who was named Notre Dame’s starting quarterback Aug. 13, feels prepared, even when he doesn’t know what’s exactly coming from Ohio State’s defensive coordinator Jim Knowles.
Crediting defensive end J.T. Tuimoloau, linebacker Tommy Eichenberg and safety Ronnie Hickman and the talent each of them have, Buchner said he has “a pretty good idea” of what Ohio State’s 4-2-5 defense will look like based on Oklahoma State film from the Fiesta Bowl last season.
Against the Cowboys defense, Notre Dame scored 35 points and recorded 551 yards of offense.
“He likes to try and create confusion for coordinators and quarterbacks,” Buchner said. “It’s picking up on those little things and doing our best seeing it and executing off of it.”
Buchner also knows what Ohio State’s offense is capable of, growing up in California at the same time as Buckeyes quarterback C.J. Stroud. But the Notre Dame quarterback said that doesn’t change his game plan or approach for how long the offense should hold onto the football.
“There are times to do that, to control the ball and control the clock and wind it down,” Buchner said. “That isn’t the whole thing. We’re not going to come out in Wing-T and snap it in one second for every single play.
“I think it’s certainly important to limit their offensive drives. Their offense is extremely talented. They know how to put up points… You have to win the turnover battle, you got to limit their offensive possessions whether it’s us scoring or staying on the field or continuing drives. We’ll try our best to do that.”
Notre Dame's defense confident it can live up to Ohio State offense's challenge
Marist Liufau knows how much attention Ohio State’s offense gets.
The linebacker said the Notre Dame defense is preparing for the Buckeyes’ explosiveness, something that pushes the unit to improve each time it takes the field.
But Liufau also knows the potential Notre Dame has on defense.
“I’m very confident in my teammates,” Liufau said. “I believe in our defense. I’ll take our defense over anyone in the nation.”
Last season, the Fighting Irish allowed 19.7 points and 360.5 yards per game to opposing offenses and finished the season with a four-game stretch in which they allowed 23 total points.
Notre Dame’s first task in 2022 is to face an Ohio State offense that averaged 45.7 points and 561.7 yards of offense per game.
To Ademilola, the Buckeyes’ offense is not a challenge Notre Dame is going to shy away from.
“With any great offense, whether it’s Ohio State or any other team, you must have great players,” Ademilola said. “They got some great players and we got some great players as well. That’s what makes it a game.
“I’m just eager to go out there and play at the level of ball we all know we can play.”