Here are 5 things we learned from Ohio State's 21-10 win over Notre Dame

Brian White
The Columbus Dispatch

Well, not many saw it playing out like that.

Ohio State defeated Notre Dame 21-10 Saturday on the strength of a rejuvenated defense that had to bail out a passing attack that was far from explosive.

And the game was sealed with the Buckeyes pounding the ball on the ground with a running back not named Treveyon Henderson.

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There are angles galore with new names becoming heroes and the defense possibly becoming a strength.

Here are five things we learned from the game:

Sep 3, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA;  An injured Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba (11) walks out of the huddle during third quarter of the NCAA football game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Ohio Stadium. Ohio State won 21-10. Mandatory Credit: Adam Cairns-USA TODAY Sports

It's clear who Ohio State's offensive MVP is, and it's not C.J. Stroud

Wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba was hurt early in the game, and once he was limited, the Ohio State offense lost its way. When he finally limped out of the game for the last time, the pass offense vanished. Stroud put together two good drives to win, but this was not the high-powered attack everyone expected.

The value of Smith-Njigba was clear to all. The players in the "best receiver room in the country," as they call themselves, are merely good without him. With easy games coming up, look for Smith-Njigba to heal and the explosive offense to return in a few weeks.

Sep 3, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA;  Ohio State Buckeyes defensive tackle Ty Hamilton (58) tackles Notre Dame Fighting Irish running back Audric Estime (7) during third quarter of the NCAA football game at Ohio Stadium. Ohio State won 21-10. Mandatory Credit: Adam Cairns-USA TODAY Sports

That was some kind of turnaround for the defense

In January's Fiesta Bowl, Notre Dame scored 35 points and rolled up 551 yards against Jim Knowles' Oklahoma State defense. Sure, Knowles wasn't there, but it was his creation that was torn apart.

On Saturday, with Knowles present and calling the shots at Ohio State for the first time, the Buckeyes shut out the Irish in the second half and held them to 76 rushing yards for the game. Linebacker Tommy Eichenberg looked fast and physical. Fellow linebackers Steele Chambers and Cody Simon were quick and tough. The safeties were aggressive. The schemes changed between four- and three-men fronts, with Jack Sawyer moving around and causing some confusion. Ohio State's defense looked nothing like last year's.

Sep 3, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes defensive tackle Michael Hall Jr. (51) sacks Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Tyler Buchner (12) in the fourth quarter of the NCAA football game between Ohio State Buckeyes and Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Robertson-USA TODAY Sports

Hello, Michael Hall Jr.

Who's 51? That's what a lot of viewers were asking as defensive tackle Michael Hall Jr. dominated an excellent Notre Dame offensive line. Hall, a 6-foot-2, 290-pound, second-year player from Streetsboro, had two tackles last season. On Saturday, he had four tackles, including a sack, three solo tackles and two tackles for a loss. He couldn't be blocked.

Sep 3, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes defensive tackle Michael Hall Jr. (51) celebrates his sack of  Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Tyler Buchner (12) in the fourth quarter of the NCAA football game between Ohio State Buckeyes and Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Robertson-USA TODAY Sports

We should have known something was coming when offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, asked about the Buckeyes' defense, said in amazement, “I always laugh when Mike Hall goes out there as a (third teamer). I mean, come on dude. Jeez, that’s as good a three as I ever saw in my life. He ain’t no three.”

After Saturday, chances are he's now a one.

Sep 3, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes running back Miyan Williams (3) carries the ball behind the block of Ohio State Buckeyes offensive lineman Luke Wypler (53) on Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker JD Bertrand (27) in the fourth quarter of the NCAA football game between Ohio State Buckeyes and Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Robertson-USA TODAY Sports

The Ohio State offensive line flexed late

They were called soft. Finesse. Overrated. And for much of the game, the Buckeyes' offensive line did indeed look overmatched.

But with the game on the line, the big guys finally started moving Notre Dame's defenders around, and bowling-ball running back Miyan Williams plowed down the field. Perhaps it was finally getting into a run-game rhythm − what happened to establishing the run? − and knowing they weren't always in passive pass protection.

But the game was won on the line in the clutch. That's something new. It was toughness.

"We want to be known as something other than talented," said coach Ryan Day.

Sep 3, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Emeka Egbuka (2) gets tackled by Notre Dame Fighting Irish safety Brandon Joseph (16) after a catch in the second quarter of the NCAA football game between Ohio State Buckeyes and Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Robertson-USA TODAY Sports

Hello, Emeka Egbuka

A question all offseason was which receiver was going to step up and take some pressure off Smith-Njigba. Would it be Julian Fleming, Marvin Harrison Jr., Emeka Egbuka or Jayden Ballard? (Or now, Xavier Johnson, prompting the question asked everywhere, "Who's 10?")

This question was answered decisively, as Egbuka caught nine passes for 90 yards and a touchdown. He looked like last year's version of Smith-Njigba. He was quick, sure-handed and electric. Now if he can just stop letting punters boot the ball over his head ...

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