In 1935, Notre Dame left Ohio Stadium with a miracle 18-13 victory that was described (by a term used for the very first time) as “The Game of the Century.”
Coach Elmer Layden’s team overcame a 13-0 fourth-quarter deficit, something unheard of in that era, to stun the Buckeyes in a battle of unbeatens at the Horseshoe.
While Ohio State has beaten the Fighting Irish six times since that game, it took 88 years for the Buckeyes to deliver a defeat every bit as soul-crushing back to Notre Dame.
That moment arrived in South Bend on Saturday night, when OSU running back Chip Trayanum powered in from a yard away with 1 second remaining to lift Ryan Day’s 6th-ranked squad to a shocking, borderline miraculous 17-14 victory in another battle of unbeatens.
It was sweet vindication for Day, who took serious offense to strong comments pointed directly at him by former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz on Friday.
“(Ryan Day) has lost to Alabama, Georgia, Clemson, Michigan twice — and everybody who beats them does so because they’re more physical than Ohio State,” the 86-year-old Holtz said. “I think Notre Dame will take that same approach.
“You take this message to Ohio State: You tell them ‘Better bring your lunch, because it’s going to be a full damn day’s work.’ ”
Day was enraged by the remarks. Yet the OSU fanbase has been uttering similar comments, too.
The Buckeyes (4-0) have been labeled soft by the critics after a couple of back-to-back blowout losses to Michigan, and last year’s fourth-quarter debacle in the playoffs when OSU blew a two-touchdown lead to Georgia.
But sophomore quarterback Kyle McCord altered the narrative — at least temporarily.
McCord put together one of the greatest clutch drives in school history, marching Ohio State 65 yards in 15 plays in the final 1:26, just when Day and Ohio State needed it most.
Those heroics gave the Buckeyes’ boss a chance to crow in the postgame glow, and he did — big time.
“I’d like to know where Lou Holtz is right now!” Day shouted in the immediate aftermath to a sideline reporter. “What he said about our team? What he said about our team? I cannot believe. This is a tough team right here!
“We’re proud to be from Ohio! It’s always been Ohio against the world! It will always be Ohio against the world!”
Actually, Day could’ve gone even further, something like “Notre Dame should hire someone on its defensive staff who can at least count.”
The Fighting Irish (4-1) had just 10 players on the field on their final two defensive snaps, and Trayanum burst the bubble created by that missing body on the game-winning score.
It was fascinating, emotional, thrilling stuff.
The two schools battled through a defensive struggle much of the night. Both sides rode gallant, fourth-down stands before OSU forged a 3-0 edge at intermission.
But Ohio State tailback TreVeyon Henderson finally broke the seal. Henderson, who went for 104 yards on just 14 carries, peeled off a 61-yard TD dash around left end in the third period that goosed the Buckeyes on top 10-0.
Yet 9th-ranked Notre Dame’s ball-control, power-running attack responded.
Coach Marcus Freeman’s club produced a pair of second-half TD drives, the second on a bruising, 96-yard march that threatened to renew the chorus of softness surrounding Columbus.
Instead, it was McCord who chose this particular opportunity to create his own signature moment.
“My job is to get the ball in the hands of the playmakers and let them do special things, and that’s exactly what it was,” McCord said. “It wasn’t perfect by any means, but at the end of the day, we found a way to make it work.
“You can’t draw it up any better than that.”
Make no mistake, his moment had some warts, like a tipped ball, an errant throw that could’ve been intercepted, and an intentional grounding flag.
But it also featured three lasers, each bigger than the one before.
The first came with Ohio State facing a 3rd-and-10 at its own 35.
McCord knifed a 23-yard strike to Emeka Egbuka on an excellent read to the slot receiver, who settled in the seam just between the cornerback and safety.
The second situation arrived with the Buckeyes facing a 4th-and-7 at the Notre Dame 39 and 51 seconds showing.
This time the Philadelphia native flipped a short toss to receiver Julian Fleming on a crossing route in front of the nickel back. Fleming dove just over the line to gain for a drive-sustaining first down.
The final throw of the trilogy came on what seemed an impossible 3rd-and-19 scenario at the Fighting Irish 22 with 15 seconds left. McCord ripped a 21-yard bolt to Egbuka, who again found a soft spot in the seam and nestled the pass at the 1.
“What a big-time throw and catch, at this point in the game,” former Penn State national championship quarterback Todd Blackledge said on the NBC telecast.
“We thought we were going to be able to give them a different look and play some [Cover 4] and he threw a good ball, man,” Notre Dame coach Marcus Freeman said. “That last series we were trying to kind of mix it up a little bit with a young quarterback and not just play man every play. And he ended up putting it in a tight window.”
An incompletion to Marvin Harrison Jr. only built the suspense for the climactic play, and Trayanum made it — allowing Day to crow, and rightfully so.
“These guys are warriors right here!” Day said, still fired up while being interviewed on the field. “To come back and win, this kid right here (McCord), to come back, in the second half and win, I’m emotional about this, for a reason.
“A lot of people question these kids, and say a lot of things about them, I love them … and when someone attacks your family and to come back and win like this is special.
“It’s a great win for our program, and a great win for Ohio State.”
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