COLUMBUS, Ohio — No. 2 Ohio State head coach Ryan Day, defensive coordinator Jim Knowles, and a handful of Buckeyes met with the media immediately following the Buckeyes’ 21-10 win vs No. 5 Notre Dame in their season opener.
Here are the highlights of what was said.
+ On being surprised with the offensive struggles, Day said refused to answer that question off the bat. “We just beat the No. 5 team in the country by 11 points.”
+ Day said he couldn’t be any prouder of this team, especially with how they played in the fourth quarter. It says a lot about their team. A lot of people questioned their toughness, but he couldn’t be prouder.
+ The story tonight is the defense. “The turnaround after what was said of them in the offseason.” Day said “if we can continue to win games like that, then that’s how we’ll win games.”
+ Now, addressing the offensive challenges, Day said it was a struggle. They got off-schedule and losing Jaxon Smith-Njigba threw them off a bit. They had to adjust. He is proud of Xavier Johnson for stepping up.
+ On the chemistry with Stroud and the receiver rotation without Smith-Njigba, Day said “we were down some guys there.” It did balance out in the end but it did seem like a struggle.
+ On the most impressive part of the defense, Day said “10 points.” For them to hold Notre Dame to 10 points, total yards of 253, and 76 rushing yards, Day said there was energy, running to the ball, being decisive, playing fast, and not panicking after giving up a big play.
+ After the first play, there was no panic. Jim Knowles called a great game and the “players played.”
+ The crowd and support was awesome. “The whole Shoe was packed at warmups.”
+ On Smith-Njigba and Julian Fleming, Day said “we hope to get them back this week.”
+ On the run game early on, Day said they were out of rhythm and couldn’t put plays together or convert on third down. Notre Dame forced them to run the ball. “If we’re able to win like this and we can win in different ways, that will help in the long run.”
+ On Xaiver Johnson, Day said he practices everyday, cut his teeth on special teams, and he’s a ‘throwback player.’ “For him to come in this moment, I couldn’t be prouder. It shows good things happen to good people.”
+ On a grind-it-out win and an un-Ryan Day called game, Day said they have to be able to win like that. They have to be able to win ugly on offense and win on defense. “This is a huge start for us. A lot to improve on and a lot to build on.”
+ “C.J. Stroud is the happiest guy out there.” It wasn’t perfect, not the way they drew it up, but they’re 1-0.
+ On showing toughness, Day said they wanted to be known as something other than just talented.
+ Miyan Williams had a good preseason, so to see him run like that was great. “I’m happy for Miyan.”
+ On enjoying the fact that they won this way, Day said he is very happy winning this way. They knew they could win games throwing the ball, but they needed to be able to do this.
DC Jim Knowles
+ “I’m really happy for the players. We had a play here or there that we gave up but I’m most pleased with the fact that they never flinched.”
+ The fits were really good and players were able to play fast.
+ On Lathan Ransom’s performance, Knowles said they saw it in him all of fall camp. He’s one of those players who can see the forest through the trees. He can read a play and react with speed. “Having a safety that can do that solves a lot of problems.” His talent is seeing, diagnosing, and reacting. He’s not afraid to get after it and take the shot.
+ On deciding to coach from the box, Knowles said the decision-making was helped by the quality of assistant coaches on defense. If he’s comfortable with the staff, he will go upstairs because he can see formations and make calls and that makes them all better.
+ The run defense was stout and controlled the line of scrimmage. “Really pleased.” The defense saw the run game fits and that gave everyone confidence, no matter what the offense was doing. “It may not look exceptional, but it wins games.”
+ On continuing to improve following this win, Knowles said it’s a process and the players will celebrate the win and then they will break it down. But it’s about confidence and leadership. They expected a game like this.
+ On Jack Sawyer playing the Jack/LEO spot, Knowles said it was really good in the run game. But there’s a lot more they can do in getting him to see the formations. “It was effective but we didn’t do much with it tonight. There’s still a lot more we haven’t shown.” Knowles said he wanted to keep it basic so the players could play fast, but they will continue to develop.
+ On the defense responding to the first play, Knowles said responding to the explosive play showed a lot. He tells them five or less explosive plays. They’ve been trained that they may happen, but they expect those and know how to move forward.
+ On toughness of the defense, Knowles said they controlled the line mentally and physically, fit the different runs, played under duress, and that showed toughness.
+ On Mike Hall earning the starting role, Knowles said he’s been “totally disruptive” during camp. He was the hardest guy for the offensive linemen to block.
LB Tommy Eichenberg
+ On showing the new defense, Eichenberg said they had a lot to prove. Everyone played well and it was an extreme confidence booster.
+ On Mike Hall setting the tone up front, Eichenberg said when he plays like that, it helps the linebackers out. “He played really hard.”
S Lathan Ransom
+ On shutting out Notre Dame in the second half, Ransom said they were called soft all last year and they had to eat it. They couldn’t wait to play in this game and show what their defense was all about.
+ On the locker room at halftime, Ransom said the leadership showed. They made the adjustments they needed and played well.
+ On responding after the first explosive play, Ransom said they kept their cool, never pointed fingers, and they focused on the next play.
WR Emeka Egbuka
+ On having a high-performing night, Egbuka said they just wanted to win. His touchdown was a perfect ball, he couldn’t ask for more from Stroud. He delivered it right to his outside shoulder.
+ On Xaiver Johnson, Egbuka said “I love X. He got comfortable at receiver and you guys got to see that.”
+ “I feel we’re the best wide receiver room in America.”
+ He had no worries going into halftime. They were calm and collected. It was a dog fight.
DL Mike Hall
+ On making an impact, Hall said he gave it his all and played his hardest.
+ On not allowing any points in the second half, Hall said they were emphasizing stopping the run. “That’s what we did well.”
QB C.J. Stroud
+ On winning a game with defense and running the ball, Stroud said when they needed the pass game, it was there. But they found a rhythm running the ball. First games are always weird and they were playing the No. 5 team, and at the end of the day they got the win and he is happy.
+ “Xaiver Johnson is a dawg.” He works really really hard.
+ On losing Smith-Njigba, Stroud said JSN is the best receiver in the country. They have a great connection, so it affected his game and the offense. But at the end of the day they got the job done and players stepped up. No matter how he played, they’re 1-0 against the No. 5 team in the country. “I think we’re a tough team and we keep showing that.”
+ On the pressure from Notre Dame’s defense and having to scramble, Stroud said it was an adjustment but his line did a good job of allowing him to see the field. They need to set a rhythm early and that’s on him. He is willing to put his head on the chopping block for this team.
WR Xavier Johnson
+ He knew it was a big situation filling Smith-Njigba’s shoes. He prayed for strength, he didn’t think he had it. His performance was “crazy” to him and it was all for the team.
+ On the emotions of this night, Johnson said coming into Ohio State he was expecting to shock the world as a freshman and he had a lot of expectations. But that was taken from him and there were countless nights he thought about giving up, but he kept his faith and now he feels like it’s coming full circle. In that moment of his touchdown, all he could think about was how great the lord was to him. He was overcome with emotion.