SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Kyle McCord spent two years trying to get on the field at Ohio State and three additional weeks trying to prove he could lead the Buckeyes.
The first-year starting quarterback and the Buckeyes answered their doubters Saturday night — with help from a Notre Dame defense failed to go to 11 on the deciding play.
McCord converted play after play on the final drive, capped with a perfectly executed 1-yard scoring plunge by Chip Trayanum with 1 second left to give No. 6 Ohio State a 17-14 victory over No. 9 Notre Dame on Saturday night.
“You can’t draw it up any better than that, down four points with a chance to go down and win it,” McCord said. “Historic stadium, great defense, like I said it wasn’t perfect, but to come away with the win, it feels really, really good.”
McCord was just trying to work against what he called Notre Dame’s “soft” late-game defense. He converted a fourth down and then a third-and-19 with no timeouts to win it.
What McCord didn’t realize was that Notre Dame (4-1) only had 10 players on the field for the final two plays from the Irish 1-yard line — an incompletion in the end zone to Marvin Harrison Jr. and Trayanum’s decisive run that sent Buckeyes players streaming onto the field in celebration only to be sent back to the sideline for a replay review that put a second back on the clock.
Freeman recognized the error on the last play, but wanted to avoid a penalty that would have moved the ball 1/2 yard closer to the goal line or that would give Ohio State (4-0) another play.
“We were trying to get a fourth defensive lineman in the game,” Irish coach Marcus Freeman said. “I told him ‘Just stay off, we can’t afford a penalty.’ I didn’t have any timeouts left.”
The Buckeyes (4-0) took full advantage, beating Notre Dame yet again. The Irish have not won a game in this series since 1936.
Ohio State coach Ryan Day was fired up when it was over, criticizing former Irish coach Lou Holtz, who called out the Buckeyes toughness in predicting a Fighting Irish victory earlier this week.
“I’d like to know where Lou Holtz is right now,” Day said during a postgame interview with NBC. “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, and it’ll continue to be Ohio against the world. But I’ll tell you what: I love those kids. We’ve got a tough team.”
Maybe an even tougher quarterback.
McCord was 21 of 37 with 240 yards but saved his best for last — a gritty 65-yard drive in the final 85 seconds, looking unfazed even when it appeared the Buckeyes unbeaten season might be over.
Notre Dame took the lead when Sam Hartman threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Rico Flores Jr. with 8:22 to go to make it 14-10. The Fighting Irish defense came up a fourth-down stop on its 11-yard line on the next drive.
But the defense couldn’t come up with a second defensive stop.
“To be on the losing side, it hurts,” said Freeman, a former Ohio State linebacker. “It stings, but we’ve got to own it. We’ve got to learn from it.”
Ohio State appeared to have taken control when the Buckeyes stopped Hartman on fourth-and-1, and on the next play, Harrison’s block sprung TreVeyon Henderson for a 61-yard sprint down the sideline to make it 10-0 early in the third quarter.
But after Gi’Bran Payne took a direct snap and scored on a 1-yard run to make it 10-7, Hartman capped a 96-yard TD drive with a 2-yard pass to Rico Flores Jr. to give Notre Dame had the edge.
That is until McCord’s pivotal plays — and Notre Dame’s untimely mistake.
“I think we came out here and proved a lot of people wrong,” McCord said. “But I think the bigger thing is we proved ourselves right.”
Ohio State: McCord took his biggest step forward yet Saturday by leading the Buckeyes to victory. Ohio State needs him to play the way he did on the final series. Henderson rushed for 104 yards.
Notre Dame: Hartman has changed the whole perception of the Irish. His quick reads, accurate throws and nimble runs certainly have the Irish looking strong. But with three possible unbeaten foes in the next three weeks, they need Hartman to beat at his best. He was 17 for 25 for 175 yards against the Buckeyes.
Ohio State: Harrison injured his leg on Henderson’s scoring run when he got rolled up. Harrison spent several minutes in the Buckeyes injury tent but returned on the next series.
Notre Dame: Receiver Jayde Thomas also went to the injury tent when he was rolled up while blocking on an 18-yard run on Notre Dame’s touchdown drive.
Ohio State: Return to Big Ten play next Saturday by hosting Maryland.
Notre Dame: Plays a second straight ranked opponent next Saturday when it visits No. 18 Duke.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll