In a highly anticipated top-10 matchup that had college football fans on the edge of their seats, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish faced a heart-wrenching defeat at the hands of the Ohio State Buckeyes, who snatched victory in the final seconds of the game with a 17-14 scoreline.
The game, which lived up to its billing as a clash of titans, could have turned out differently for the Fighting Irish had they been at full strength on the field during the crucial moments.
In a shocking turn of events, Notre Dame had only 10 men on the field for the last two plays of the game, including the fateful go-ahead 1-yard touchdown run by Ohio State’s running back, Chip Trayanum.
WATCH: Marcus Freeman removes his headset after second-down incompletion with 10 men on the field and 3 seconds left. #OhioState scored the winning TD on the next play against the same 10-man look. #NDFootball #NDvsOSU pic.twitter.com/nGoRgIu9UY
— Mike BerardinoNDI (@MikeBerardino) September 24, 2023
Fighting Irish head coach Marcus Freeman, speaking in the post-game press conference, explained his decision not to risk a penalty that would have potentially moved Ohio State closer to the goal line for a final play.
“To me, it was like, ‘Hey, don’t give them another opportunity to get settled and to try to make a different call,’ right?” Freeman said. “Hey, guys, stay off the field. Let’s not give them a freebie from the half-yard line and let’s try to stop them. And I thought maybe they would do the same thing they did the snap before, and then they ended up running the ball. So I got to watch the play and see where the ball hit. But, yeah, that’s why I made that decision.”
"We were trying to get a 4th D-lineman on the field, and I told him just stay off… I didn't have any timeouts, right? So we couldn't afford a penalty there."
– Notre Dame coach Marcus Freeman on having only 10 players on the field for final play pic.twitter.com/Fqtp7oqz0Z
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) September 24, 2023
Notre Dame had one last chance to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat but their final lateral attempt failed, sealing their fate in a heartbreaking loss.
The Fighting Irish had hoped to secure their first win over an AP top-6 ranked opponent in South Bend since their victory against USC in 1973.
After falling behind 10-0 in the third quarter, Notre Dame mounted a valiant comeback, scoring 14 unanswered points to take a four-point lead with 8:22 remaining in the game.
Quarterback Sam Hartman connected with freshman Rico Flores Jr. on a 2-yard touchdown pass, giving the Irish their first and only lead of the night, a lead that would ultimately slip away in the final seconds of the game.
Notre Dame, now with a 4-1 record, will travel to Durham, North Carolina next weekend for a matchup with No. 18 Duke, where they will aim to rebound from this heartbreaking loss.
Needless to say, it’s downright inexcusable to be a man short on not one but two crucial plays with the game on the line.