The highly touted offense of the Irish found themselves running for their lives and ultimately planted in the Sun Devil Stadium turf by the Ohio State defense.
Notre Dame came in with college football's No. 10-ranked offense at 489.1 yards per game. But they ended up with just 348 yards after OSU took its 34-20 win.
The game opened rather inauspiciously for the Buckeyes defense. Electing to take the ball to start the second half after winning the coin toss, it took Notre Dame just six plays and 2:01 to score. Passes to Jeff Samardzija and Maurice Stovall coupled with fierce runs by Darius Walker made it look easy.
According to David Patterson, "They showed us a lot of different looks. They started off with the draw and it was gaining good yards on us. They have some great coordinators over there and great players. They gave us all we could handle."
Defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock added, "In the beginning of the game they got us in a surprise not running what we thought they would – a new little offense for us. We had to stop and adjust."
Would this be Charlie Weis' national stage to prove he could not be stopped with a month to prepare?
Unfortunately for his team; the answer was negative. The opening drive would be the last score for the Irish until 4:25 remained in the third quarter, a critical period of over 38 minutes. Only Ohio State miscues even kept Weis' team in the football game.
Admitted Weis in his opening statement following the loss, "I congratulate Ohio State. They were definitely the better team today. We got behind pretty good there in the first half. We battled back to get it within one score 27-20, but the bottom line is they still came up with the big play and put the game away."
What made Ohio State the better team and gave them the chance to put the Irish to bed was the play of their defensive line. Unfazed by the quick score, the Buckeye defense continued to rush the quarterback.
"We started calling four-man pressures," said senior defensive end Mike Kudla, who led the Buckeyes with three sacks for 25 yards in his final game in the Scarlet and Gray. "We dropped a lot of guys in coverage. All we heard about all week was how they are a great offense. I think people forgot we are a great defense."
He continued, saying they had plenty of motivation and played with a chip on their shoulder, "All week you just hear about their schemes. I think people lost sight of this is football. You have to line up and hit somebody."
Did they ever hit someone.
All American Linebacker A.J. Hawk seemed to be everywhere, finishing with 12 tackles, 3 ½ tackles for loss – two of those sacks. Donte Whitner, Anthony Schlegel, and Malcolm Jenkins joined the festival.
Every pass, every run, and each time their dropped back to pass, the Irish had Buckeyes in a foul mood arriving from every direction.
How bad was it for the Irish?
Asked to talk about his sack following the game, Kudla had to ask in reply, "Which one?"
Patterson summed it up, "We just played harder, longer."
They also had the help of Hawk.
"There's no mystery that A.J.'s a great player," complimented Weis after the game. "He has a great career ahead of him. He runs all over the field. He has a knack to blitz. I think that he has a bright future ahead of him. He's a dynamic player who makes plays. I have a lot of respect for him, and he definitely showed up tonight."
To be blunt, once Hawk took the field, the only real mystery for Notre Dame was how to stop Hawk – they never did quite manage it.
Hawk was named the game's defensive MVP. His teammates flapped their wings in offer him – like hawks, get it?
"That's something some of the guys on the team started and I guess it caught on," Hawk said. "The media and fans have been great to me since I've been here and I'll miss it a lot."
His typical unassuming self following the game, his teammate Patterson was not quite so modest; "A.J. is unbelievable. You can count on him to make a big play every game. He's the best player I've ever played with."
Toss in Schlegel to the mix and Quinn and Weis had little or no chance.
Schlegel commented on the Weis offense saying, "He's a great coach, but schemes don't win games. It's the players. We just wanted to come out here effect the quarterback and stop the run. We affected him to the point where he tried to make something happen with his legs. He couldn't do the things he wanted to. There was great coverage in the back end. He had to look off first, second choices and had to try and dump the ball off. Every time he dumped the ball off guys were there to make hits."
Speaking of coverage in the secondary, the front seven weren't the only portion of Ohio State's defense playing well. The much maligned Buckeye foursome took control of the Irish wideouts. They, like their counterparts up front, were none too happy with the hype surrounding their foes and decided to make them pay.
Notre Dame's longest play was a 28-yard pass from Quinn to Jeff Samardzija.
"It had a big effect on us," said Whitner of the press coverage. "We put our pants on the same way they do. They had some big receptions against some teams. Coming into the game we knew what we could do with those receivers just because they are tall doesn't really mean anything if you play technique right. Tonight we wanted it more."
"Overall I expected a challenge," said Youboty. "We put pressure on the quarterback and as a defensive back that is the best thing you can ask for. We work together. It is a two way thing. Watching film their receivers got down field and made some big plays. We decided to be physical on them at the line so they would not have a chance."
In the end, the only chance for the Irish was that Ohio State would self destruct. When they didn't, it was the Notre Dame offense that exploded in mid air and landed with an undignified thud heard around the college football world.