Sometimes, Lou Holtz can't help himself. The 86-year-old former Notre Dame coach and famous TV yapper has never met a microphone he didn't like. So it was no surprise Friday on ESPN when Holtz was typically gushing over the Fighting Irish winning Saturday's top-10 matchup with Ohio State. It's just that, in squawking his way through another appearance, Holtz made it personal.
"He has lost to Alabama, Georgia, Clemson, Michigan twice -- and everybody who beats them does so because they're more physical than Ohio State," Holtz said of the Buckeyes and coach Ryan Day. "I think Notre Dame will take that same approach."
Holtz's latest bluster probably would have evaporated into thin air like it usually does had the Buckeyes not (a) beaten the Irish (b) with one second to go (c) after driving 65 yards (d) with all the physicality one could desire.
Then, Day making it personal in his own way. Following his team's 17-14 win, Ohio State's coach needed no introduction to the microphones himself. First, it was on the field with NBC. Then, it was on OSU's flagship radio station and finally to the media in the postgame interview room.
Ol' Lou had struck a nerve. His comments unleashed a Ryan Day we've never seen before.
"I'd like to know where Lou Holtz is right now," Day told NBC moments after the win. "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."
Cooling off had no effect. Day didn't cool off this night, not until every last bit of bile had been spit out.
"I don't know where [Holtz] gets off saying those type of things," Day continued. "I have some other things I'd like to say, too, but I'm not going to say [them] because I'm more respectful than he is."
And you thought Coach Prime took disrespect to a new level?
It was all rather refreshing to see Day vent. As the game's winningest coach (49-6, .891), he's conducted himself as the anti-Woody Hayes low key, a gentleman.
Which was, of course, good ... until finally, he couldn't help himself.
As successful as Day has been, the coach and his team have been defined lately by those.
Add to that a frustrating College Football Playoff loss to Georgia in which the Buckeyes led by two touchdowns entering the fourth quarter.
Day has come to realize that Michigan defines a lot at Ohio State, but to essentially be called "soft" by an aging TV talking head? The accusation followed Day all the way to South Bend, Indiana. Just ask the coach.
"I'm really upset and disrespected about what Lou Holtz said about our team and Ohio State and Buckeye Nation. We're not going to stand for that," Day said. "We had one bad half a couple of years ago up in Ann Arbor. We did, the second half. Every game we play, we're physical. I don't know where that narrative comes from, but that ends tonight."
Actually, it was two consecutive bad second halves against Michigan. The Buckeyes were outscored by a combined 56-17 in the final 30 minutes in those games that decided the Big Ten title. They still stand as Day's only two Big Ten losses.
"In life, when people start talking and say things about you, at some point you've got to put a foot in the ground," Day said. "Our team did that. It was a life lesson. We always say, 'Ignore the noise.' Every once in a while, you've got to stand up for what you believe in."
On Saturday night, it was obvious that negative narrative was embedded somewhere deep in Day's psyche. Ohio against the world? Athens, Ohio's own Joe Burrow took the Bengals to the Super Bowl. Native son LeBron James transformed a city and a state with his NBA excellence. Columbus is one of the best places to live in the United States. The Buckeyes rule ... usually.
Ohio State against Notre Dame was enough. OSU's game-winning drive was a Week 4 statement that might last all the way to January.
Ohio State had been physical in last year's 21-10 Notre Dame win in Columbus.
"Put the film on," Day said to any doubters.
The Buckeyes were physical Saturday with their best player, wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr., limited to three catches for 32 yards on seven targets.
Nobody -- except Uncle Lou -- ever really suggested the Buckeyes weren't habitually tough under Day, but they were also about this close to losing what amounted to a physical, grinding rock fight Saturday night.
Notre Dame quarterback Sam Hartman led a dominating 96-yard drive that ended with the Fighting Irish taking their first lead of the night, 14-10, with 8:22 left.
Ohio State quarterback Kyle McCord, in only his fifth career start, was then asked to respond. But needing a yard on fourth down from the Notre Dame 11, Day called for a jet sweep to WR Emeka Egbuka. He was stuffed with 4:12 remaining.
That would have been it and Holtz would have been gloating well into next season ... until a stop by the defense gave Ohio State the ball on its own 35 with 86 seconds left. McCord passed 14 consecutive times, seemingly ruining the drive after being called for intentional grounding inside a minute to go.
But on third-and-19 from Notre Dame's 22, McCord found Egbuka, who was stood up a yard short of the end zone. A spike and incompletion set up a do-or-die decision with 3 seconds remaining.
This time, with Irish defenders stacked up against the right side of the Buckeyes' line, running back Chip Trayanum -- a converted linebacker -- dove just to the left of the center for the game-winning touchdown.
It was Day's decision. It was Day's statement to anyone who questioned the Buckeyes' physicality.
"A thousand percent," he said afterward. "I think it's going to go down as one of the big wins in Ohio State history."
Forget history, the season isn't defined. Not yet. McCord has yet to fully mature as C.J. Stroud's replacement. Penn State and Michigan are still out there. It's getting to the point where it's championship-or-bust for Day, who has yet to win one.
But the anti-Woody couldn't help himself one more time late Saturday.
"I'm not afraid to say it," Day said. "Some of the arrogance, I think that's unbelievably disrespectful. It's always been Ohio against the world."
On Saturday night, the World According to Lou blinked.