Ohio State puts up historical numbers in Rose Bowl victory

Ohio State Sophomore tight end Gee Scott, Jr. said it best after the game, "Historic! Historic!" In a game that scored enough points to satisfy any offensive minded football fan, the 108th Rose Bowl game dazzled with fireworks above the stadium and enthralled with fireworks on the field.

Ohio State delivered the last blow when kicker Noah Ruggles made a 19-yard game-winning field goal with nine seconds remaining, giving No. 6 Ohio State the last blow in a 48-45 slugfest over No. 10 Utah.

Buckeye quarterback, CJ Stroud, understood the gravity of playing in the Rose Bowl.

"Just being a young kid from Southern California and being able to come back home and playing in a game like this is real cool. So, I'm definitely going to take that and run with it. I'm gonna go out there and have fun and represent for my hometown."

When the time elapsed and the confetti fell, the redshirt freshman had completed 37 of 46 passes for a record-tying six touchdowns in the ninth Rose Bowl victory for Ohio State. The local kid, Stroud, cemented his name in Buckeye and Rose Bowl lore with 573 passing yards, the most passing yards in the history of both Ohio State and the storied bowl game.

"This is the Rose Bowl," Stroud said. "This is where the legendary games are being played. If you aren't motivated to play, I question your love of the game. Every game I go out there, I try to do my best and make sure I prepare the right way and do the right things because you never know what can happen in the game."

How would Stroud perform without his usual complement of an aerial arsenal? With Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson opting to forgo the game after declaring for the NFL draft, Ohio State turned to sophomore receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba and freshman receiver Marvin Harrison Jr.

Stroud was not alone in etching his name in Rose Bowl record books. Smtih-Njigba joined his quarterback atop the pantheon of Rose Bowl performances with 15 receptions for 347 yards and three touchdowns. Well, Smith-Njigba amassed more yardage in a bowl game -- Rose, Cotton, Fiesta, Sugar, Orange, Cotton, Liberty; name the bowl game, Smith-Njigba sits at the top of the record books.

"Route Man Marv," as Stroud affectionately refers to the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison Sr., burst onto the national stage with three touchdowns of his own.

After both teams exchanged haymakers in the first half, Utah nursed a 35-21 score.

Utah jumped out to a 14-0 lead after quarterback Cameron Rising found wide receiver Britain Covey for a 19-yard score and running back Micah Bernard for a 12-yard scamper in the first quarter. At the beginning of the second quarter, Ohio State got on the board when Stroud connected with Harrison Jr. for an over-the-shoulder 25-yard touchdown on fourth-and-short.

With 9:07 remaining in the first half, the Utes and Buckeyes exchanged body shots. Smith-Njigba had a pair of 50-yard touchdowns for Ohio State sandwiched between a 6-yard Tavion Thomas run, a 97-yard kickoff return by Covey, and a 62-yard Rising run.

Buckeye coach Ryan Day said that inside the locker room at the half, he noticed a shift in mentality by his team. "I thought in the second half they made up their mind on defense, that they were going to play different. It happened in the locker room. I heard it, and I got out of the way," Day said.

"Then they played with a different toughness, and we talked about playing fast and violent. I thought they played that way in the second half. When you make up your mind, you're going to do something like that, then you can impose your will."

Ohio State imposed their will in the second half. The Utes were held to three points until Bryson Barnes, who replaced an injured Rising, connected on a 15-yard touchdown with tight end Dalton Kincaid. But Barnes and Utah made one crucial mistake. They left 1:54 on the clock for Stroud.

Stroud calmly led his team on a seven-play, 56-yard drive that set up a Noah Ruggles 19-yard game-winning field goal. Stroud and Ohio State learned a lot about themselves and developed invaluable moxie that can yield enormous dividends for the program moving forward.

"I'm really proud of my guys for staying calm and not really panicking, not pointing fingers or anything like that. We all kind of stayed even keel and made sure we were going to win this game," said Stroud.

Stroud, Smith-Njigba, and Harrison Jr. have put college football on notice with their Rose Bowl performance. "We have a lot of work to do in the off-season, but we found out a little bit about our team in the second half here," Day stated.

So did the rest of America.

Follow Eric on Twitter @elambsquared and Instagram @elamb5quared.


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