Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud pulled out all the stops to earn an epic Rose Bowl win over Utah on New Year’s Day.
The freshman played a nearly flawless game, going 37-of-46 for 573 passing yards, six touchdowns, and one interception in the Buckeyes’ 48-45 victory. He was particularly in sync with Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who tallied a record-setting 347 receiving yards and three touchdowns at Pasadena.
Their final end-zone connection gave Ohio State a 45-38 lead with 4:22 minutes remaining after kicking the extra point. Utah stormed the field to tie the game before Noah Ruggles hit a game-winning field goal in the closing seconds.
Stroud discussed the epic encounter earlier this month. Per Dan Hope of Eleven Warriors (h/t Saturday Tradition), the quarterback said his last touchdown came on a play the team had yet to run during any game.
C.J. Stroud said the game-winning touchdown pass to Jaxon Smith-Njigba in the Rose Bowl came on a play they ran in practice all year but never ran in a game until then. pic.twitter.com/RkzAoe3r83
— Dan Hope (@Dan_Hope) April 6, 2022
The Buckeyes couldn’t afford to leave any stones unturned in a storied shootout that saw both teams combined for 1,146 total yards. Head coach Ryan Day thus went deep into his playbook to find something the team had previously only deployed in practice.
It worked when Stroud threw a perfect back-shoulder spiral to Smith-Njigba, who adjusted to snag the 30-yard touchdown on the sideline.
Following that unforgettable win, Stroud enters his second season as a Heisman Trophy front-runner. While he’s losing receivers Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave to the NFL, the potential 2023 top pick will have plenty of more opportunities to work magic with Smith-Njigba in 2022.
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