No. 7 Ohio State beats No. 10 Utah 48-45 in wild Rose Bowl

Jan 1, 2022, 4:16 AM | Updated: 7:54 pm
Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud receives a hug after a win over Utah during the Rose Bowl NCAA c...

Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud receives a hug after a win over Utah during the Rose Bowl NCAA college football game Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/John McCoy)

(AP Photo/John McCoy)

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — C.J. Stroud and Jaxon Smith-Njigba put on a passing performance that obliterated a multitude of records during one of the biggest offensive days in Ohio State’s storied history.

The Buckeyes still barely did enough to hold off resilient Utah and its backup quarterback in one spectacular Rose Bowl.

Stroud capped his record-setting offensive day by leading a 56-yard drive ending in Noah Ruggles’ 19-yard field goal with nine seconds to play, and No. 7 Ohio State beat No. 10 Utah 48-45 on Saturday night in the wild 108th edition of the Rose Bowl.

Stroud passed for a school-record 573 yards and a record-tying six touchdowns for the Buckeyes (11-2), who won the Granddaddy of Them All for the second time in four years while toppling one long-standing offensive record after another. Stroud’s yards passing and touchdowns both are Rose Bowl records, and he finished 3 yards shy of the record for yards passing in any bowl game.

“It’s emotional for me,” said Stroud, from nearby Rancho Cucamonga. “It’s like I’m dreaming right now. I was able to come home and win the Rose Bowl like this. … This is the Rose Bowl, man. This is where the legendary games are being played.”

Ohio State created a few more legends on this trip.

Smith-Njigba set the record for any FBS bowl game with 347 yards receiving while catching a school-record 15 passes and scoring three touchdowns. Marvin Harrison Jr. also caught three TD passes for the Buckeyes, who set a Rose Bowl and school bowl record with 683 total yards.

Yet the Buckeyes were the ones playing from behind for nearly all of the first three-plus quarters in Arroyo Seco until they summoned the will for three fourth-quarter scoring drives.

“Our team is built on fighting,” Smith-Njigba said. “It doesn’t matter if we’re up, down. We were down the first half, but we just had to stay level headed and keep fighting.”

Ohio State had to rally from 10 points down late in the third quarter to get past the Pac-12 champion Utes (10-4), who got off to an electrifying 35-point first half in their first school’s first trip to the Rose Bowl. They even stayed competitive after star quarterback Cameron Rising went down with an injury while getting sacked with 9:56 to play.

The Utes had to turn to backup Bryson Barnes, who grew up on a pig farm in central Utah and had never thrown a collegiate pass. He he led them on a tying drive, capped by a 15-yard TD pass to Dalton Kincaid with 1:54 left.

Stroud coolly drove the Buckeyes back downfield in the waning seconds, and Ruggles hit his easy field goal. Ohio State kicked off to Britain Covey, who already had a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown earlier, but the Buckeyes smothered his cutback as time ran out.

“All we needed was 30 more seconds, if that,” Barnes said. “Get down the field, tie it and head to OT. But we didn’t get enough time. … A lot of dudes are sad, but there’s not a lot to hang our heads on. We’ve been through the lowest of lows and highest of highs, but we made Utah football history today.”

In front of a raucous crowd dominated by Utah fans in the venerable stadium that opened in October 1922, the schools matched the 2012 Oregon-Wisconsin matchup for the highest-scoring first half in Rose Bowl history, combining for 42 points and 443 yards in the second quarter alone.

Ohio State trailed 38-31 entering the fourth quarter despite the pyrotechnics of its passing game, but the Buckeyes immediately stopped Utah on downs at the Ohio State 31, and tied it on Harrison’s 5-yard TD catch with 10:12 left. After Rising’s injury, Smith-Njigba made a 30-yard, over-the-shoulder catch for his third touchdown with 4:22 to play.

“To come out in the second half and play the way we did says a lot about this team,” said Ohio State coach Ryan Day, who earned his second bowl victory. “We were short-handed, and for us to respond the way we did at halftime says a lot about the character of this team.”

Rising passed for 214 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 92 yards and a score while leading the Utes to a 35-21 halftime lead, but he left the game with an apparent head injury. Utah played without three of its top four cornerbacks, even forcing running back Micah Bernard to play defensive back for the first time since high school.

“At some point, we have to play defense,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “We didn’t play very well all night long on defense. It wasn’t our usual. Not sure we’d be able to get a stop.”

JAXON DRIVE

With two top Buckeyes receivers opting out, Smith-Njigba had a landmark day that included TD receptions of 50 and 52 yards made 30 seconds apart — albeit with Covey’s TD return in between.

He broke Cris Carter’s 1985 school record of 172 yards receiving in a bowl game in the first half alone. He snapped Keyshawn Johnson’s 1996 Rose Bowl record of 216 yards receiving and then Terry Glenn’s 1995 single-game school record of 253 yards after halftime. Smith-Njigba finished his season with 1,606 yards, blowing past David Boston’s 1998 school record.

OLD MAN STRENGTH

The 24-year-old Covey’s sensational 97-yard romp through the Buckeyes’ coverage unit was the first kickoff return for a touchdown in Utah’s entire bowl history. Covey, who also caught a 19-yard TD pass for the Utes’ first points, arrived at the school in 2015.

DOWN STATE

The Buckeyes’ loss to Michigan in November knocked them out of the national title picture, four key starters opted out to preserve their health for the NFL draft: Receivers Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, starting left tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere and defensive tackle Haskell Garrett.

THE TAKEAWAY

Ohio State: A win in Pasadena is always never taken for granted by a Big Ten power. The Buckeyes overcame the instinct to relax after their national title dreams died, and they put on a performance that showed Day’s program has tenacity.

Utah: The Utes were agonizingly close to their third New Year’s Six victory during their two-decade transformation from a mid-major overachiever to an elite Power 5 program. Despite the loss, the impressiveness of their fight and the size of their traveling fan base confirms Utah has arrived.

___

More AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

New Orleans Pelicans power forward Zion Williamson (1) jokes with David Griffin, executive vice pre...
Associated Press

For Zion, Kawhi, Murray and more, the wait is finally over

Kawhi Leonard was in the Los Angeles Clippers’ facility on Monday. That wasn’t exactly a surprise development. The news was his attire. He was wearing a basketball uniform. Finally. Welcome back, Kawhi. You too, Denver’s Jamal Murray, Brooklyn’s Ben Simmons, New Orleans’ Zion Williamson, the Clippers’ John Wall and plenty of others around the NBA. […]
13 hours ago
FILE - Driver Jimmie Johnson poses in front of a street sign after the street was named for him out...
Associated Press

Column: Johnson will chase challenges long into retirement

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — There is a scene in Jimmie Johnson’s coffee table book “One More Lap” in which the seven-time NASCAR champion and future Hall of Famer gives a dramatic reading of an excerpt from a biography of the late journalist Hunter S. Thompson. The author, Ivan Shaw, notes that Johnson finishes reading aloud […]
13 hours ago
Georgia Tech head coach Geoff Collins reacts on the sideline after a play during the first half of ...
Associated Press

Ga Tech fires Geoff Collins in 4th season with 10-28 mark

ATLANTA (AP) — Geoff Collins is out as Georgia Tech’s football coach, fired Monday in the midst of his fourth season after failing to make headway with a brash plan to turn the Yellow Jackets into a national powerhouse through branding and promoting Atlanta’s big-city culture. Collins was officially dumped during a meeting of the […]
2 days ago
FILE - Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver gestures to Indiana Pacers' Danny Granger after Granger mis...
Associated Press

Minus owner Sarver, Suns return for another run at NBA title

PHOENIX (AP) — All-Stars Devin Booker and Chris Paul, along with freshly paid Deandre Ayton and coach Monty Williams, are back together for another run at an elusive NBA title. One man who apparently won’t be along on the journey — team owner Robert Sarver. The Suns met in downtown Phoenix on Monday for media […]
2 days ago
University of Kentucky men's basketball head coach John Calipari stands on the sidelines during the...
Associated Press

Kentucky moves scrimmage to E. Kentucky for flood relief

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky will play its annual Blue-White men’s basketball scrimmage in eastern Kentucky to benefit victims of the devastating summer floods. The school announced that the Oct. 22 event at Appalachian Wireless Arena in Pikeville will feature a pregame Fan Fest. Ticket proceeds will go through Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief. Wildcat […]
2 days ago
Christian Pulisic follows the game from the bench during the international friendly soccer match be...
Associated Press

US coach Berhalter: ‘We got our butts kicked’ by Japan

Christian Pulisic and Ricardo Pepi will join the U.S. starting lineup for the Americans’ last World Cup warmup against Saudi Arabia on Tuesday night after coach Gregg Berhalter admitted “we got our butts kicked” by Japan last week. The 14th-ranked U.S. failed to get a single shot on target in Friday’s 2-0 defeat to No […]
2 days ago
No. 7 Ohio State beats No. 10 Utah 48-45 in wild Rose Bowl