No. 4 Ohio State outlasts Minnesota 45-31 in Stroud’s debut

© Kyle Robertson/Columbus Dispatch via Imagn Content Services, LLC
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MINNEAPOLIS – C.J. Stroud passed for 294 yards and four touchdowns in his debut as the Ohio State starter, and the fourth-ranked Buckeyes kept coach Ryan Day unbeaten in Big Ten play with a 45-31 victory over Minnesota on Thursday night.

The Buckeyes flashed their five-star speed with two 70-plus-yard scores in the opener, one early on a run off right end by Miyan Williams and one late on a third-down screen to true freshman TreVeyon Henderson. Day, starting his third full year on the job, is 24-2 overall and 16-0 in conference games.

Chris Olave had touchdown catches of 38 and 61 yards, and Garrett Wilson scored on a 56-yard reception that gave Ohio State the lead for good at 24-21 midway through the third quarter. Less than three minutes later, Haskell Garrett grabbed a fumble from a strip-sack that Zach Harrison delivered on Tanner Morgan and ran it in for a 32-yard touchdown.

“I have great teammates, but I feel like I’m a great player, too,” Stroud said. “Maybe the first half didn’t show that, but I did my best in the second.”

More painful for the Gophers than their fade down the stretch was the loss of star running back Mo Ibrahim, who hurt his lower left leg late in the third quarter and left the field in a walking boot.

The second team preseason Associated Press All-American had 30 carries for 163 yards and two scores, both giving the Gophers the lead and the first one after Terell Smith intercepted an off-target pass by Stroud that hit Olave’s hand.

Coach P.J. Fleck had no update on Ibrahim’s status afterward but said the bruising fifth-year running back from Baltimore, who moved into a tie for fourth place on the program’s all-time list with his 33rd career touchdown, was in good spirits.

Ohio State trailed at halftime (14-10) for the first time in a regular season game under Day, who took over for Urban Meyer. Some time in the locker room was all Stroud needed to settle in. He passed for 246 yards in the second half.

“We weren’t going to play it close to the vest,” Day said. “That’s not how we do it here.”

The Gophers were probably never going to have a better opportunity to topple the mighty Buckeyes than this, fielding one of the most experienced teams in the country at home – and at night – to open the season against a newbie quarterback.

With fans allowed back in the seats at what’s now called Huntington Bank Stadium, after the virus emptied them out for an abbreviated 2020 schedule, Minnesota enjoyed its third straight sellout dating to the Penn State and Wisconsin games in November 2019.

Already a time-of-possession team, the Gophers needed to play keep-away more than ever to make this a game. They were tentative at times but bold at others, including a fourth-and-1 play from deep in their own territory when Ibrahim ripped off a 56-yard run.

That set up a touchdown throw by Morgan to Texas A&M transfer Dylan Wright, who had five catches for 57 yards.

ONE-SIDED SERIES

The Buckeyes have won 12 straight games over the Gophers and 28 of 29 since their last loss at Minnesota in 1981. The Gophers last won in 2000, at Ohio Stadium.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Ohio State will surely at least stay put at No. 4 but likely would only move up if a top-three team stumbled badly on opening weekend.

THE TAKEAWAY

Ohio State: For all their talent at wide receiver, size on the offensive line and depth at running back, the Buckeyes were still turning over their offense to a player who’d never attempted a pass in a college game. Stroud delivered some strong throws and was shaky with some others, just as any freshman often would in his first Big Ten road game, but the succession from NFL first-round draft pick Justin Fields went about as smooth as could reasonably be expected.

Minnesota: Regardless of the outcome, this was precisely the type of performance the Gophers were seeking in their attempt to get back on track after a frustrating 2020 season.

UP NEXT

Ohio State: The Buckeyes return home to face No. 11 Oregon on Sept. 11.

Minnesota: The Gophers host Miami of Ohio on Sept. 11.

No. 3 TCU loses 31-28 in OT to K-State in Big 12 title game

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Ty Zentner kicked a 31-yard field goal in overtime as 13th-ranked Kansas State beat No. 3 TCU 31-28 in the Big 12 championship game Saturday, leaving the Horned Frogs to wait another day to find out if they had already done enough to get into the four-team College Football Playoff.

The Wildcats set up the winning field goal after TCU (12-1) had the opening possession of overtime and Kendre Miller was stopped short on consecutive plays from inside the 1.

Deuce Vaughn ran for 130 yards and a touchdown and Will Howard threw two TDs for the Wildcats (10-3, No. 10 CFP), who six weeks earlier had jumped out to a 28-10 lead early in the second quarter before TCU scored the game’s last 28 points.

That was one of five games the Horned Frogs (12-1, No. 3 CFP) won when trailing after halftime. But they couldn’t do it again with the chance to guarantee being the first Big 12 team other than Oklahoma to make the playoff.

TCU, the first Big 12 team to complete a regular season undefeated since Texas in 2009, could still get into the playoff. While their case was helped when fourth-ranked Southern California (11-2) lost 47-24 to Utah in the Pac-12 championship game Friday night, the Frogs now have to wait until the final CFP rankings come out Sunday.

Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark said before the game that TCU, with first-year coach Sonny Dykes, already deserved to be in the playoff.

“You look at their strength of schedule. You think about how they’ve performed all year long,” Yormark said. “I think regardless, they should be in, for sure.”

No. 4 USC falls to Utah in Pac-12 Championship, damaging playoff hopes

Utah vs. USC
USA Today
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LAS VEGAS — No. 12 Utah pounded a limping, bloodied Caleb Williams and roared past No. 4 Southern California 47-24 on Friday night to win the Pac-12 Championship and put USC’s College Football Playoff hopes in doubt.

The loss by the Trojans (11-2) could open the way for Ohio State (11-1) to take their spot in the playoffs. USC is fourth in the CFP rankings, the Buckeyes are one step behind.

Ohio State had to be Utah’s biggest fan. The Buckeyes move up in playoff consideration, with 12-0 Michigan at No. 2 with the Big Ten championship game on Saturday, that would give the Big Ten conference two playoff teams for the first time. It also would extend the Pac-12′s playoff drought — Washington in 2017 is the last team from that conference to make the playoffs.

Utah (10-3) is heading to the Rose Bowl, but the Utes already were going there regardless of the outcome of the title game. They are responsible for USC’s only losses, having edged the Trojans 43-42 on Oct. 15 in Salt Lake City.

The Utes rolled up 533 yards of offense in the rematch, and Cam Rising passed for 310 yards and three touchdowns.

Williams threw for 363 yards and three TDs. He entered the game as the leading Heisman Trophy candidate, but wasn’t the same after getting injured in the first quarter.

The Trojans looked as if they were going to run away with the game, taking a 17-3 lead early in the second quarter behind some stellar play by Williams.

He appeared to hurt his left knee or leg in the first quarter on a 59-yard run in which he took a big hit at the end, and he suffered a bad cut on the pinky finger of his throwing hand. He spent most of the game limping, and wasn’t the same after a sterling first quarter in which the Trojans outgained Utah in total yards 194-70, and Williams had both touchdown passes.

After USC failed to pick up a fourth-and-8 from Utah’s 37-yard line, the Utes scored two touchdowns in the final 3:55 of the first half, and suddenly the game was tied at 17. Instead of a rout, the game was beginning to look like the shootout the Utes won in October.

The game took on that tone at times in the second half, but USC had no answer for how to slow down Utah, which outscored the Trojans 44-7 in overcoming that two-touchdown deficit.

ATTENDANCE RECORD

A announced sellout crowd of 61,195 made this the largest for a neutral-site Pac-12 Championship. It beat the previous record of 58,476 fans. who watched Southern California-Stanford in Santa Clara, California, in 2015.