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

Joshua A. Bickel / USA TODAY NETWORK
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PASADENA, Calif. – 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.

Jaxon 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.

“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.”

Ohio State still 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 start 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 – but he led the Utes 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.”

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.

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. Smith-Njigba then 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 we found a way to get it done.”

With two top Buckeyes receivers opting out of the Rose Bowl, 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 the season with 1,606 yards, blowing past David Boston’s 1998 school record.

“I just try to take advantage every time the ball is in the air, and I feel like I did that today,” Smith-Njigba said.

Yet the Buckeyes were playing from behind for most of the day in Arroyo Seco. 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.

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.

The 24-year-old Covey’s sensational 97-yard romp through the Buckeyes in the second quarter 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.

With the anticlimactic nature of this Rose Bowl for the Buckeyes, whose 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.

UP NEXT

Ohio State: Host Notre Dame on Sept. 3 to begin the 2022 season as the probable co-favorite to win the Big Ten with the Wolverines.

Utah: At Florida on Sept. 3 to begin the 2022 season as the likely favorite to repeat as Pac-12 champions.

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.