By Earl Heath
Contributing Sports Writer
It was one of the greatest finishes in Rose Bowl history. Ohio State starting QB CJ Stroud started a drive that helped him and his teammates into the one of the great games in Rose Bowl history.
In the end The Buckeyes outdueled Utah 48-45 in front of some 90,000 fans in Pasadena.
After several back and forth in the second half it wasn’t until Stroud hit wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba for a 30-yard score with 4:22 left to play that the Buckeyes took their first lead of the game at 45-38. It was the third time the two connected for a score.
The “Never Say Die” Buckeyes trailed by 14 points four different times and rallied back after each deficit.
The final second half comeback was the game winner as OSU kicker Jake Siebert nailed a 19-yard field goal with nine ticks left on the clock.
“My job is to lead the team,” said Stroud, a Rancho Cucamonga native . “I have watch I have to lead our offense on the field. to do everything on the field.
Stroud a SO-Cal native finished the day with 573 yards passing and six TDs. Smith-Njigba caught 15 balls for 346 yards and three TDs, breaking Keyshawn Johnson’s Rose Bowl record and setting the record for most yards receiving in FBS bowl game history along with Ohio State single-season records for most yards receiving and most receptions.
Smith-Njigba and wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr., who took on a starting role for the first time this season both stepped up with the absents Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave who opted out. Harrison caught six passes for 71 yards and three scores of his own.
The Utes jumped out to an early lead as QB Cam Rising passed and ran his way all through the OSU defense.
On the second possession the Utes were helped by a PI call against the Buckeyes. Rising later hit Britain Covey on a 19 yarder for the lead 7-0 lead.
Next possession on a third and three Rising picked up five for a first.
Three plays later on a third down the senior from Ventura connected with xx in the corner of the endzone that put the Utes up 14-0.
Later in the half after a 22-yard run Rising heading to the turf he was hit by Jack Sawyer called for targeting on rising, the freshman from Pinkerton Ohio was disqualified .On the first play after the ejection Tavion Thomas ran six yards untouched to the endzone.
The Buckeyes Lathan Ransom went down on kick-off and was carted off the field., Soon after the sophomore from Tucson, Arizona was off the playing area, there was a review called from upstairs that resulted in the ejection of the Utes Conner O’Toole.
On a fourth and one Rising stepped back ran through left side of the line and scampered 62 yards to make it 35 -21.
Rising passed for 242-yards and was the game’s leading rusher with 106 yards on 16 carries and a TD. He later left the game with a back injury and true freshman Bryson Barnes stepped in and led the team to a game to Dalton Kincaid tying score. Barnes of Milford UTAH appeared to be a folk hero for a moment. There will be a lot coming from him in the future.
OSU enjoys their ninth Rose Bowl win. “This is the Rose Bowl” Stroud said. “This is where the legendary games are played. If you have to be motivated to play I question your love for the game.”