In a Rose Bowl Game that will live for the ages, No. 6 Ohio State came from behind to pull off an epic 48-45 win over No. 11 Utah on New Year’s Day in Pasadena, California. This incredible, wild game saw Ohio State’s offense rewrite the record books and come back to win the game in the fourth quarter after trailing nearly the entire evening. OSU clinched its victory with a 56-yard drive in the game’s final minute that set up a go-ahead 19-yard field goal with 9 seconds left.
Utah took control early, jumping out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Then both teams combined for six touchdowns in the second quarter, setting the scene for what would be a wild back-and-forth affair over the game’s final 30 minutes.
However, it wasn’t until Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud hit wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba for a 30-yard touchdown with 4:22 left to play that the Buckeyes took their first lead of the game at 45-38. It was the third time Stroud and Smith-Njigba hooked up for a score, and it was just the tip of the iceberg.
Stroud finished with 573 yards passing and six TDs. Smith-Njigba caught 15 balls for 346 yards and three TDs, 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. Wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr., who took on a starting role for the first time this season due to Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave opting out, caught six passes for 71 yards and three scores of his own.
For Utah, the game slipped away in the fourth quarter when QB Cam Rising left the game after suffering what looked to be a concussion. Rising’s head hit the turf after being sacked, and he lay motionless on his back for a few minutes before getting up and walking off the field on his own. His backup, Bryson Barnes, led a game-tying touchdown drive in the final minutes, before the game-deciding field goal. Rising finished the day with 214 yards passing and two touchdowns while also leading the Utes in rushing with 92 yards and a score.
Here are five takeaways from a Rose Bowl I’ll never forget.
1. Jaxon Smith-Njigba is incredible …
Honestly, I’m not sure how he was able to do it all night, but despite the fact he was the biggest threat on the Ohio State offense, Smith-Njigba kept finding ways to get open play after play. How else do you catch 15 passes for 346 yards and three touchdowns in a game, setting all kinds of records in the process?
The volume and production are just numbers. Most notable from the performance was the skill Smith-Njigba showed. His third touchdown of the night — the one that gave Ohio State its first lead — was a spectacular over-the-shoulder grab on what was also a picture-perfect throw by Stroud. Smith-Njigba’s 346 yards receiving were nearly 100 more than the previous Ohio State single-game record, which was set in 1995 by Terry Glenn vs. Pittsburgh (253).
Even more impressive is how he bounced back from what could have been a tragic mistake. In the first half, when both the Utes and Buckeyes were trading touchdowns every 30 seconds of so — seriously, there were three touchdowns scored in a 30-second period of game…