PASADENA, Calif. — Ohio State entered Saturday’s Rose Bowl against Utah deflated and depleted.
The No. 7 Buckeyes left it overjoyed.
Ohio State recovered from a disastrous start to rally for a 48-45 victory over No. 11 Utah on Noah Ruggles’ 19-yard field goal with 9 seconds left.
In a game with wild twists and turns, it will be remembered for a record-setting performance by Jaxon Smith-Njigba.
The sophomore receiver entered the week eager to help fill the void left by the opt-outs by fellow stars Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson. He did better than anyone could imagine. Smith-Njigba caught 15 passes for 347 yards and three touchdowns. It was the most receiving yards by anyone in bowl history.
Ohio State wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba celebrates with quarterback C.J. Stroud after catching a touchdown in the fourth quarter of the Rose Bowl vs. Utah.
Smith-Njigba’s performance helped C.J. Stroud throw for 573 yards and six touchdowns – both Rose Bowl records – on 37-of-46 passing. Stroud’s other three touchdowns were to freshman Marvin Harrison Jr. His yardage total is a new Ohio State single-game record.
“I’m excited for our young guys,” Smith-Njigba said. “We all just stepped up. Opportunities came my way, and it’s what I prayed for. I can’t be surprised by what I prayed for.”
Stroud’s third touchdown pass to Harrison tied the game at 38 in the fourth quarter. Smith-Njigba then caught a 30-yard pass to give Ohio State its first lead with 4:22 left.
When Utah quarterback Cameron Rising was knocked out of the game on a sack by Kourt Williams, a Buckeye victory seemed in grasp.
But backup Bryson Barnes led the Utes (10-4) to a tying touchdown with 1:54 left on a 15-yard touchdown to Dalton Kincaid.
Ohio State then drove 56 yards in seven plays to set up Ruggles’ game-winner.
“These last few weeks have been hard,” Ohio State…