Wednesday, April 17

Without sense? Ohio State, Utah show Rose Bowl still speaks for itself in classic shooting

That didn’t seem like a pointless bowling game.

The Rose Bowl game, the “granddaddy of all,” reminded us that it doesn’t matter how teams got there. No. 7 Ohio State beat No. 10 Utah 48-45 in one of the most entertaining bowl games of all time.

Sure, it comes in the era of college football playoffs at a time when the value of Six Bowl games on New Years Day is in question because of opt-out options. Ohio State had several key players, including wide receivers Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave. The Utes, who were in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference when the Buckeyes made their first Rose Bowl appearance in 1920, first participated in Pasadena, California.

Both teams played as if they wanted to be there. This edition of the Rose Bowl had it all, as did the 52-49 shooting between Penn State and USC in 2017.

Ohio State wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba had arguably the best Rose Bowl performance of all time. He finished with 15 receptions for 347 yards and three TDs. Smith-Njigba had six receptions of 30 yards or more and featured his name in the early 2022 Heisman Trophy conversation. USC’s Keyshawn Johnson previously held the record with 216 yards.

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Unless, of course, quarterback CJ Stroud is that player. Stroud shook off a loss to Michigan in the regular season finale with a Rose Bowl record of 573 passing yards and six TDs. That broke the record of 473 yards by USC’s Sam Darnold.

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You can’t say they didn’t want to be there. Stroud and Smith-Njigba seized the opportunity to increase their value, and will reap benefits from NIL for the NFL.

Those records were also the product of a remarkable comeback. Utah came to play. The Utes tied Ohio State with 324 total yards in the first half and built a 35-21 lead at halftime. Micah Bernard made a ridiculous catch in the back of the end zone for a touchdown. Great Britain Covey had a 97-yard kickoff return for a TD. Cameron Rising ran away at fourth and 1 for a 62-yard touchdown.

However, Ohio State’s much-maligned defense hardened in the second half. Freshman Marvin Harrison’s third TD catch tied the game at 38 with 10:12 remaining, and Smith-Njigba scored a TD lead with 4:22 left. With Rising out with a concussion, it seemed like this game was over.

That’s when Utah quarterback Bryson Barnes, who had 0 career completions, led a tying series that culminated in a TD pass to Dalton Kincaid. The game ended disappointingly with a 19-yard field goal from Noah Ruggles, but the point was clear.

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The Rose Bowl was delivered a day after both college football playoff semifinals were flops. Utah lost the game, but the program will build on its first Pac-12 championship with Kyle Whittingham. Ohio State finished 11-2 under third-year coach Ryan Day and will be back in the top five of the 2022 preseason standings. If Ohio State had lost its bowl game after losing to Michigan, something that hasn’t happened Since 2011, there would have been more than enough exasperation on Columbus radio Sunday.

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Both coaching bodies will point to this game as a starting point for, however, it will also turn out next season.

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Say what you want about the location of the Rose Bowl in the structure of the college football bowl. Devotion to tradition remains an obstacle in the expansion of the college football playoffs given the January 1 date. The easiest solution might be to make the shrine part of the championship game rotation, but that’s still an ongoing conversation. At the very least, this was a reminder of what a good quarter-final showdown would look like when the playoff expands.

It was entertainment at the highest level, and Ohio State and Utah delivered a showdown that will be on the short list of the greatest bowling games of all time. Sometimes it is not necessary to search for meaning when the competition speaks for itself.

Doesn’t that sound like something your grandfather would say?

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