Ohio State Buckeyes’ head coach Ryan Day is a man of his word. In the wake of a disappointing loss to Michigan, he promised that the team would not lose again. That promise was fulfilled as the Buckeyes won their next five games and finished with an 11-2 record.
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — Coach Ryan Day took C.J. Stroud away as he started to struggle early in his first career start as Ohio State’s quarterback.
On offense, the fourth-ranked Buckeyes had no intention of easing up on their usual aggressive approach. As he faced Minnesota on the road Thursday night, Day fully anticipated growing pains for Stroud, who didn’t even attempt a pass as Justin Fields’ backup during a short 2020 season. Day, on the other hand, informed Stroud that he wasn’t going to play it safe.
“He and I agreed early on that no matter what happened, we’re going to keep swinging, and we’re not going to play close to the vest,” Day said. “That’s not how we do things around here. And he replied, but I believe it was the men surrounding him that prompted him to do so.”
At a wet Huntington Bank Stadium, Stroud and a dynamic collection of receivers and running backs recovered from two mid-game deficits to score 35 second-half points to defeat Minnesota 45-31. After throwing for 58 yards and an interception in the first half, Stroud threw four touchdown passes in the second half, averaging 47.2 yards per completion. In at least the last 25 years, Stroud became the only Ohio State player with three throwing touchdowns of 60 yards or longer in the same game.
All six of Ohio State’s scores went for more than 30 yards, including Haskell Garrett’s 32-yard fumble return. Stroud completed touchdown passes of 70, 61, 56, and 38 yards, but receivers Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, as well as running back TreVey Henderson, covered the majority of the ground. For the first time since its 2006 Fiesta Bowl victory against Notre Dame, Ohio State scored three touchdowns of 60 yards or more from scrimmage.
“My head wasn’t right in the first half, I was all over the place,” Stroud said. “I spoke to my teammates and prayed a lot, attempting to re-enter the game. I don’t think I did a bad job, but I did the best I could.”
In the first half, Ohio State seemed to play a more cautious game plan, with screen passes and shorter routes. Stroud’s longest completion was 15 yards, and he passed behind Olave, resulting in a Minnesota Terell Smith interception.
Stroud started the third quarter by hitting Olave on a long crossing pass for a 38-yard score, and he began putting his teammates on more adventurous plays after that.
Stroud stated, “I have fantastic teammates, but I believe I’m a terrific player as well.” “Perhaps the first half didn’t reflect that, but in the second [half], I gave it my all.” I performed very well in the second. Football is a game of ups and downs, and they trust in me. They put me in positions where I can help them grab the ball, which is a huge chance for me.
“Coach Day informed me that he believes in me no matter how well or poorly I perform. He has faith in me.”
Fields and Dwayne Haskins, two record-setting Ohio State quarterbacks, were both chosen in the first round of the NFL draft. He does, however, come with much less game experience, joking that he hasn’t “played football in like two years.” After battling with Jack Miller and Kyle McCord in preseason camp, the Rancho Cucamonga, California native earned the starting position last month.
“I told him early on, ‘There are no expectations coming in,’” Day said. “You might throw four interceptions, four touchdowns, I don’t know what’s going to happen.” “I know everyone thinks you’re going to go out there and pass for 300 yards and multiple touchdowns. It doesn’t always work like that. There’s a lot for a rookie quarterback who has never played to take in.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for someone with little or no experience to play in a conference game on the road. I was blown away by the way he simply kept swinging.”
Ohio State goes home to play No. 11 Oregon, the Pac-12 champion the last two seasons. The Ducks kick up their season against Fresno State at home on Saturday.
Stroud stated of his first start, “It’s been a fantastic learning experience for me.” “I felt like I kept my head up and remained optimistic, and my teammates were always encouraging me. You never know what could happen during Oregon week. It may happen again, but what matters is what you do if you’re hit in the mouth.”