COLUMBUS — Redshirt freshman quarterback C.J. Stroud started in his first college football game against Minnesota on Thursday night. What is normally a Noon game against a non-ranked opponent in Ohio Stadium was instead a night game on the road with rainy weather, in front of a sold out crowd, and against a team who was a top 10 opponent in 2019.
Stroud wasn’t perfect. But he stayed cool, calm, and collected to get the job done and help lead the Buckeyes to a 45-31 victory in Minnesota.
“I told him before the game that no matter what happens we’re going to keep pushing it and keep throwing it,” head coach Ryan Day said following the game. “He missed a couple early on but we just kept working through that. When you’re a freshman quarterback and you’ve never thrown a college pass before, you have to get into a rhythm and he did.”
At times he looked like a first-time starter and was shaken. At other times he showed the poise of a veteran quarterback. But at the end of the day, he was able to make big-time plays when needed.
Stroud looked more comfortable as the game went on, settling into the game throughout the second half. In the first half, Stroud was 8 of 14 for 58 yards and one interception. In the second half, Stroud completed 5 of 8 passes for 236 yards and four touchdowns including a 38-yard touchdown, a 56-yard touchdown, a 70-yard touchdown, and a 61-yard touchdown.
First-game jitters contributed to his first half performance, but he credits the players around him and their encouragement for his improvement in the second half.
“In the game of football you have your ups and downs,” Stroud said. “Everything doesn’t always go the way it’s supposed to. In the first half my mind wasn’t right, I was all over the place a bit. I talked to my teammates, prayed a lot, and locked back in.”
Stroud knew that no matter what the game brought his way, he had the support of the coaching staff and his fellow teammates.
“Coach Day told me no matter how I’m playing, good or bad, that he has trust in me and believes in me,” Stroud said. “Having a head coach like that is a blessing from God and he’s a great man for that.”
Day knew that there was going to be adversity and there was going to be a learning curve with a young quarterback.
“You don’t just walk out at Ohio State at quarterback and go out there and throw three or four touchdown passes and call it a day in this conference,” Day said.
Although the goal was to just come away 1-0, Stroud sketched his name in the Ohio State record books along the way. With four touchdown passes, Stroud holds the record for the most touchdown passes by a freshman in a debut.
There’s also only one quarterback in the last century of Ohio State football, Dwayne Haskins with 313 yards, who has passed for more yards in their first Ohio State start than C.J. Stroud on Thursday night with his 294 yards.
With a long season ahead, this game was just the starting point and a learning experience that he can use to grow from.
“For him there were a lot of things Stroud was doing for the first time,” Day said. “When that happens, it takes some time.”
[Photo via Ohio State on BTN Twitter]