PASADENA, Calif. — Ohio State head coach Ryan Day, redshirt freshman quarterback C.J. Stroud, and sophomore wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba met with the media following the 48-45 Rose Bowl win against Utah for a formal press conference.
Here are some quotes and highlights of what was said.
+ “I’m just very proud of the coaching staff, the players, and the leaders of this team for playing the way we did, especially in the second half, and winning this game.”
+ They were very shorthanded, so he is proud of the way they responded in the second half. “It says a lot about the character of this team to win this game.”
+ Utah played their tails off.
+ It was an unbelievable game.
+ The seniors have left a legacy behind. The younger players also gained a lot of momentum moving forward.
+ “We have a lot of work to do in the off-season, but we found out a little bit about our team in the second half here.”
+ Jaxon Smith-Njigba has just played within himself all year. He made tremendous plays and he has a great connection with C.J. Stroud.
+ “The throw on the touchdown pass, the inside slot fade, the throw and the catch there is probably as good as I’ve ever seen in a big time spot.”
+ On the importance of responding and winning, Day said there were a bunch of players who stepped up in the locker room. They talked about how it was like the 2019 Big Ten Championship game.
+ “When you have that type of leadership from within, that’s when you can do whatever you want. I think, as we springboard into this off-season, that’s the part that we’re really going to go back upon in this game is the leadership that drove us in the second half.”
+ He is already thinking about the first game of the season next year and how they can use this game to springboard and build momentum.
+ On the defensive adjustments in the second half, Day said it happened in the locker room. He heard it and got out of the way. “They played with a different toughness, and we talked about playing fast and violent.” Day thought they played like that in the second half.
+ A lot of the linebackers had a chip on their shoulder in the second half.
+ They were a little pass heavy, but C.J. Stroud did an excellent job executing the run pass options, whether bubble screens or throws down the field.
+ On what was said in the locker room at halftime, “I’ll kind of leave that for the locker room. There were some things that I probably can’t repeat. That’s okay. That’s the way football goes.”
+ He does not have an update on Lathan Ransom’s injury. “Just standing over him shows you what a tough game it is. Prayers out to Lathan and his family. Hopefully he gets a quick recovery in this area.”
+ On passing twice on fourth-and-one, Day said Stroud liked the play early on. Day was a bit concerned but he liked the call. He likes making sure the guys are comfortable with the call and Stroud was asking for it. “My heart was in my throat.” But he had faith in them and they delivered.
+ On playing with Marvin Harrison Jr., Stroud said they built a connection from day one because they came in together, were on the Scout team together last year, and built it then. His numbers don’t surprise Stroud. He is blessed to be around players like Harrison.
+ “Our o-line played their butts off. I don’t think I got sacked once.”
+ He calls Marvin Harrison Jr. “Route Man Marv” because his routes are “amazing, especially against a good corner.” He thinks Harrison has a lot more in his bag, and this was just a glimpse. The same for Julian Fleming.
+ “When my guys are rolling, I think we’re pretty much unstoppable.”
+ On what the team learned through the season to prepare for the second half and toughing it out, Stroud said they always had ups and downs in this season. They took them all as learning experiences and learned how to finish games. They all stayed calm and didn’t panic.
+ “I’m really proud of my guys for staying calm and not really panicking, not pointing fingers or anything like that. We all kind of stayed even keel and made sure we were going to win this game.”
+ They were motivated by the Michigan game. They wanted to get the bad taste out of their mouths and end the season the right way and send the seniors off on the right way.
+ “Every game I go out there, I try to do my best and make sure I prepare the right way and do the right things because you never know what can happen in the game. My job is to lead the team, lead our offense, and I’ve got to watch — I have to do everything I need to do to lead our offense on the field.”
+ On having to fill in the blanks with Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson being gone, Smith-Njigba said he just trusted the process and wanted to take advantage of every opportunity he got. “It worked out.”
+ “Our team is built on fighting. It doesn’t matter if we’re up, down. We were down the first half, but we just had to stay level headed and keep fighting.”
+ On having the most receiving yards of anybody ever in a Bowl Game, Smith-Njigba thanked God, his offensive line, coaches, and Stroud. “I just couldn’t have done it without them.”
+”I just try to take in every moment every time the ball’s in the air. I feel like I did that today. So it’s a blessing.”