As was the case for most of Ohio State’s season, the Buckeyes’ high-powered offense, led by CJ Stroud and a dominant effort from wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, found itself in a track meet with an opposing offense that rolled up yards and points against the Buckeyes. But the Buckeye defense settled in late and helped turn a 35-21 halftime deficit to a 48-45 win over Utah in the Rose Bowl.

CJ Stroud set a Rose Bowl record and an OSU single game record, passing for over 500 yards, with Jaxon Smith-Njigba setting fire to the receiving records as he approached 300 receiving yards himself. Ohio State trailed for most of the game, but balanced their offensive firepower with scrappy defense late to grab the win.

After the two teams traded punts to open the game, Utah grabbed early momentum with a 6-play, 56-yard drive, culminating with a 19-yard scoring pass from QB Cameron Rising to pint-sized WR Britain Covey. Utah took a 7-0 edge with 9:29 to go in the opening quarter. The Utes forced a 3 and out, and then extended their lead, going 67 yards in 8 plays, reaching the end zone again on a 12-yard connection from Rising to RB Micah Bernard. Utah led 14-0 with 3:29 left in the opening quarter.

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Ohio State finished the quarter with a drive, and on a crucial 4th-and-1 seconds into the 2nd quarter, Stroud got the Buckeyes on the board with a 25-yard scoring pass to Marvin Harrison, Jr. The catch was Harrison’s first touchdown of the season, as he gained more snaps with Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson opting out of the game. The score trimmed Utah’s edge to 14-7 with 14:17 left in the first half. Utah regained momentum on the next drive, reaching the end zone one play after OSU defensive end Jack Sawyer was ejected for targeting. Utah’s Tavion Thomas scored on a 6-yard run, making it 21-7 Utah with 9:07 left in the half.

The offensive fireworks were just beginning. Two plays later, Stroud hit Smith-Njigba for a 50-yard TD to trim the lead to a single score. On the ensuing kickoff, Covey darted 97 yards for an answering Utah touchdown. But on the first OSU play after the kickoff, Stroud again connected with Smith-Njigba, this time for a 52-yard score. With OSU having trimmed the lead to 28-21, Utah went for a 4th and 1 from its own 38, only for Rising to break free for a 62-yard rushing score. When the smoke cleared, Utah led 35-21 with 6:24 still left until halftime.

Ohio State opened the 2nd half with a promising drive that ended when Stroud threw an interception into the Utah end zone. But on the following series, Utah fumbled the snap on a punt and turned the ball back to Ohio State on the Utah 11 yard line. In a matter of moments, Stroud connected with Harrison again for a touchdown, this time from 8 yards out, to draw OSU to within 35-28. Utah answered with a 24-yard field goal from Jadon Redding to make it 38-28 with 7:10 left in the 3rd quarter. Ohio State matched the score with their own field goal, a 31-yard Noah Ruggles kick with 2:53 remaining in the 3rd quarter.

State gained momentum by stopping a 4th-and-3 pass from Rising a yard shy of the first down marker at the OSU 29 yard line. They promptly marched 71 yards to tie the game, with Stroud connecting for a third TD pass to Harrison, this time from 5 yards out, to draw OSU even with 10:12 to play.

After a Utah punt, State went back to work, grabbing the lead on a 30-yard dart from Stroud to Smith-Njigba in the end zone with 4:22 to play. Utah quickly answered with its own scoring drive, with backup QB Bryson Barnes replacing a dinged-up Rising and hitting a 15-yard scoring pass to Dalton Kincaid with 1:54 to play.

OSU immediately drove for the winning score, a 19-yard Noah Ruggles field goal with just 9 seconds left.

OSU finishes the season 11-2, having fallen just shy of a spot in the CFP, but displaying one of the most potent offenses in recent college football memory.