The stars of Ohio State’s Rose Bowl victory were record-setting performances from QB CJ Stroud and WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba. But if not for a defensive turnaround by the Buckeyes, those performances were liable to have come in a losing effort.

In the first half, Ohio State gave up 35 points to Utah. It was a performance that clearly ticked off head coach Ryan Day on his way to the locker room.

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After the break, the Buckeyes were much better. Ohio State gave up just 10 points in the second half with a field goal and a late touchdown to Utah as the Buckeyes escaped with a 48-45 victory in Pasadena.

What was the secret to that defensive turnaround? It was all about leadership, according to Day:

“It was leadership,” explained Day. “It was a bunch of guys in that locker room who said ‘That’s enough,’ and they started playing fast and violent. That’s what we have to do on defense moving forward if we want to be where we want to be.”

With a number of young guys seeing the field against Utah, hopefully this is a performance the Buckeyes can use as a springboard into 2022. For now, Ohio State will enjoy its season-ending win in dramatic fashion.