after three hours of hair-raising excitement, stunned silence. The Utah quarterback, Southern California’s own rising Cameron, lay on his back, surrounded by team doctors. heads bowed throughout the rose bowl, where 90,000 people swathed in different shades of red awaited the young man’s good health and the continuation of his relentless adrenaline rush.
and thankfully it wouldn’t stop for anything in pasadena on this first day of 2022, a day that began with the voice of college football questioning the very fiber of players who like to move up have put their bodies and futures on the line for the last four months.
Reading: College football rose bowl 2022
“I think this age of players just doesn’t love football,” kirk herbstreit had lamented Saturday morning on espn college game day, sitting on the same hallowed ground ohio state’s kourt williams would sink shoulder and head lifting on the turf with a game-changing sack.
this 108th rose bowl served as a heartfelt response from pac-12 utes and big ten buckeyes on behalf of their brothers across the country: hey, we care. an unthinkable kickoff return for a touchdown by utah’s eternal british band said so. Record-setting Rose Bowl performances by Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud and wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba confirmed it. the entrails that would spill out in the final moments to come would engrave it in stone.
The game, now tied at 38, may have been an exhibition, but it proved not to be meaningless. the uprising would come off the field with its own power, bringing a collective exhalation. Ohio State would soon take its first lead in the game when Rancho Cucamonga product Stroud dropped another accurate pass into the waiting hands of Smith-Njigba, whose feet somehow did the rest, dancing just inside the rim. of grass painted with snow. white for his third touchdown.
“The throwing and receiving is probably the best I’ve ever seen in a big time,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said.
The ball returned to Utah, which brought out a freshman named Bryson Barnes for a second rise relay series. he hadn’t thrown a pass all season, and yet the kid would be asked to meet this moment when the sun had already set behind the saint gabriels in the “grandfather of all.”
Of course Barnes would rise to the occasion, throwing a 15-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dalton Kincaid to tie it and provoke a college football world entranced by the prospect of overtime.
But the exhausted Utes couldn’t pull off the rare defensive stop against Stroud, who would finish the day with 573 passing yards and six touchdowns, and a Rose Bowl classic would end quietly with a 19-yard field goal from Stroud’s chip shot. ohio noah ruggles out of state with nine seconds left.
not. 6 from Ohio State, the team that alum Herbstreit had challenged on Saturday morning, edged out No. 11 Utah 48-45, coming back from four 14-point deficits in the first half. The Buckeyes showed a willingness befitting the dominant Big Ten program, finding a way to win despite playing without 24 reported scholarship players.
“I’m so proud of my guys for staying calm and not panicking, not pointing fingers or anything like that,” Stroud said. “we all stayed afloat.”
Day admitted during the week that the Buckeyes were still upset about a 42-27 season-ending loss to rival Michigan. He didn’t want to reveal what was said at halftime with his team losing to Utah 35-21.
“I’ll save that for the locker room,” Day said. “There are some things that I probably can’t repeat, but that’s fine, that’s football.”
herbstreit’s criticism of the modern college football player was prompted by the decisions of numerous buckeyes, including star wide receivers garrett wilson and chris olave, to opt out of playing on one of the most venerable sporting venues in the country to protect yourself from injury before. april nfl draft this is not a new trend at this point, but herbstreit was irritated.
“Saying these games didn’t make sense, I just don’t get it,” Herbstreit said. “If you don’t make the playoffs, how come there’s no point in playing football and competing? Isn’t that what we do as footballers? we compete I don’t know if changing or expanding [the tiebreaker] is going to change anything. not really.”
herbstreit struck a chord with his colleague on set, desmond howard.
“That’s what I’m going to say,” agreed howard, winner of the 1991 michigan heisman trophy, who starred in the rose bowl. “We are dealing with a totally different mindset. … they have a sense of entitlement. if we don’t go to the one that matters, it just doesn’t have as much value to them as it did to us growing up.”
Thus, no bowl has lost more in the four-team playoff era than the pink, which has routinely struggled to maintain its place in the sport’s hierarchy. Most years, at least one of the Big Ten or Pac-12 champions is in the playoffs, which means the game can feel more like a consolation prize for a team that dreamed of a national championship.
that was where ohio state found itself after losing to michigan for the first time in a decade. Olave, a product of Mission Hills, had returned for his senior season with the goal of winning the grand prize, passing up a year’s salary from the NFL. all that was lost on nov. 27 in ann arbor. Olave’s decision not to participate in the Rose Bowl was not controversial.
and, had olave and wilson not sat down, millions watching at home would have been deprived of smith-njigba’s virtuoso performance, as the sophomore set a new all-time record for receiving yards in a bowling game with 347 spread over 15 catches.
herbstreit was on the color commentary of the espn telecast and spent the entire second half sounding amazed at the effort he was seeing. maybe today’s player isn’t so different after all?
“This is the bowl of roses, man,” Stroud said. “This is where the legendary games are played. if you’re not motivated to play, I question your love for the game.”