Ohio State misplaced to Georgia in heartbreaking vogue on Saturday night time. Because the ball dropped in Instances Sq., ringing in a brand new yr, kicker Noah Ruggles pulled a possible game-winning area objective huge left, costing the Buckeyes the sport in opposition to Georgia, and denying them a shot at enjoying for the Nationwide Championship.
But, even in defeat, Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud was magnificent. The Buckeyes passer put maybe his most full sport on movie in his remaining collegiate efficiency.
Over the approaching weeks and months, a lot might be stated, and written, concerning the 2023 quarterback draft class. Some will declare Kentucky passer Will Levis as the highest prospect within the group. Others will make a case for Bryce Younger, and even Anthony Richardson. There may even be different who will argue that groups with a necessity a quarterback can be higher off ready till 2024, when Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, Michael Penix Jr., Bo Nix, and different quarterbacks might be potential choices.
However what Stroud did on Saturday night time, in opposition to a stout Georgia protection, is tough to disregard.
Stroud accomplished 23 of 34 passes for 348 yards and 4 touchdowns because the Buckeyes fell by a remaining rating of 42-41. But past the numbers, is how Stroud attacked the Bulldogs protection: With each his arm, his thoughts, and his legs.
One of many knocks on Stroud this complete season, as gamers like Levis and Richardson have maybe surpassed him on some draft boards, is that Stroud will not be a harmful weapon outdoors the pocket, or enjoying off-script. But, he confirmed in opposition to the Bulldogs that he can do exactly that, and make a protection pay within the course of.
Ohio State opened the scoring Saturday night time with a 31-yard connection between Stroud and huge receiver Marvin Harrison Jr., and the landing gave us our first glimpse of Stroud creating off-script in opposition to the Bulldogs. Watch because the QB calmly works by way of his reads within the pocket, however then buys time by rolling out to his proper. As he does so, he retains his eyes downfield and directs site visitors, earlier than discovering Harrison ultimately zone for six:
Right here’s one other have a look at the play, from the top zone angle:
Scramble drill from CJ Stroud results in a TD. Marvin Harrison Jr. retains his route alive, and finds open grass and hauls in a diving catch for the rating. pic.twitter.com/X4ZET4uLQW
— Devin Jackson (@RealD_Jackson) January 1, 2023
Early within the second quarter, Ohio State constructed a 21-7 lead on one other connection between Stroud and Harrison. This time, you may see the athleticism from the QB, as Stroud makes a play paying homage to the quarterback he changed within the huddle for the Buckeyes:
However after Georgia stormed again to take the lead, Ohio State answered. This time, what stood out from Stroud was his endurance within the pocket, and his contact with the soccer. With the Bulldogs having scored 17 unanswered factors to take a 24-21 lead earlier than halftime, the Buckeyes roared down the sector to regain the lead on this throw from Stroud to Xavier Johnson:
This can be a stunning design from the Buckeyes, and a affected person play from Stroud. Ohio State runs a smash idea to every facet of the sector, with a deep nook route from the within receiver and a path to the flat from every outdoors receiver. However Johnson leaks up the center out of the backfield, and will get a good matchup within the secondary. Stroud lets this develop, after which layers in an ideal throw for an enormous achieve. Johnson finishes it off with a spin transfer simply earlier than the objective line to evade a sort out, and the Buckeyes have the lead as soon as extra.
Late within the fourth quarter, Georgia took a 42-41 lead, however the Buckeyes had greater than sufficient time to get into vary for a area objective try. It was Stroud — and his legs — that received them shut:
Stroud’s big run put the Buckeyes in place for an extended area objective strive. They might not get any nearer — and the way Ohio State dealt with these remaining few performs might be debated for months — forcing them to depend on a 50-yard try that was properly off the mark. However the Buckeyes solely had that likelihood due to what Stroud had finished over the course of the sport.
There’s something else to notice about Stroud’s play on Saturday night time.
His aggressive toughness.
Quarterback is a place in contrast to another. Sure, traits equivalent to arm expertise, and anticipation, and psychological processing, and accuracy, and athleticism, and all the opposite buzzwords you will hear over the subsequent few months matter.
So too does management. Aggressive toughness. The power to encourage these round you. The power to stroll right into a huddle, command the eye — and respect — of the opposite ten folks within the huddle with you, and get them to imagine in you, and what you are able to do in your group. The second these ten units of eyes within the huddle with you aren’t trying again at you, with the imagine that you will make them glory, you’ve failed as a QB.
Stroud’s athleticism, and talent to play off-script, have been questions that he answered on Saturday night time. However he additionally answered that aggressive toughness query. After losses to Michigan in every of the previous two years, his efficiency in opposition to Georgia was a defining second. HIs closing argument that he, too, can lead an NFL franchise. That he can step right into a huddle and command that respect from the ten NFL veterans round him.
Saturday night time, Stroud made his closing argument as to why he’s QB1 on this class.
And it was a rattling good one.