Faculty Soccer & Soccer Analyst
ATLANTA — C.J. Stroud stared into area.
Roughly half-hour had handed since Georgia beat Ohio State 42-41 within the Faculty Soccer Playoff semifinal on the Peach Bowl on Saturday, and the two-time Heisman Trophy finalist was nonetheless very a lot processing.
Because the clock struck midnight on New Yr’s Eve, Buckeyes kicker Noah Ruggles missed a possible game-winning 50-yard discipline aim that may have despatched his workforce to the nationwide championship.
Had Ruggles’ kick gone by way of the uprights, Ohio State can be heading again house to Columbus on Sunday to start out recreation planning for TCU, which upset Michigan within the Fiesta Bowl earlier within the day. Then they’d head to Los Angeles in just a few days to start out making ready for the largest prize in school soccer.
As an alternative, the season is over.
Georgia stuns Ohio State with late rally in Peach Bowl
And so there sat Stroud in his sweaty Ohio State jersey and sweatband. He was despondent and heartbroken, sitting alongside Ryan Day and defensive lineman Zach Harrison, taking questions on what simply occurred.
“I can’t say an excessive amount of about how we fought,” stated Stroud, who accomplished 23 of 34 passes for 348 yards and 4 touchdowns with none interceptions, although he was sacked 4 occasions.
“We stored swinging, stored preventing, stored swinging, stored preventing. After all, you’re going to have some regrets on sure performs, want you probably did this, want you probably did that. However on the finish of the day, it’s a person within the area. It’s arduous to do what we do. You’ve obtained to be joyful in these moments. After all, I’m not sitting right here smiling and pleased. After all, you need to win issues like this and this implies loads to us. I imply, me and Coach Day, man, like we rise up early each morning on the cellphone continually, no matter we will do to win and put smiles on folks’s faces. It is powerful.”
In contrast to after the Michigan loss, when the Buckeyes’ future was unknown — they didn’t slide into the fourth playoff spot till the next week — the aura felt completely different on Saturday night time at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Day was unusually upbeat for a coach who simply misplaced a playoff recreation by such a slim margin. Stroud spoke with confidence and resiliency, providing excessive reward for his head coach and this system he’ll quickly depart behind, as he’s anticipated to be a prime choose within the NFL draft.
Maybe that’s as a result of Ohio State truly shut up a few of its doubters and answered some urgent questions. Heading into this recreation, there was loads of speak about how Ohio State may reply to Georgia 5 weeks after its second straight demoralizing defeat to Michigan. Would they let The Recreation hover over their preparation? Would they be intimidated? Was this system at a crossroads? Was there legitimacy to issues that Day won’t be the man to steer Ohio State to a nationwide championship when the Buckeyes are a national-championship-or-bust kind of program?
After Saturday’s consequence, any lingering questions can most likely be narrowed all the way down to this: Is a one-point loss in a CFP semifinal towards the reigning nationwide champions sufficient to change — if not absolutely erase — the present narrative that Ohio State is just not set as much as be a perennial powerhouse like Georgia and Alabama?
After shedding to Michigan, Ohio State obtained again to work instantly — earlier than the Buckeyes even knew they’d be taking part in Georgia. With Stroud because the chief, gamers have been again within the weight room and getting further reps collectively on the sphere, even earlier than USC’s loss within the Pac-12 championship allowed OSU to slip into the fourth and remaining playoff spot. Then, within the 35 days between the Michigan and Georgia video games, Day stated his workforce had 1,500 reps throughout their bowl practices in anticipation of this matchup. They even had an analyst chart it. This got here all the way down to a mean of 42 reps per day.
It practically paid off. Ohio State got here so near pulling off an upset.
Late within the fourth quarter, Stetson Bennett led Georgia on a five-play, 72-yard drive to take a one-point lead. They left 54 seconds for Stroud to do one thing. The 2-time Huge Ten offensive participant of the yr made sensible performs, just like the 27-yard scramble to the UGA 31-yard line, and throwing the ball away on third down when Georgia placed on an all-out blitz, organising the ultimate discipline aim try.
“It does not imply something if you happen to do not win, although,” Day stated. “And I feel that is most likely what hurts essentially the most is that if you put that a lot work and that a lot vitality and that a lot time into one thing, and also you’re proper there and also you simply — you aren’t getting the victory.
“It is a efficiency enterprise, and also you win, otherwise you lose, and we misplaced the sport. That is simply what hurts to our core. And that is what it’s. We’re right here to win, and it did not occur.”
There was a way that Day’s seat could have felt a bit hotter after the Michigan recreation. Stroud was fast to stay up for his coach, praising his recreation plan and decision-making on Saturday, together with the primary down name after Stroud ran to the 31-yard line on the ultimate drive. Day referred to as a run play for Dallan Hayden, who was tackled for a 1-yard loss.
Day defined the thought was they nonetheless had two timeouts, and a few yards might have aided the sphere aim. He stated he wouldn’t have modified the decision regardless of not executing, and Stroud shortly chimed in to say, “it was name, nice name.”
Ohio State additionally gave up some explosive performs towards Georgia, just like some it allowed vs. Michigan. There was Kenny McIntosh’s 52-yard run up the center within the first half that may have been a landing had the working again not tripped on the turf (it nonetheless arrange a Georgia landing two performs later). And there was Bennett’s 76-yard landing bomb to Arian Smith within the fourth quarter to make it a three-point recreation. However Day defined that despite the fact that limiting massive performs similar to these was one thing they labored so arduous to keep away from, they have been completely different this time.
“The distinction was, on this recreation, it didn’t demoralize us,” Day stated. “We stored swinging and preventing, and we simply stored going at it.
“However name it for what it’s. If we’ll win these video games, we won’t surrender these massive explosive performs. They’re arduous to come back again from. However there have been nonetheless numerous constructive issues on the market.”
Ohio State matched Georgia’s vitality and physicality and relentless perspective, and for essentially the most half, was in complete management. The Buckeyes simply fell brief this time.
“Let’s name it for what it’s there. They’re defending nationwide champs, undefeated,” Day stated of Georgia. “They are a good workforce. However I do not suppose there’s one man in that locker room that does not really feel like we should not have gained the sport. Once more, that is part of this factor that’s going to take a seat in our stomachs for a very long time.”
Prime tales from FOX Sports activities:
Laken Litman covers school soccer, school basketball and soccer for FOX Sports activities. She beforehand wrote for Sports activities Illustrated, USA At the moment and The Indianapolis Star. She is the creator of “Sturdy Like a Girl,” printed in spring 2022 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Title IX. Observe her on Twitter @LakenLitman.
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Publish date: 2023-01-01 14:17:51
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