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It’s hard to imagine CJ Stroud playing much better on Saturday night. And it still wasn’t enough against the defending champion Georgia Bulldogs.
Despite a 14-point lead early in the fourth quarter, Ohio State couldn’t keep up with Georgia, losing forever 42-41 in a college football playoff semifinal.
GEORGIA TAKES THE LEAD WITH UNDER A MINUTE LEFT‼️
What. A game. #CFBPlayoff pic.twitter.com/wuHbgnRkRz
The Buckeyes had a shot to win the game with just three seconds left, but Noah Ruggle’s 50-yard field goal attempt hooked wide of the target.
GEORGIA RETURNS TO THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP‼️ pic.twitter.com/9zENcba88W
Suffice it to say that Ohio State’s Twitter was in disarray after the heartthrob, which was Ohio State’s referee on the last ride:
It was an especially tough result for Stroud, who was brilliant, finishing 23 of 34 for 348 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions.
OHIO STATE STRIKES FIRST 🎯
CJ Stroud ➡️ Marvin Harrison Jr for 6❗️ pic.twitter.com/MsWHE3DM1V
MARVIN. HARRISON. JR
A jump catch to extend the Buckeyes’ lead 💪 #CFBPlayoff a> pic.twitter.com/8co0XnSAUw
ESPN College Football @ESPNCFB
CJ Stroud falls in his 4th TD pass of the night 🎯 pic.twitter.com/p6w83xC348
Perhaps as impressive as the throwing chops he displayed on Saturday was the playmaking ability he displayed with his legs as he rushed 34 yards and lengthened a series of plays after breaking the pocket.
But for all of his many impressive accomplishments throughout his college career, so much of the narrative around him has focused on what he wasn’t doing.
Didn’t beat Michigan. Has not yet won a Big Ten title. Has not yet won a college football playoff game. A two-time Heisman Trophy finalist, but never the winner. Not much of a runner or playmaker with his legs.
Stroud didn’t erase those narratives on Saturday, but he did make them seem unnecessarily negative. He was great, in a performance worthy of a future first-round pick in the NFL draft, and people took notice:
The difference between an upset win and a heartbreaking loss, however, was that Stroud and the Buckeyes were held to just three points in the crucial fourth quarter. Day must own some of it, despite hosting a coaching masterclass in the last 59 minutes.
That’s the cruelty of sport. Sometimes just a minute can define your legacy. Day and Stroud will feel the weight of this harsh truth for some time to come.
Day will have plenty of time to change his narrative going forward for Ohio State. Stroud will have the chance to do that in the NFL. But on Saturday night both had to lament what could have been.