Ohio State’s wide receiver depth took a big hit before Saturday’s Rose Bowl with the opt-outs of Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson. As it turns out, all the Buckeyes needed was Jaxon Smith-Njigba.
The sophomore was a supernova against the Utah secondary, hauling in 15 catches for 347 yards and three touchdowns. He set the record for most receiving yards in any bowl game in FBS history, and had six catches of 30 yards or more.
Smith-Njigba particularly shined in the second quarter, with touchdown grabs of 50 and 52 yards in consecutive plays. He also had a 49-yard catch in the same quarter, but fumbled inside the 10-yard line trying to get into the end zone. Smith-Njigba was named the Rose Bowl MVP.
It was a banner day in general for the Buckeyes’s passing attack, as quarterback C.J. Stroud set Rose Bowl records with 573 yards and six touchdown throws. Ohio State trailed, 35–21, at halftime and threw an interception on its opening drive of the third quarter, but followed that up with five consecutive scoring drives to end the game.
The transcendent performance capped a banner year for Smith-Njigba, who now holds Ohio State’s single-season records for receptions (95) and receiving yards (1,606). Only a sophomore, he and Stroud will return to form one of college football’s best one-two punches next season.
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