Much like he did in the first two games of the season, Ohio State redshirt freshman quarterback C.J. Stroud showed flashes of greatness against Tulsa, completing 15 of 25 passes for 185 yards and one touchdown in the 41-20 victory on Saturday afternoon.
He also overthrew a couple passes and forced another to senior tight end Jeremy Ruckert, which was picked off for his third interception of the season.
“We knew they were a good team coming in,” Stroud said after the game. “They do some funky things on defense to where if you get greedy, it’ll cost turnovers. On the turnover, that’s kind of what happened. I kind of got greedy on that one play. They drop eight every play, so it’s kind of tough to find windows and work the pass game, but we got the job done, so that’s all that matters.
“They run a 3-3-5, so anybody who knows football knows that’s very tough to play against. We already knew coming in there wasn’t going to be easy completions on the field. It was hard trying and get a rhythm going and with their defense, they want you to snap the ball every play and get five (yards), five (yards), five (yards). You get greedy and that’s how you turn the ball over and that’s kind of what happened.”
Stroud admitted after the game that he’s still dealing with a nagging right shoulder injury, as evidenced by him rotating his throwing arm before and after passes. He doesn’t feel it’s impacted his play to this point, however.
“I was healthy enough to play,” Stroud said. “Definitely not 100 percent, but who is 100 percent around this time? We have a job to do and definitely have to fix up some things on offense, but all in all, wins aren’t easy, especially when everybody has a big target on our back. But we definitely have to get better.
“It hurts, but life hurts. Winning is tough. I just have to grind through it. There’s been plenty of guys who grind through injuries, and I mean, that’s just playing football. You’re never 100 percent after that first game.”
Head coach Ryan Day acknowledged that Stroud has gone through some growing pains in his first three starts, but also noted there’s a lot to build upon, too.
“I think he threw some good balls,” Day said after the game. “He did miss a couple, for sure. But it would have been nice to get that big throw in the fourth quarter to Chris (Olave) because it was a big-time throw and then he came back with a touchdown play to Garrett (Wilson), so I mean, there’s still a lot of good going on.
“Coming off of last week, throwing for over 400-something yards, he’s played well. He’s going to miss some throws, but he’s learning and growing and it’s his third start, so we’ll keep building from here.”
Stroud is certainly aware of the criticism he received following the loss to the Ducks, but remains focused on the things he can control, including getting better and more comfortable with each start.
“Every game is a learning aspect for me,” Stroud said. “I’m only 19, playing as a redshirt freshman. I still have a lot of football to learn, and I feel like I’m getting better every week. I know a lot of people probably don’t agree with that, but that’s OK. I have God-given talent, and every time I go out there, I give it my blood, sweat and tears.
“If that’s a problem with the media or whoever it is, it is what it is. I’m going to keep my faith in God, and my teammates have faith in me. I’m just going to keep going. I don’t worry about the negativity. I’m going to keep positive. I feel like I’m a great player. Of course, everybody has mistakes, but I know I’m a great player.”
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