Faculty Soccer & Soccer Analyst
ATLANTA — C.J. Stroud stared into house.
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 area aim that will have despatched his staff to the nationwide championship.
Had Ruggles’ kick gone by means of the uprights, Ohio State could be heading again residence to Columbus on Sunday to begin recreation planning for TCU, which upset Michigan within the Fiesta Bowl earlier within the day. Then they’d head to Los Angeles in a number of days to begin making ready for the most important prize in school soccer.
As a substitute, 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 too much about how we fought,” mentioned Stroud, who accomplished 23 of 34 passes for 348 yards and 4 touchdowns with none interceptions, although he was sacked 4 occasions.
“We kept swinging, kept fighting, kept swinging, kept fighting. Of course, you’re going to have some regrets on certain plays, wish you did this, wish you did that. But at the end of the day, it’s a man in the arena. It’s hard to do what we do. You’ve got to be joyful in these moments. Of course, I’m not sitting here smiling and happy. Of course, you want to win things like this and this means a lot to us. I mean, me and Coach Day, man, like we get up early every morning on the phone constantly, whatever we can do to win and put smiles on people’s faces. It’s tough.”
Not like 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 evening at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Day was unusually upbeat for a coach who simply misplaced a playoff recreation by such a slender margin. Stroud spoke with confidence and resiliency, providing excessive reward for his head coach and this system he’ll quickly go away behind, as he’s anticipated to be a prime choose within the NFL draft.
Maybe that’s as a result of Ohio State really shut up a few of its doubters and answered some urgent questions. Heading into this recreation, there was loads of discuss how Ohio State may reply to Georgia 5 weeks after its second straight demoralizing defeat to Michigan. Would they let The Sport hover over their preparation? Would they be intimidated? Was this system at a crossroads? Was there legitimacy to considerations 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 in all probability 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 just isn’t set as much as be a perennial powerhouse like Georgia and Alabama?
After dropping to Michigan, Ohio State received again to work instantly — earlier than the Buckeyes even knew they’d be taking part in Georgia. With Stroud because the chief, gamers had been again within the weight room and getting additional reps collectively on the sector, 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 mentioned his staff 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 almost 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 Massive Ten offensive participant of the 12 months made good 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, establishing the ultimate area aim try.
“It doesn’t mean anything if you don’t win, though,” Day mentioned. “And I think that’s probably what hurts the most is that when you put that much work and that much energy and that much time into something, and you’re right there and you just — you don’t get 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 sense that Day’s seat may have felt a little warmer after the Michigan game. Stroud was quick to stick up for his coach, praising his game plan and decision-making on Saturday, including the first down call after Stroud ran to the 31-yard line on the final drive. Day called a run play for Dallan Hayden, who was tackled for a 1-yard loss.
Day explained the idea was they still had two timeouts, and a couple of yards could have aided the field goal. He said he wouldn’t have changed the call despite not executing, and Stroud quickly chimed in to say, “it was name, nice name.”
Ohio State also gave up some explosive plays against Georgia, similar to some it allowed vs. Michigan. There was Kenny McIntosh’s 52-yard run up the middle in the first half that would have been a touchdown had the running back not tripped on the turf (it still set up a Georgia touchdown two plays later). And there was Bennett’s 76-yard touchdown bomb to Arian Smith in the fourth quarter to make it a three-point game. But Day explained that even though limiting big plays just like those was something they worked so hard to avoid, they were different this time.
“The distinction was, on this recreation, it didn’t demoralize us,” Day said. “We stored swinging and combating, and we simply stored going at it.
“But call it for what it is. If we’re going to win these games, we can’t give up those big explosive plays. They’re hard to come back from. But there were still a lot of positive things out there.”
Ohio State matched Georgia’s power and physicality and relentless angle, and for probably the most half, was in whole management. The Buckeyes simply fell brief this time.
“Let’s call it for what it is there. They are defending national champs, undefeated,” Day mentioned of Georgia. “They’re a good team. But I don’t think there’s one guy in that locker room that doesn’t feel like we shouldn’t have won the game. Again, that’s a part of this thing that is going to sit in our stomachs for a long time.”
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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 “Strong Like a Woman,” revealed in spring 2022 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Title IX. Observe her on Twitter @LakenLitman.
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