2022 Ohio State University
Ohio State came in as a heavy underdog against Georgia in the College Football Playoff Semi-final for the right to play TCU in the National Championship after the Horned Frogs outlasted a shootout with the Buckeyes northern rivals earlier in the night. This was just the second-ever meeting between the Buckeyes and the Bulldogs. College Gameday analysts Desmond Howard and David Pollack were counting out the Buckeyes before the game even got underway, stating they were going to lose by 30 and Georgia would hang more than 60 on Ohio State, but the Scarlet and Gray can never be counted out, as they unleashed a hostile invasion on Atlanta, Georgia and gave the Bulldogs everything they could handle and then some in their own backyard.
The first quarter was about as even as could be expected. Great offenses and great defenses exchanging haymakers early on in UGA's backyard in Atlanta. The Peach Bowl saw the greatness of Marvin Harrison Jr. continue, as he opened up the scoring with a long 31-yard receiving touchdown in the end zone following a Georgia missed field goal in the first quarter.
The Bulldogs would quickly answer the Buckeyes touchdown despite a handful of negative plays forced by the defense. With 3:15 to go, Kenny McIntosh took in a 25-yard screen pass for a touchdown behind a horde of Georgia blockers to tie the game at seven each.
A long drive for the Buckeyes transitioned the game from the first to the second quarter and a pass interference in the end zone gave OSU the ball at the two-yard line. A fully healthy Miyan Williams overpowered the Georgia defensive line to put the Buckeyes back on top.
Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett then came out in the second quarter nursing a right foot injury and underthrew McIntosh, as his pass was intercepted by Steele Chambers on the Ohio State side of the field. Then, C.J. Stroud made the most improbable of throws, shaking off multiple sacks to find Harrison Jr. in the end zone yet again.
The touchdown gave Georgia their largest deficit of the season (14 points) early in the second quarter. However, that would not last long, as a handful of long plays ended up with Georgia's Kendall Milton running in a powerful 11-yard rushing touchdown to bring them back within one score. The touchdown was set up off a deep shot from Bennett to Arian Smith for 47-yards. The Bulldogs caught C.J. Stroud with a sack on third down, and the ensuing drive sent McIntosh down the field again. He ran 52 yards before getting tripped up by the turf monster inside the Buckeye redzone. A physical onslaught gave Bennett an open rushing lane for a three-yard rushing touchdown to tie the game with six minutes to go until halftime.
Ohio State's hot start began to cool, as they were unable to get the run game going and a fourth-down conversion was called back on an illegal motion and forced them to punt.
Georgia's ground game led to their passing game opening up for some big plays, and Bennett continued to have an accurate outing, as the Bulldogs drove deep into Buckeye territory before being forced into a field goal attempt with under two minutes until the halftime break. Jack Podlesney would launch a 32-yard attempt through the uprights to take their first lead of the night following a 17-0 run in the second quarter.
Following back to back three-and-outs, Ohio State looked to get right back into the game with no timeouts left. Stroud would not go quietly into the night, as he once again found his rhythm, leading a 55-second, four-play, 75-yard drive that ended with Xavier Johnson in the end zone following a nifty spin move on a 37-yard touchdown to once again put the Buckeyes on top. UGA couldn't respond with under a minute remaining, and the Buckeyes led 28-24 going into the half.
Their 52 combined points was the most points in the first half of any College Football Playoff game. Ohio State was held to just 10 rushing yards in the first half while Georgia was just shy of 200 yards on the ground, but it was the Buckeyes who led the passing yards battle, as Stroud found himself on the north side of 200 passing yards and three touchdowns while Bennett had one touchdown, one interception and was shy of 200 yards going into the break.
Stroud continued his excellent form in the second half. After the Buckeyes defense forced a Georgia three-and-out to start the third, he led a 70-yard touchdown drive that was capped off with an Emeka Egbuka drag route turning into a 10-yard touchdown to put them out in front by double digits yet again. Ohio State turned to the run on their long drive but only did so to keep Georgia's defense honest and not allow them to only defend against the pass.
A short field set up due to a poor OSU possession gave Georgia the ball at the Buckeyes 32-yard line, but a tough defensive effort and a sack from Javontae Jean-Baptiste forced UGA into a 52-yard field goal attempt that Podlesny missed wide right. This was his second miss of the night after he missed one from 47-yards in the first quarter wide left.
The Buckeyes were than able to shred the Georgia defense, as they drove down inside the 10 yard line. Harrison Jr. attempted to make a phenomenal catch along the back line of the end zone, which ended up leaving him down injured with a review for targeting on Javon Bullard, which was waived off. Noah Ruggles was forced to come on and kick a 25-yard field goal to once again take a two touchdown lead over the defending champions with 31 seconds to go in the third quarter. Harrison Jr. would not return.
Georgia launched an aerial attack to begin the fourth quarter, as they immediately found themselves deep on the Buckeye side of the field following the Ruggles kick. From the 14-yard line and needing six yards to reach the line to gain, Georgia would run two plays that went nowhere and then failed to convert on fourth down. However, their fourth down play would be overturned by replay, and UGA would get another chance from inside the 10-yard line with a fresh set of downs. A recovered fumble dropped UGA back to the 13-yard line and Ohio State forced a field goal attempt from 31-yards out that was drilled with ease to make it an 11-point game with 10:14 to go.
Ohio State took just a minute off the clock before punting the ball back to Georgia with 8:58 to go. Bennett needed just one play to launch a 76-yard touchdown pass to Smith wide open down the sideline. Kirby Smart sent the offense back on the field looking for a two-point conversion. Their attempt was successful, as Bennett found Ladd McConkey on the goal line to make the score 38-35 Buckeyes.
With Harrison Jr. sidelined due to concussion protocol, Ohio State needed others to step up. The likes of Egbuka, Dallan Hayden, Julian Fleming and C.J. Stroud stepped up big in the fourth, as they tried to keep the Buckeyes in control late. Stroud used his legs to bring the Buckeyes into the red zone, but then took a sack that knocked them back and forced Ruggles out to attempt a 48-yard field goal that put the Buckeyes up by six points with 2:43 to go.
Georgia received the ball at their 28-yard line. Bennett found Brock Bowers around midfield to bring Georgia within striking distance. Then, Bennett went deep again and found Kearis Jackson on the Buckeye 15-yard line with 1:02 to go. Georgia would then send Adonai Mitchell to the corner of the end zone, and it was caught with 0:54 to go to tie the game at 41 points each. The point-after attempt was sent right down the middle to give the Dawgs a one-point lead.
Ohio State had one final chance to win the game with under a minute to go. Stroud was forced out of the pocket and scrambled forward for a handful of yards with 0:43 to go. Stroud would find Fleming at the Ohio State 42-yard line for a first down with 0:39 to go.
Stroud put the team on his back and scrambled out of the pocket all the way down to the opposite 31-yard line. Putting the Buckeyes in field goal territory with 0:24 to go, Hayden would attempt a run that went backwards, and Ohio State would burn one of their final two timeouts with 0:19 to go. On 3rd and 11, Stroud had to throw the ball out of bounds with 0:08 seconds to go.
The game rested on the leg of Ruggles. A 50-yard attempt was wide to the left as the clock struck midnight in Atlanta, Georgia, and the Bulldogs would move on to the National Championship against TCU.
Buckeye Player of the Game: C.J. Stroud
C.J. Stroud was left on an island near the end of this game. He was without a running back, his starting tight end Cade Stover was injured in the first, and Harrison Jr. went down in the second half, yet he put the team on his shoulders and let the team on an almost game- winning drive using his legs. He set a personal career high for scramble yards in a single game. He didn't throw an interception and didn't make a bad throw all night long.
Stroud may go down as one of the most underachieving quarterbacks of all time at Ohio State, but his postseason performances are unmatched. From the record setting Rose Bowl last year, to a perfect Semi-final this season, he has been perfect in the postseason. This was the last time we will see Stroud in a Buckeye uniform, and he left Buckeye Nation with a memorable sendoff.
C.J. Stroud - 23/34, 348 yds, 4 TD's, 34 rushing yds
Dallan Hayden - nine attempts, 43 yds
Emeka Egbuka - eight REC, 112 yds, 1 TD
Marvin Harrison Jr. - five REC, 106 yds, two TD's