May 28, 2024

It’s difficult to see C.J. Stroud performing significantly better on Saturday. And it was still insufficient against the reigning champion Georgia Bulldogs.

In a memorable College Football Playoff semifinal, Ohio State fell to Georgia 42–41 in the fourth quarter, trailing 14 points at one point.

GEORGIA OVERTAKS WITH JUST UNDER ONE MINUTE RESERVE‼️What a game. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/CFBPlayoff?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#CFBPlayoffs A href of “https://t.co/wuHbgnRkRz”screenshot.twitter.com/wuHbgnRkRz

With three seconds left, the Buckeyes had a chance to win the game, but Noah Ruggles’ 50-yard field goal attempt went wide.

It was a particularly harsh result on Stroud, who was brilliant, finishing 23-of-34 for 348 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions.

Perhaps just as impressively to the throwing chops he put on display Saturday was the playmaking ability he showed with his legs, rushing for 34 yards while extending a number of plays after breaking the pocket.

But for all of his many impressive accomplishments during his college career, so much of the narrative surrounding him has focused on what he hasn’t done.

Hasn’t beat Michigan. Hasn’t won a Big Ten title. Hasn’t 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 Saturday, but he did make them feel unnecessarily negative. He was awesome, in what was a performance worthy of a future first-round pick at the NFL draft, and folks took notice:

The difference between an upset win and a heartbreaking loss was that Stroud and the Buckeyes were held to just three points in the decisive fourth quarter, however. Day will have to own some of that, despite putting on a coaching masterclass for the prior 59 minutes.

That’s the cruelty of sports. Sometimes, just one minute can define your legacy. Day and Stroud will be feeling the weight of that harsh truth for some time.

Day will have plenty of time to change his narrative in the future for Ohio State. Stroud will have the chance to do so in the NFL. But on Saturday night, both were left to lament what might have been.

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