In order to preserve their NFL draft stock, Ohio State receivers Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson decided to sit out the Rose Bowl on Saturday. They made a wise decision for their futures. They also inadvertently gave their sophomore teammate Jaxon Smith-Njigba an opportunity to have a record-breaking game, and improve his own prospects of a pro career. He should opt out of next season now. Haha, just kidding ... or am I?
Smith-Njigba had 15 catches for 347 yards and three touchdowns as the No. 7 Buckeyes defeated the No. 10 Utah Utes, 48-45. That's a lot of yards. With that performance, Smith-Njigba set the following records: most receptions in a single season for Ohio State, most receiving yards in a single season for Ohio State, most receiving yards in a single game for Ohio State, most receiving yards ever in a Rose Bowl, and most receiving yards ever in any bowl game. If you were reasonably wondering what would be the most receiving yards in any college football game ever, since 347 apparently didn't qualify as enough, the record belongs to Louisiana Tech receiver Troy Edwards, who had 405 receiving yards in a 1998 game against Nebraska. (Tim Rattay was his quarterback. The Cornhuskers won easily, 56-27.)
Within these highlights, you'll see everything that an all-around receiver should be able to do:
What's funny is that Smith-Njigba might have had a chance at an additional touchdown, if Utah cornerback Clark Phillips III hadn't punched the ball out of his grasp 10 yards from the end zone, late in the second quarter. (It's at the 1:34 mark of the highlight reel.) He'll be forgiven for that turnover, given his accomplishments and the outcome. Smith-Njigba was practically unguardable. At halftime, he had seven catches for 185 yards and two TDs. He snagged almost every ball thrown near him, stiff-armed defenders who had the misfortune of being in his vicinity, and made this incredible over-the-shoulder catch late in the fourth quarter.
Of course Smith-Njigba wouldn't have caught that pass, or any of those passes, without an accurate quarterback. C.J. Stroud finished the Rose Bowl victory with 573 passing yards and six touchdowns through the air, becoming the first 500-yard passer in Ohio State history. That yardage total was also a Rose Bowl record.
Although the Buckeyes missed out on the College Football Playoff, they'll surely feel encouraged by this bowl win. Everyone benefitted: Olave and Wilson stayed healthy, the Buckeyes won, and Smith-Njigba and Stroud played out of their minds. The only losers here were Utah and Kirk Herbstreit.