COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – New Ohio State starting quarterback CJ Stroud shrugged off early wobble and threw four touchdown passes in the second half to bury Minnesota at the season opener. Sink-or-swim indoctrination for the sophomore will continue on Saturday when he reaches No. 3 Buckeyes against No. 12 Oregon leads.
He’ll have the crowd on his side this week as Ohio Stadium returns to its full capacity of more than 100,000 for the first time in nearly two years.
Due to a peculiarity of the schedule, Ohio State (1-0, 1-0 Big Ten) won’t come to the usual early voting games until weeks 3 and 4. That means little room for mistakes from Stroud, the little mop-up duty behind Justin Fields in the 2020 season shortened by the pandemic.
In the first half against Minnesota, Stroud receiver fell and had a pass intercepted. In the second half he dominated in the rain.
“He kind of did it on his own,” said All-American receiver Chris Olave, who caught two of Stroud’s touchdowns in the second half. “I know it was tough. It was kind of loud out there. The atmosphere and surroundings were huge. But we kind of stood by him and told him it was going to be cool. But at the end of the day it was all him. “
Coach Ryan Day said he knew there would be mistakes as Stroud hasn’t had to throw a pass in a college football game.
“I just think that going through that first game and going through some adversity opens your eyes to some things,” said Day. “And then working through that (he) was great. So it’s just the first step in a long way for our offensive and certainly for CJ. We’ll see what this week brings us. “
Oregon (1-0), meanwhile, had its own fights and barely got past the unrated Fresno State. New quarterback Anthony Brown, a sixth year senior transfer, won it with a 30-yard keeper with 2:57 before the game.
The task gets even bigger this week for Brown and the Ducks, who come into play as underdogs with two touchdowns.
“When you are a real competitor, you always want to measure yourself against the best,” said Oregon’s coach Mario Cristobal. “Ohio State is an elite program from top to bottom, a program steeped in history, a tremendous story in a place where they have had tremendous success. You come to a place like Oregon for opportunities like this. “
Ohio State played four running backs in the opener, but Day said he hadn’t seen enough to make solid ratings. With Minnesota dominating possession time, the Buckeyes only had 48 offensive snaps. Freshman Miyan Williams started, but none of the RBs got more than nine carries. Williams had 125 rushing yards thanks to a 71-yard breakaway TD run in the first quarter.
To hurt Thibodeaux
Cristobal said the defensive end of Kayvon Thibodeaux is still heading for Saturday’s game day in and day out. Thibodeaux, mentioned as both a Heisman candidate and possibly one of the top picks in next year’s NFL draft, injured his left ankle in the first half against Fresno State. He tried to return, but came out of the tunnel after half time in street clothes and walking shoes.
Lots of linebackers
Ohio State had to replace its entire corps of linebackers from last season, and the inexperience showed in Week 1. Rotating staff often created confusion. (“It looked like a New York sidewalk at times,” Day said.) They often struggled to line up properly.
“There is a lot that can be improved,” said Day. “And that has to happen, otherwise we won’t win this game.”