C.J. Stroud Says Flu Outbreak Before Michigan Game “Kind Of Does Matter” When Assessing the Outcome: “Dudes Were Dropping Out, Missing Practice”

By Griffin Strom on December 8, 2021 at 2:19p

C.J. Stroud didn’t want it to come off as an excuse.

But the Buckeye quarterback made it clear at Wednesday’s press conference that he believes the flu outbreak that affected him and several teammates ahead of Ohio State’s Nov. 27 rivalry game against Michigan was a factor in the loss. Stroud said he does not think Michigan nor Oregon, which both beat the Buckeyes in 2021, are superior to Ohio State despite the outcomes of those contests.

“I don’t know what the narrative is and I’m not trying to set the narrative,” Stroud said. “I just know that when it comes down to playing football, I’ll take Ohio State against any team. College football’s a weird year this year. We lost two games, and I don’t think neither of those teams are better than us, but you gotta give them respect. Because at the end of the day, it’s not about who’s the better team, it’s about who plays better that day.

“When you take into consideration what we’re going through that week, preparing for the team up north and everybody kind of having the flu and things like that – of course I don’t make excuses – but you kind of got to take that into consideration. It kind of does matter. I’ll take Ohio State, I’ll take my brothers against anybody.”

Rumors circulated before The Game that Stroud and other Buckeyes were sick in the lead-up to the contest in Ann Arbor, yet Stroud played every snap at quarterback in the 42-27 loss. After the game, Stroud confirmed a sickness had cost him his voice, an issue that he attributed for several of the false start penalties and snap miscues from the Ohio State offense on the day.

A week-and-a-half after the game, Stroud said the issue impacted many more Buckeyes than just him as the team prepared for its archrival.

“It was bad. We already knew throughout the week, dudes were dropping out, missing practice,” Stroud said. “It was kind of bad, it was just the feeling of the flu. I had it myself, but I’m feeling a lot better now. At the end of the day, you gotta go play. No one cares, they didn’t care, we don’t care. At the end of the day you gotta go do a job, but we fell short. I even credit my team, even somewhat of myself, for just even going out there and still playing. We don’t quit, we don’t shy away, we still went out there and we battled. Even if we could do it again, I would do it again, I don’t care. I’d play with one leg, I don’t really mind.”

Stroud’s individual performance was not chief among the Buckeyes’ shortcomings in the loss to Michigan. The Heisman Trophy finalist threw for 394 yards and two touchdowns while completing nearly 70 percent of his passes, and Stroud never turned the ball over during the game. But whether it was the flu or the sub-freezing temperatures outside at Michigan Stadium, Stroud said his body didn’t feel quite right when leaving the field after certain drives.

“I don’t think it affected the game plan. I feel like right when I got out there I felt fine, I didn’t really notice my sickness messing with me, but I feel like it does slow you down,” Stroud said. “It does kind of make you tired in a sense. Some of those drives I came off the field really tired, more than usual. It could’ve been the cold, I don’t know. There’s a lot of things that could’ve happened, man. At the end of the day, we lost.”

Stroud also credited the performance of the Wolverine defensive line, which tallied four sacks on him during the game, stifled the Buckeye run game and disrupted the Ohio State offense for most of the afternoon. But Stroud stopped short of expressing any regret for how he prepared for the biggest game of the season.

“It’s hard to win on the road. And then on top of that, it’s a rivalry, it’s cold, it’s snowing. It’s a lot of things you can learn, it’s a lot of things you can watch film on,” Stroud said. “They did a good job of scheming us up and doing some good things, especially on the defensive side of the ball with the D-line. Definitely some things you always want back, but I feel like when it comes down to it, I gave it my all in that game. I don’t have any regrets, I didn’t cut any corners, I watched every thing of film I could possibly watch and did everything I possibly could. 

“Sometimes you just come up short, it’s really just that simple. It sucks to be that game and everything on the line, but honestly I feel like as a whole, we didn’t cut any corners, it kind of just happened. So it is what it is.”

One commonly held sentiment in the aftermath of The Game, no doubt spurred on by Michigan offensive coordinator Josh Gattis questioning the Buckeyes’ toughness, is that Ohio State lacked the physicality necessary to win. Unsurprisingly, that too was an opinion not shared by the Buckeye passer on Wednesday.

“I’m logged out of everything, I don’t know what’s going on. But y’all want to talk about physicality, I don’t think there’s any team more physical than us,” Stroud said. “Of course in those games I’m not in the trenches, so I really don’t know. I’m not looking down there. But my guys did the best they could at the end of the day. 

“Sometimes you just fall short. Of course you don’t want it to be that game, but at the end of the day, it is what it is, you kind of just gotta get better from it.”