On a picturesque Pasadena afternoon, Ohio State and Utah played in a Rose Bowl for the ages.
In a game that featured record breaking performances, heart-stopping plays and a classic finish, the 2021 freshmen finished their first year in phenomenal fashion. Twelve of Ohio State's 22 scholarship freshmen took part in the epic 48-45 victory over the Utes.
Harrison Jr. has a game
It wasn't the best start for the NFL Hall of Famer's son. Harrison Jr. was the target on an incomplete pass on 3rd and 2 that ended Ohio State's second series of the game. Later in the quarter, Harrison Jr. was called for a hold that negated a first down run by TreVeyon Hednerson.
However, eight snaps after the holding call, Harrison Jr.’s day turned for the better. Ohio State, down 14-0, faced a 4th-and-1 on Utah’s 25 yard line. Ryan Day dialed up a risky pass play and C.J. Stroud connected with “Route Man Marv” for a critical score.
The way Harrison Jr. fell to the side of the end zone following the catch might have reminded some fans of Michael Jenkins' game-winning score against Purdue in 2002.
In the third quarter, Harrison Jr. snagged an 8-yard touchdown pass in the back of the endzone to pull Ohio State to within seven points of the Utes.
Not confirmed, but this might be the first time in Ohio State history for a freshman to catch three touchdown passes in a single game. It is likely safe to say it’s the first time for an Ohio State freshman to record his first three career touchdown catches in a bowl game.
Either way, Route Man Marv’s score tied the game at 38. Setting the stage for Jaxon Smith-Njigba’s remarkable touchdown catch that gave the Buckeyes the lead for the first time in the contest.
This kid had 3 TDs today in the Rose Bowl. What.. pic.twitter.com/stebfs0zJ8— Justin Bauerle (@justinbauerle) January 2, 2022
His Hall of Fame dad never had three touchdowns in a game at Syracuse.
Late in the first quarter, Emeka Egbuka made a sensational, toe-tapping catch on the Utah sideline. Three plays after the 30-yard reception, Ohio State scored its first touchdown of the game.
When he wasn't making highlight reel catches, Egbuka was electrifying on his kickoff returns. Many times this season it appeared No. 12 was going to break a return for a touchdown. Saturday's Rose Bowl was no exception.
When given a gap, Egbuka has the explosiveness to make massive returns. As seen in the video above, he almost scored on this return. Unfortunately, Julian Fleming was flagged for a very questionable holding penalty.
Following Utah's game-tying touchdown, 1:54 was remaining in the game when Egbuka took the field to take his final kickoff return of the season.
Jordan Noyes kicked deep to Egbuka who caught the ball at the nine-yard line. He ran with authority and was a step away from possibly scoring on this return. Although he was stopped, Egbuka's 33-yard return gave the Buckeyes the ball near midfield and set up the game-winning drive.
Burke is a baller
Opposing teams respect Denzel Burke's skillset and Utah fell in line. The Utes threw Burke's way twice on Saturday. The result? One completion for 23 yards and the broken up pass below.
On the next play, Utah's punter mishandled the snap, and Ohio State took over at the Utes' 11-yard line.
Burke became the first Buckeye defensive back to start every game of his true freshman year. Respect.
J.T. Tuimoloau finished the Rose Bowl with three tackles including a three-yard tackle-for-loss.
With limited playing time, Tuimoloau finished his first year with 15 tackles over 13 games. The Ohio State 2022 defensive line with Jack Sawyer and Tuimoloau as bookends should be a concern for opposing offenses.
Special teams and snaps spotlight
Denzel Burke was on the field for all 70 defensive snaps, all four of the punt return snaps and all seven extra point/field goal block snaps.
Emeka Egbuka played 18 offensive snaps, covered on six kickoffs, the returner for eight kickoff returns and was on the punt block team once.
Jordan Hancock was on the kickoff team eight times and the punt return and extra point block team once.
Marvin Harrison Jr. played on all of the kickoff returns and the punt return team once.
Donovan Jackson protected on Ohio State's six extra points and the two field goal attempts.
Jesse Mirco was called upon to punt twice. His punts went 43 and 39 yards, but hung long enough to prevent Britain Covey from having a return. Mirco also held on the six made extra points and the two field goals.
Jack Sawyer played four snaps on defense before getting ejected for targeting.
J.T. Tuimoloau had 22 defensive snaps and was on the FG/PAT block team seven times and the punt return team twice.
Andre Turrentine covered on two kickoffs and blocked on one kickoff return.
Tyleik Williams was on the field for 19 defensive snaps
The 2021 class closes its freshman season with an 11–2 record, Rose Bowl victory over Utah. This group arguably had one of the most productive freshman seasons in Ohio State history.
|NAME||POS||DEBUT||UTAH STATS||GP||SEASON STATS|
|DENZEL BURKE||CB||MINN||3 tackles, 1 PBU||13||37 tackles, 1 INT, 12 PBU, 1 TD|
|MARVIN HARRISON JR.||WR||MINN||6 catches, 71 yards, 3 touchdowns||13||11 catches, 139 yards, 3 TD, 1 safety|
|TREVEYON HENDERSON||RB||MINN||17 rushes, 83 yards; 4 catches, 27 yards||13||183 rushes, 1,248 yards, 15 TD; 26 catches, 312 yards, 4 TD; 1 KOR, 19 yards|
|DONOVAN JACKSON||OL||MINN||Special teams||13||56 offensive snaps|
|JESSE MIRCO||P||MINN||2 punts, 41.0 avg||13||31 punts, 42.3 avg, 11 inside 20|
|JACK SAWYER||DE||MINN||1 tackle||13||13 tackles, 3 sacks, 3 TFL, 2 QBH, 1 PBU, 1 FF|
|J.T. TUIMOLOAU||DE||MINN||3 tackles, 1 TFL||13||15 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 4.5 TFL, 1 QBH, 1 PBU|
|EMEKA EGBUKA||WR||AKRON||3 catches, 46 yards, 7 KOR, 218 yards||12||9 catches, 191 yards, 19 KOR, 575 yards|
|TYLEIK WILLAMS||DT||ORE||19 defensive snaps||12||15 tackles, 5 sacks, 6.5 TFL, 2 QBH, 2 PBU, 1 FF|
|JORDAN HANCOCK||CB||AKRON||Special teams||6||4 tackles, 1 PBU|
|ANDRE TURRENTINE||S||AKRON||Special teams||4||10 defensive snaps|
|KYLE McCORD||QB||AKRON||5||25/38, 416 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT; 9 rushes, -16 yards|
|REID CARRICO||LB||AKRON||4||3 tackles|
|MICHAEL HALL JR.||DT||AKRON||4||2 tackles, 0.5 TFL|
|EVAN PRYOR||RB||AKRON||4||21 rushes, 98 yards, 1 TD; 2 catches, 8 yards|
|TOBY WILSON||OL||AKRON||4||56 offensive snaps|
|JAYDEN BALLARD||WR||AKRON||3||1 catch, 4 yards|
|JANTZEN DUNN||S||AKRON||2||9 defensive snaps|
|JAKALIN JOHNSON||CB||AKRON||1||1 tackle|
|ZEN MICHALSKI||OL||MICHIGAN STATE||1||2 offensive snaps|