When star wide receivers Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson opted out of the Rose Bowl, Ohio State sophomore receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba knew he was next in line as the No. 1 target.
It’s safe to say he was ready.
Smith-Njigba recorded a Football Bowl Subdivision bowl game record 347 receiving yards and three touchdowns on 15 catches to help lead the Buckeyes to a 48-45 win over Utah. It was the most ever in a Rose Bowl game and fifth-most ever in any FBS game, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
He was named the Rose Bowl MVP, and after the game he gave glory to God.
“I’m just blessed by God,” he told ESPN on the field. “Opportunities came my way. This is what I prayed for, so I’m not really surprised. I can’t be surprised for what I prayed for.”
“Opportunities came my way, and it’s what I prayed for, so I’m really not surprised. I can’t be surprised by what I prayed for” – Jaxon Smith-Njigba giving the WORD for 2022 #RoseBowl pic.twitter.com/43K571sZmP
— 𝐄𝐱𝐚𝐯𝐢𝐞𝐫 𝐏𝐨𝐩𝐞 (@exavierpope) January 2, 2022
Smith-Njigba, along with freshman wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr., teamed up with quarterback C.J. Stroud throughout the game to fight off a furious attack from the Utes. Stroud threw for a school-record 573 yards with six touchdowns. Harrison Jr. caught three touchdowns on six catches for 71 yards.
Smith-Njigba recorded touchdown catches of 50 and 52 yards just 30 seconds apart, and in the first half alone he broke Cris Carter’s 1985 school record of 172 yards receiving in a bowl game. He also broke Keyshawn Johnson’s 1996 Rose Bowl record of 216 yards receiving, as well as Terry Glenn’s 1995 single-game school record of 253 yards after halftime.
The Ohio State defense yielded just 10 points in the second half as the Buckeyes completed the comeback after trailing 35-21 at halftime. Stroud and Smith-Njigba connected on a 30-yard touchdown pass that gave Ohio State a 45-38 lead with 4:22 left to play, but Utah scored with 1:54 to go to tie. A Noah Ruggles field goal with nine seconds left gave OSU the victory.
Behind Olave and Wilson, Smith-Njigba emerged as another legitimate weapon for the Buckeyes. He led the Buckeyes in receiving in six regular-season games, and became just the sixth Ohio State wide receiver to go over 1,000 yards in a season.
Smith-Njigba finished the season with 1,606 yards, blowing past David Boston’s record of 1,435 yards set in 1998.
He’s given praise to God along the way.
To God be the glory 🙏🏽🙏🏽
— Jaxon Smith-Njigba (@jaxon_smith1) October 31, 2021
To God be the Glory
— Jaxon Smith-Njigba (@jaxon_smith1) October 24, 2021
He continued to praise God when he met with media following the Rose Bowl.
“I’ve got to give all things to God,” Smith-Njigba said. “Without Him, nothing’s possible. I’ve got to give thanks to Coach (Ryan Day) and C.J. for getting me the opportunities. The O-Line, you know, it’s not just me. I couldn’t have done it without them. I just try to take in every moment every time the ball is in the air. I felt like I did that today, so it’s a blessing.”
Behind Stroud and Smith-Njigba, Ohio State figures to be one of the nation’s top teams yet again next season.
— UNC QB Sam Howell declares for draft: ‘[Life is] about living for Jesus, to be more like Him’
— C.J. Stroud keeps ‘God first’ as he leads Ohio State in strong freshman season
— Alabama QB Bryce Young wins Heisman, thanks his ‘Lord and Savior Jesus Christ’
— No. 1 QB recruit Cade Klubnik set for Clemson after 3rd state title, he’s ‘playing for God’
— Former Auburn QB Bo Nix transfers to Oregon, says ‘God has ordered my steps’