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The good, the bad, the ugly: Takeaways from C.J. Stroud’s performance against Oregon

CJ Stroud put up huge numbers, but was far from perfect. We take a look at some of his best and worst plays of the day.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 11 Oregon at Ohio State Photo by Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We are now a week removed from C.J. Stroud’s second start and man were the numbers huge? As we wrap up our discussions surrounding Ohio State’s loss to the Oregon Ducks before this afternoon’s game against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane, we need to look at what has gone well for the freshman quarterback and what hasn’t.

Over the past week, there has been a lot of conversations, finger pointing, and blame thrown all over the place, but as Ryan Day said in his weekly press conference, he has no interest in making a change at quarterback. Despite the impressive yardage total, the rest of Stroud’s performance against the Ducks left a lot to be desired.

In my film review, we discussed how identity was an issue for the offense and relying on your first-time starter in his second game to throw 54 times is not a game plan designed for success, no matter how you look at it.

Looking back at the game, there is some soul searching that the defense needs to have done this week, but Day and the offensive staff have a lot of work on their plate as well. Day used the run game out of necessity last week, not out of need, and too many times he relied on his two future NFL receivers and the next WR star Jaxon Smith-Njigba. The lead was never insurmountable, but the way that the game was called was as if the Buckeyes were down 21 points instead of 7.

Day and staff will continue to figure it out, but balance will be key moving forward. In this article we are going to look at some of Stroud’s best throws, his misses, and some of his worst plays throughout the Oregon game to get some perspective on how he really performed against the Ducks.

There’s a lot of talk about a quarterback change in the Buckeye faithful and I’m going to tell you now after my film review, that is far from needed, but there was some indecisiveness that plagued the offense. There really was some good, bad, and ugly from Stroud, but he showed once again the talent is there.

The Good

C.J. Stroud made some absurd throws in the game and two of his best weren’t even caught, which tells part of the story of the game. As we take a look at the good, there was a lot more good than bad, which is a positive sign moving forward.

In the first quarter, Stroud came out a little tight and that’s when the veteran receivers needed to help him out. The first throw that really stood out was the one on the second series on 3rd and 11 that he delivered to Cade Stover.

The play is four verticals against a two-high safety look. Stover splits the safeties and gets past the linebacker leaving a tight window for Stroud to fit the ball in as you can see in the video below.

This is a tough catch and an even tougher throw that was put on the money. Stroud could not have delivered a better ball here and, unfortunately for the Buckeyes, this was not the last huge drop. The main positive on this play is the level of confidence it takes to deliver this throw and the amount of touch to get the ball over top of the linebacker is impressive.

Moving forward, we’re going to look at another example of a 3rd and long situation where Stroud delivers a strike that was dropped. The route concept has Garrett Wilson running a shallow cross to the sticks, which turns into him sitting into the zone. Chris Olave runs a dig and Smith-Njigba runs a shoulder route. This play opens up how the offense wants it to and Wilson gets open in the middle and Stroud delivers again.

With a young quarterback these catches have all the more impact on the game and rhythm of the offense. Stroud delivering great throws and not getting rewarded is something that will need to be improved upon. He did a good job of remaining confident, but if the drops keep happening, hesitation will set in.

This play was another example of Stroud doing everything right and not getting rewarded, which happened a few too many times early in the game on some drives that had serious potential.

The offense got going a little bit and was moving the ball once again and this time on 3rd and 8 Stroud delivers another strike, this time JSN is able to haul it in and keep the drive moving.

The next clip shows Stroud’s best throw of the day, in my opinion. If you look at the last two plays, these are concepts that Day went back to because they worked up until the ball wasn’t caught.

On a similar four verts concept to the initial example to Stover, Stroud steps in and trusts Jeremy Ruckert to come down with it. This catch is tough, so a lot of credit to Ruckert for hanging on.

Against Cover-4 there is a small window to hit the inside-seam routes and Stroud has shown the arm strength and timing to deliver into that small windows. Once again, the confidence to get the ball over the linebacker and drop it in front of the safety is something that not all quarterbacks can have.

The last throw was definitely his most exciting of the day, for quite a few reasons. Ohio State finally gets a 1-high look and they run their four verts concept again, which shows how much the staff trusts the receivers to make plays.

Stroud does a great job of using his eyes to get the safety off of the hash, and JSN gets past the backer practically untouched.

Once Stroud whips his head back, he delivers a huge touchdown pass.

Overall, Stroud had a lot of positives, and his arm strength, touch, and accuracy were on display quite a bit. Despite the drops, the receivers started making plays for Stroud, but the story of the game was told on the first three drives. If Ohio State is able to capitalize then, we might be coming out of the game having the same conversations.

The Bad

Stroud won the B1G Freshman of the Week again thanks to his performance, but there were some plays where the inexperience really showed, specifically when it came to his indecisiveness. The first throw on this list shows a young quarterback getting antsy in the pocket.

This is by no means an easy throw, but in this case, if Stroud steps into the throw he’d be able to deliver the ball where it needs to be. Unfortunately, the pressure makes Stroud’s footwork go to the wayside and he throws the ball without his feet under him, leading to it sailing it out of bounds.

The next throw we’re going to look at could more than likely be credited to nerves, but this is a throw we have unfortunately became accustomed to seeing made. Stroud has a wide open JSN for a first down on the first series of the day. This seemed small in the moment, but this — in hindsight — set the tone for the game. Stroud goes through his reads well, but he just sails the ball high.

Fortunately for the Buckeyes, they did score the next play, but given the way that the game was going, they may not have gotten another opportunity.

The last bad play was an issue we’ve seen both weeks this season, Stroud has been extremely hesitant as a runner. Unfortunately, any sort of hesitation will lead to him taking hits that he doesn’t need to.

Stroud is rolling out and the Oregon defenders are closing in quick, but if he keeps the momentum of his rollout going, he would have the speed to get the edge. However, he hesitates when he hears the footsteps, which leads to the OSU QB taking a big hit.

Overall, there wasn’t a lot of bad, a few missed throws and a few half-hearted running decisions that showed his inexperience, but once again, the staff relied a lot on Stroud, probably too much. These small mistakes did in fact make a significant difference, but they are all fixable with coaching and more game time.

The Ugly

Now these are the plays that Stroud — even as an inexperienced starter — should already know to avoid. There’s zero reason that these plays should have been made and all three examples had a tremendous impact on the outcome of the game.

That being said, as the categories go, there have been less examples, the good had the most, the bad had an intermediate amount, and the ugly only has three plays.

The first play of the ugly section is early in the game, and this is a throw that needs to be executed 10/10 times. Wilson is running across the field and could come open, but Stroud has a lot of space in the middle, which is where we need to see him step up and get the seven yards running.

This play was stopped from the start in terms of coverage, and instead of using the fifth option (his legs), he floats a ball with no intent across the middle.

The next play is just a lack of football awareness by the quarterback and the play-caller. Stroud has one second on the clock and has a chance to take a heave downfield. Instead, he checks it down and the half expires wasting an opportunity.

This play is not the worst play of the game, but given the circumstances surrounding it, it was ugly. If this play is designed to get a player the ball in space with blockers, it was run extremely poorly and the receivers looked unprepared.

Stroud has an opportunity to get the ball to the end zone and — albeit not a high percentage chance — to score; a shot needs to be taken. Instead Stroud decides to check down for whatever reason and Ohio State goes into the half trailing.

The last play is the most questionable of Stroud’s young career. In a time where every opportunity was extremely important, this play was the dagger to end it all. Third and 18 is not a position that you ever want to be in as an offense, but when the game is coming down to the wire, and the whole field is four down territory, you have to give yourself a chance.

On the play, Stroud is flushed out of the pocket by a three-man rush, Olave does his part on the scramble drill and gets up field then back to the sideline.

We have two views of this play: the first shows how high it was overthrown.

The second shows how open Olave actually was after he got up field a little more. Stroud gets caught in no man’s land and short arms the throw. The ball ends up floating over Olave and the game goes on ice with an interception.

Stroud had an impressive day, but cleaning up the ugly is what the next few weeks need to be about. There are a ton of quarterbacks who have made mistakes like these, but as Ohio State fans who were spoiled by two years of Justin Fields, this is part of the growing pains for young quarterbacks.

Final Takeaways

Stroud has a long way to go, but the floor is extremely high as we’ve seen in the first two performances, but so is the ceiling. His yardage total, completion percentage, and all of the raw stats are special already, but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have a lot to improve upon. Ohio State was not balanced against Oregon, and it showed with the amount of burden thrust upon to Stroud’s shoulders.

Day and staff need to do a better job of keeping the defense on their toes and not allowing them to key on certain play calls in given situations. Stroud delivered in some huge moments throughout the game, but fell short in others. The second-year Buckeye is putting up some insane numbers and the offense is following suit. But, if teams can key on making him beat them in the red zone when the field gets tight, there’s at least a blueprint to slow down Ohio State regardless of yardage totals.

This was just start No 2 and Stroud is locked in to being QB1. The talent that was on display is undeniable, but the indecisiveness that came up a few times is really what’s held him back thus far. Fortunately, you can coach up confidence, and that is what Day’s job will be as the season progresses.

While much of the fanbase is playing the blame game, Ohio State has their quarterback, at least for this season. Stroud was not perfect, but he shouldn’t have to be for the Buckeyes to win games.

Unfortunately, when the Buckeyes have key position groups not living up to the hype on the other side of the ball, it puts a whole lot more pressure on the offense. But then again, not getting some first downs in key moments does as well. That being said, the staff needs to do a better job of maintaining balance and sticking to its physical, balanced approach to bury teams.

Stroud has the potential to be elite, now it’s time for him to build off the mistakes and continue to deliver when called upon.