(SportsRadio 610) - It’s true, you never know what someone is capable of until they’re in a position to do something they’ve never done before.
C.J. Stroud logged 27 games while at Ohio State from 2020 to 2022, including 25 games as the starter his last two seasons in the program. Only five of those games over a two year-span were decided by nine points or less. Stroud and the Buckeyes were 3-2 in those contests.
As a starter, Stroud had only three opportunities to drive the field late, with a chance to tie or win a game.
The first opportunity came during the 2021 season, in a 35-28 week two loss to then 12th-ranked Oregon. Stroud had thrown an interception with 2:50 left in the game before the Buckeyes defense forced an Oregon punt with 13 seconds remaining.
Stroud was sacked at his own 11-yard line on the final play of the game.
Later that season, playing in the Rose Bowl against Utah, Stroud led the Buckeyes on a seven-play, 56-yard drive to the Utes' 2-yard line that set up a go-ahead 19-yard field goal to win the ‘Granddaddy of them all’ 48-45.
Then, of course, came the Georgia game.
Stroud’s final hurrah in a collegiate game became the staple contest that many analysts and pundits failed to use as a barometer of things to come for him in the NFL.
Stroud led a seven-play, 51-yard drive in 51 seconds to set up Noah Ruggles for a 50-yard game winner that never had a chance.
Stroud finished 23-of-34 for 348 yards and four touchdowns in the 42-41 Peach Bowl loss to the Bulldogs.
While Stroud knew people would remember the end result and probably say that he "never won the game," he understood that one game wasn’t going to define what he had in front of him.
“Play after play after play, in those two minute drives, it’s just fun to watch because I know they’re confident as soon as they step on the field,” Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans said. “They know they can drive the ball. They know they can make plays to put us in position to score and that’s what they did on Sunday.”
The confidence that Stroud’s team has in him today, is something that has manifested itself without difficulty.
Stroud, 22, refers back to his experiences at Ohio State regularly. Being a quarterback there has always meant one was going to be studied closer than anyone else. Picking apart a guys throwing mechanics, footwork and decision making is part of it, but what many seemed to have underestimated is his resolve.
The Texans, their fans and the city have known they have a quarterback for weeks now. However, what nobody could’ve known until it happened was how Stroud was going to bounce back after throwing a fourth quarter interception Sunday afternoon in Cincinnati, in which the Bengals promptly capitalized on, scoring a touchdown to cut the Texans lead to just 27-24 with 3:18 left to play.
“I let him (DeMeco Ryans) know, ‘Man, I got your back,’” Stroud said. “I know I made a mistake but that one play doesn’t define me, and I’m going to go prove myself again.”
It took a couple of drives, but he certainly did.
After a three-and-out and the Bengals tying the game with a field goal in less than two game minutes, Stroud led a six-play, 55-yard drive in 1:33 to set up a Matt Ammendola 38-yard field goal make as time expired.
“It’s impressive to see a young kid make mistakes and grow from it in the same game,” Ryans said. “For us to be able to come out with a win after the mistakes that he made and still be able to win the game and learn from it, it’s much better to correct that after a win rather than a loss. I’m really proud of CJ.”
The fact the Texans went on the road, beat a Bengals team that had the fifth-best odds to win this season's Super Bowl entering the weekend, overcame three turnovers and still had the opportunity to control their own destiny at the end of the game was incredible.
It’s remarkable how despite the most detestable three-year stretch of football ever seen in this town, this team is matching the resiliency that pridefully defines our city.