Ohio State’s Stroud demonstrates running ability

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Jim Naveau

EVANSTON, Ill. – C.J. Stroud always said he could run. And would run if asked.

He had his doubters. He said he didn’t care what anyone thought, he would run the ball if the time was right.

After Ohio State’s 21-7 win over Northwestern on Saturday, he has the evidence to back up what he has always said.

High winds that wrapped the American flag around the flag pole at Northwestern’s Ryan Field shut down Ohio State’s passing game far better than any defense has this season.

So, the time was right to unveil Stroud’s running ability. He was 10 of 26 passing for only 76 yards and all three of OSU’s touchdowns came on running plays.

Ohio State coach Ryan Day called the weather conditions extreme. So, even though he normally doesn’t want to use Stroud as a runner, he felt he had to do that Saturday.

“Running the quarterback is not something we typically do but this was an extreme case. We have a couple of those in our back pocket if we need them. We don’t like to go there but we did,” Day said.

“C.J. wants to run. He said it last week. But we know how important it is to keep C.J. healthy. He’s not going to take shots unless we need him to and we needed him to do it today.

“That’s the balance you try to find. Is it worth it to get the quarterback involved and expose him to the shots?

Previously, Stroud’s runs almost all were to try to avoid a sack. Other than a 48-yard touchdown run in the final minutes of a 52-12 win over Michigan State in 2020, his career rushing numbers were in negative territory.

Stroud says it doesn’t bother him what people might have said about his limited rushing statistics.

“Nah, I don’t really care. I’m willing to do anything I can. I’m appreciative of the fans out there in Buckeye Nation but at the end of the day I’m here to win for my brothers in the locker room any way I can do that.

“It was tough conditions. We had to find another way to win. I’m like that every game where I tell coach to run me if he wants to,” he said.

Four of Stroud’s six runs played big roles in two of Ohio State’s three touchdowns.

He gained 16 yards and six yards on consecutive carries late in the first half before Emeka Egbuka got OSU’s first touchdown on a rushing play to tie the game at 7-7.

Then in the fourth quarter, he got loose for a 44-yard run to Northwestern’s 5-yard line and followed that with a 3-yard run. Miyan Williams scored a touchdown on the next play to put the game away with 4:21 to play.

Even if he doesn’t care what outsiders think about him running the ball, he sounded OK on Saturday with other teams knowing that is in his skill set.

“A lot of teams probably think I can’t run or I’m not willing to,” he said, with a smile.

Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414.

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