After game-winning field goal in Rose Bowl, Ohio State's Noah Ruggles undecided on future
PASADENA, Calif. — Before the kick sailed off his foot and curved inside the right upright, Noah Ruggles knew it was good.
“I felt it immediately,” he said. “I didn’t even have to look.”
Ruggles instead peered elsewhere, glancing down at Utah’s Micah Bernard, who had dived at his feet in an effort to block his 19-yard field goal attempt, and waving goodbye in celebration.
With nine seconds left, it helped Ohio State complete a thrilling comeback in the Rose Bowl, prevailing in a 48-45 win.
Throughout his debut season with the Buckeyes, Ruggles had been reliable. A graduate transfer from North Carolina, he missed only one of his field-goal tries and was perfect on extra points, enough to be named a finalist for the Lou Groza Award as the nation’s top kicker.
But no attempt was as high-stakes as the one he stared down in the waning moments of Saturday’s game with the outcome of the “Granddaddy of Them All” hanging in the balance.
“I’m so glad it came down to me,” Ruggles said. “I’m so glad I was able to have that opportunity to get that kick to win the games for these guys. I love this team.”
With 1:47 left, the Buckeyes took possession near midfield and looked to break the 45-45 tie, prompting Ruggles to start warming up.
If he felt any nerves, it was over the uncertainty. Would he be called to kick near the end of his range or line up for a chip-shot field goal? He had previously made a 31-yard field goal late in the third quarter.
The offense had also scored touchdowns on three of four drives, and it was reasonable to think it had enough time to reach the end zone once again.
He ultimately decided the circumstances mattered little.
“At the end of the day, I knew I had to go out there and do my job,” he said, “whether there was crowd noise or whatever was going on on the field. I really focused on that.”
The game-winning kick left Ruggles with a moment to savor, especially as someone who faced an uncertain future last year.
He had waited for six months in the transfer portal before landing at Ohio State, seeing scholarship offers and walk-on opportunities from other teams fail to materialize.
Looking back on the year, he called it a “blessing from God.”
“It’s amazing what God has done for me and my family,” Ruggles said. “I was in the portal at this time last year, grinding away, didn’t know what I was working for. Going out there every day with nothing to work for, it’s kind of hard sometimes. But just trusting God and know something is out there for me, that’s how I got through it.”
Whether Ruggles returns for an encore remains up in the air. Speaking with reporters after the game on the field at the Rose Bowl, he said he remained undecided about his future.
With another season of eligibility remaining, he could remain at Ohio State, or he could enter the NFL draft.
Ruggles, though, didn’t expect to mull it for long.
“We’re going to figure it out very soon,” he said.