Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) eludes the pressure from Georgia defensive lineman Jalen Carter (88) during the first half in the Peach Bowl Playoff Semifinal at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022, in Atlanta. Georgia won 42-41. (Jason Getz/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

WATCH: Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud had more to say about Georgia football at NFL Combine

INDIANAPOLIS — C.J. Stroud was very nearly a Georgia football player, and that might be part of the reason he has shown such respect for the Bulldogs even through the NFL Combine.

One thing for certain, Stroud earned the respect of the Georgia football team and head coach Kirby Smart for his performance in the Bulldogs’ 42-41 win over Ohio State in the CFP Peach Bowl Semifinal.

RELATED: How Kirby Smart ‘gut reaction’ call saved game for Georgia against Ohio State

Stroud tore through the Georgia defense like few other quarterbacks, completing 23 of 34 passes for 348 yards an 4 touchdowns with no interceptions.

Stroud was sacked four times, but it could have been much more if not for the pocket presence and elusiveness he showed, finishing with 34 yards on 12 runs, including a 27-yard scramble.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart, who tried desperately to sign Stroud out of the 2020 recruiting class, flying cross country to see him in Rancho Cucamonda, Calif., showered the Ohio State quarterback with praise.

“Ohio State probably deserved to win this game,” Smart said after the game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“I saw C.J Stroud out there and my heart goes out to those guys because they played well enough to win the game.”

RELATED: C.J. Stroud gives Georgia football coaches praise in defeat

The Bulldogs pulled the game out thanks to Smart’s defense holding Ohio State to a field goal after they had scored 38 points through the first three quarters, and the Georgia offense came roaring to life.

Stetson Bennett, who will once again compete with Stroud on the football field today at Lucas Oil Stadium, albeit in drill work, had an amazing fourth quarter performance highlighted by a 76-yard TD pass to Arian Smith.

Bennett was 23-of-34 passing for 398 yards with 3 touchdowns and an interception and was sacked twice for minus-25 yards and had 7 yards rushing on 5 carries.

Stroud figures to get more attention during the testing as he’s competing with fellow projected first-round NFL Draft picks Bryce Young, Anthony Richardson and Will Levis.

Stroud shared that as good as he looked against Georgia, he can continue to look even better at the NFL level by using his mobility more than he did while with the Buckeyes.

RELATED: Caleb Williams, C.J. Stroud recall Georgia recruitment

“If you turn on the film and really watch what I do, really look at film, game to game, I have used my athleticism,” Stroud said. “Not just in the Georgia game, where I did it a lot. I did every other game, I have tough third-down runs. I’ve had tough fourth-down runs.

“But there are times where I didn’t run the ball, where maybe I should have. I feel like that’s something I’ve learned.”

Stroud said it has been a matter of him wanting to distribute the ball to the Buckeyes’ playmakers.

“Sometimes I get so invested in the read, (because) you spend eight hours on one play:” Stroud said.

“You’re not going to go ‘one, two, run,’ - you’re going to go ‘one, two, three, four …’ and really try to figure out who’s open. Because you really want to feed guys the rock.”

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