Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day reacts during the College Football Playoff Semifinal between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Ohio State Buckeyes at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl In Atlanta on Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Ohio State coach Ryan Day demoralized by 42-41 loss to Georgia, ‘we played a helluva game’

ATLANTA — Ohio State had Georgia right where it wanted it on Saturday night, on the ropes and on the verge of defeat.

Alas, Coach Kirby Smart and his band of Bulldogs found a way out, becoming the first team in College Football Playoff history to come from two touchdowns down in the fourth quarter to win a game, prevailing 42-41 after trailing 38-24.

It was the most points the Buckeyes have scored in a loss in school history.

“To come up one point short it’s demoralizing, we played a helluva game,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said on the Big Ten Network.

“You have to play aggressive and with relentless energy, and we did that,” said Day, who led the Buckeyes to three CFP appearances in the past four years. “We gave up too many big plays, but you can’t flinch, you have to keep swinging.”

RELATED: How Bulldogs pulled out stunning 42-41 dramatic victory over Ohio State

Ohio State drove to the Georgia 32-yard line in the final seconds, setting up a potential game-winning 50-yard field goal attempt that was long enough but sailed wide.

The Georgia offense had kept swinging, too, with quarterback Stetson Bennett leading the Bulldogs down the field for the game-winning touchdown with 54 seconds left.

The Bulldogs signal-caller hit seven different pass targets for gains of more than 20 yards over the course of the game, including connecting with speedster Arian Smith on gains of 47 and 76 yards.

RELATED: Kirby Smart ‘gut reaction’ timeout changed flow in Georgia’s 42-41 win over Ohio State

Georgia advances to the CFP Championship Game on Jan. 9 at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif., where it will face TCU.

The Horned Frogs upset Michigan by a 51-45 count earlier Saturday in the CFP Fiesta Bowl Semifinal.

The Buckeyes, led by All-American C.J. Stroud, appeared in control of the CFP Peach Bowl Semifinal much of the night.

Stroud was 23-of-34 passing for 348 yards and 4 touchdowns, and he also rushed for 71 yards on 8 carries.

“It was probably the most fun game I played in my life,” said Stroud, who despite his incredible arm talent and quarterbacking skills will leave Ohio State with back-to-back losses to Michigan and an empty trophy case.

Day, whose offense scored more points on Georgia than any other opponent this season, said the Buckeyes couldn’t have put any more into their effort.

“We had 1,500 reps over the last month, 1,500 reps going into this game, 1,500 reps in bowl practice,” Day said. “It came down to one play.”

The Buckeyes lost starting tight end Cade Stover early in the game to a back injury, and then All-American Marvin Harrison suffered a concussion with 31 seconds left in the third quarter.

Targeting on Javon Bullard was called on the field before being reversed in the booth.

“To say that losing Marv didn’t have an impact on the game, it absolutely did,” Day said. “I was told it was not targeting, that he didn’t take a shot to the head, which is hard …

“But to get a concussion and not get hit in the head, I’d have to see the replay. They said it happened after he got hit.”

Harrison had 5 catches for 106 yards and 2 touchdowns before leaving the game with the injury.

Ohio State managed only 3 points in the fourth quarter after Harrison suffered the injury, and stroud was only 4-of-9 passing for 28 yards after the Harrison injury.

“I thought that game was done three times,” former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. “You’ve got to give Georgia credit, they have a national championship program and national championship players.”

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