ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Ohio State can add the newest version of the national championship trophy to a case that already has a bunch of the old ones.
The Buckeyes’ third-stringer matched Oregon’s Heisman winner as Cardale Jones led Ohio State past Marcus Mariota and the Ducks 42-20 in the first College Football Playoff national championship game Monday night at the $1.2 billion home of the Dallas Cowboys.
Behind their bullish backup quarterback and the relentless running of Ezekiel Elliott, the Buckeyes (14-1) completed a remarkable in-season turnaround with a dominating performance against the Ducks (13-2).
”The chase is complete,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. ”It’s done. It’s over. They accepted their final mission, their final assignment and their final directive, and they did it. That was our whole mantra this last couple of weeks. A job well done, and we’re very grateful.”
Ohio State began the first major college football playoff as the fourth and final seed, and as a team that faced questions about whether it belonged at all. It was a team that never would have had a chance to win a title under the old postseason system.
No question about it now: Ohio State is the truest champion big-time football has ever crowned, showered by golden confetti as its band played ”Hang on Sloopy” when the clock hit 0:00.
Meyer’s Buckeyes overcame two injured Heisman contenders and one awful early season loss at home to Virginia Tech to win their first national title since 2002. Back then, the Bowl Championship Series decided the top team at the end of the season – usually.
Before that, it was up to The Associated Press and coaches’ polls to sort out which team was best, with a little help from the bowls. The Buckeyes have three of those championships, too.
And Meyer now has three, adding this one for his home state team to the two he won for Florida. He matches Alabama’s Nick Saban as the only coaches to win national championship at two schools. It’s taken just three seasons in Columbus for Meyer to put the Buckeyes – and the Big Ten – back on top, with a team that looks built to last.
Elliott, a sophomore, was the offensive MVP and ran for 246 yards and four touchdowns on 36 carries. In the last three games against Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon, Elliott had 696 yards rushing.
”It was our dream. It came true,” Elliott said. ”With all the stuff we went through to get here, it’s just crazy. It doesn’t feel real.”
Jones, who took over three games ago for the injured J.T. Barrett (who had taken over at the start of the season for the injured Braxton Miller), passed for 242 yards and a touchdown and ran for score. The 250-pound third-year sophomore proved he could keep up with Mariota – at least on this night.
Mariota passed for 333 yards and two touchdowns, but the Ducks’ warp-speed spread offense missed too many red-zone opportunities and couldn’t unleash its running game against linebacker Darron Lee and an Ohio State front seven stacked with future NFL draft picks.
”We fought through a lot of stuff,” Mariota said. ”We ended up short tonight, but that shouldn’t take away from what we were able to do this year.”
Even with the benefit of four Ohio State turnovers, the Ducks were held to their lowest point total of the season, four touchdowns below their average coming in.
Oregon has done just about everything as it has blossomed into a national power over the last two decades, but it will likely continue the search for its first national championship without Mariota. Barring a major surprise, the junior is likely to turn pro – though he wouldn’t talk about his upcoming draft decision after the game.
Elliott scored the game’s last three touchdowns, finishing off the rout with a 1-yarder with 28 seconds left.
While Elliott slipped and darted through the Ducks, Jones pushed them around and shook them off.
When Jones surged and spun his way into the end zone with 4:49 left in the second quarter it was 21-7 Ohio State and the O! H! I! O! chant made the dome in North Texas sound like the horseshoe in Columbus. The Ducks were facing their largest deficit of the season.
If there was any concern that fans wouldn’t travel to the championship game in the new postseason system, the packed house at the home of the Dallas Cowboys, awash in Buckeyes’ scarlet and Ducks’ yellow, put that to rest. The crowd of 85,689 was as charged as any BCS national championship game.
The Ducks’ fans awoke early in the third quarter.
Ohio State was driving on the first possession of the second half toward more points when Jones’ pass bounced off Jalin Marshall’s chest and into the arms of Danny Mattingly for Ohio State’s third turnover. Unlike the first two Oregon takeaways, the Ducks turned this one into points in a hurry. Mariota hit Byron Marshall on a slant and he streaked 70 yards for a touchdown, barely breaking the goal line before nonchalantly dropping the ball.
Moments later, another Ohio State turnover. Jones looked a little bit like Florida State’s Jameis Winston in the Rose Bowl as the ball just slipped from his hands trying to throw under pressure. Oregon recovered in deep in Ohio State deep territory.
The Buckeyes held and this time the Ducks sent Aidan Schneider out to kick a 23-yard field goal to make it 21-20.
In the first half Oregon, which goes on fourth down – especially near the goal line – more than most teams, passed on the field-goal attempt on fourth-and-goal from the 3 and Thomas Tyner was stopped a yard short of the goal line.
Suddenly, an extra three points looked as if it could come in handy for the Ducks.
But by the time Elliott went in from 2 yards out with 9:44 left in the fourth to make it 35-20, it was moot.
The rest of the night turned into a Buckeyes Bash.
#4 Ohio State (14-1) 42, vs. #2 Oregon (13-2) 20
Jan. 12, 2014
College Football Playoff National Championship
Arlington, Texas – AT&T Stadium
Ohio State wins its eighth national championship in program history and the first since the 2002 season with the 42-20 win over No. 2 Oregon.
Ohio State National Championships
- 2014 – 14-1 (Urban Meyer)
- 2002 – 14-0 (Jim Tressel)
- 1970 – 9-1 (Woody Hayes)
- 1968 – 10-0 (Woody Hayes)
- 1961 – 8-0-1 (Woody Hayes)
- 1957 – 9-1 (Woody Hayes)
- 1954 – 10-0 (Woody Hayes)
- 1942 – 9-1 (Paul Brown)
Ohio State Postgame Notes
- Ohio State extends the nation’s longest winning streak to 13 games with the victory.
- The 14 wins by the Buckeyes ties a school and NCAA record for the most victories in a season.
- The 42 points scored by the Buckeyes gives Ohio State a total of (672) on the season, breaking the previous record of 637 set last season.
- Ohio State is now 9-0 all-time vs. Oregon.
- Head coach Urban Meyer is 3-0 in his career in national championship games and 17-5 all-time in neutral site games.
- Meyer is now 40-3 in his career with more than a week to prepare for a game.
- Meyer is now 14-5 in his career against Top 10 teams and 10-3 vs. the Top 5.
- The Buckeyes are now 17-6 all-time indoors and 46-23 all-time in night games (games starting after 5 p.m. local time).
- Ohio State is now 38-3 (.926) overall under Meyer, the second-highest winning percentage among FBS teams since the start of 2012.
- With a career-high 246 yards rushing, RB Ezekiel Elliott moved into second place on Ohio State’s all-time single-season rushing list with 1,878 yards. He passes Archie Griffin (1,695 in 1974) and Keith Byars (1,764 in 1984). His 246 yards also ties him for third on Ohio State’s single-game list.
- Elliott’s 4 rushing TDs also marks an Ohio State bowl/postseason record, breaking the previous record of 3 held by Raymont Harris.
- In his last three games, Elliott has rushed for 696 yards with 8 TDs.
- Per ESPN Stats and Info: Elliott’s 246 yards sets a championship game (BCS and CFP) record for rushing yards, breaking Vince Young’s record of 200 yards vs. USC in the 2006 BCS championship game. Elliott also broke his own record for rushing yards in an Ohio State bowl/postseason game.
- Elliott has now rushed for 200+ yards in the last three postseason games, an Ohio State record for consecutive 200+ yard rushing games.
- Elliott scored on a 33-yard scamper in the first quarter, his fifth TD run of at least 30 yards this season.
- Elliott rushed for 63 yards and a TD in the opening quarter, giving him 277 yards and 2 TDs in the opening quarters of the past three games – all vs. Top 15 teams in Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon.
- TE Nick Vannett caught his fifth TD of the season and the sixth of his career in the first quarter, a 1-yard pass from Cardale Jones.
- Ohio State’s 97-yard scoring drive was the second-longest TD drive of the season (98 vs. Kent State).
- Per ESPN Stats and Info: Ohio State is now 91-1 when leading by 14+ points in the past 10 seasons.
- Ohio State held Oregon to nearly 100 yards below its season average. Oregon had 465 and came in averaging 552.9. Ohio State also held Oregon to 132 yards rushing, more than 100 yards fewer than its season average of 241.9 entering the game.
- Ohio State converted on 11 of 18 3rd/4th down conversions while holding Oregon to 2 of 14.
Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer
“We play football for a lot of reasons, for the great state of Ohio, we play for an incredible university, The Ohio State University, but most important we play for each other. This is one of the closest teams in football history.
“The chase is complete. These guys accepted their final mission and did it. It was our final mantra the past few weeks and I’m very grateful for the work these guys put in.”
“And our defense. We slowed that guy down, and he’s one of the best players in the country. We tackled well. This is a heck of a football team in scarlet and gray and I want to celebrate with the guys I love.”
Ohio State Running Back Ezekiel Elliott
“This is a surreal moment. It’s why we all came here. After all we went through, this is crazy. It doesn’t feel real.”
Ohio State Quarterback Cardale Jones
On the feeling of winning the championship:
“It’s even better than I thought. It’s an unreal feeling. The seniors never could win a bowl game in four years. This is for them.”
“Even though I made some stupid turnovers, I knew I didn’t have to do too much and just have faith in my teammates and faith in our defense.”
On LeBron James’ words to him:
“This is something for all of Cleveland to believe in and rally around.”