Ohio State beats Oregon 42-20 to take college title
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Ohio State won the first national title in college football’s playoff era, running over Oregon 42-20 on Monday.
Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 246 yards and four touchdowns for the Buckeyes, including three straight times in the second half after the Ducks pulled within a point in the third quarter.
Ohio State overcame four turnovers to give coach Urban Meyer his first title in his third season with the team following two championships at Florida.
“The chase is complete,” 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.”
Cardale Jones, who started the season as Ohio State’s third-string quarterback, accounted for two scores as the Buckeyes won their fifth national championship.
Under the new playoff system, which introduced official semifinals, Ohio State was the fourth and final seed. Some doubted whether the Buckeyes belonged in the semis, but they proved it Monday.
The Buckeyes overcame two injured stars and one awful early season loss against 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 myriad bowl games. The Buckeyes have three of those championships, too.
Meyer matches Alabama’s Nick Saban as the only coaches to win national championship at two colleges. It’s taken just three seasons in Columbus for Meyer to put the Buckeyes — and the Big Ten conference — back on top, with a team that looks built to last.
Elliott 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.”
Quarterback 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 a score.
Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, who won the Heisman Trophy as this season’s top college player, threw a touchdown pass on the opening drive, but couldn’t lead the second-seeded Ducks to their first national title.
Mariota passed for 333 yards and two touchdowns, but Oregon’s spread offense missed too many red-zone opportunities and couldn’t unleash its running game against linebacker Darron Lee and Ohio State’s powerful front seven.
“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.”
Oregon’s search for its first national championship will likely continue without Mariota. Barring a major surprise, he is likely to turn pro and nominate for the NFL draft.
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.
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 Ducks were facing their largest deficit of the season.
Oregon awoke in the third quarter. Ohio State was driving on the first possession of the second half toward more points when Jones’ pass bounced off a receiver’s chest and into the arms of Danny Mattingly. Unlike the first two turnovers, the Ducks turned this one into points in a hurry. Mariota hit Byron Marshall on a slant run and he streaked 70 yards for a touchdown.
Moments later, there was another Ohio State turnover as Jones lost the ball under pressure and Oregon recovered deep in Ohio State territory.
The Buckeyes defense held and the Ducks sent Aidan Schneider out to kick a 23-yard field goal to make it 21-20.
That was as close as it got, as Elliott ran in for another two touchdowns. He scored from 2 yards out with 9:44 left in the fourth to make it 35-20, and added the coup de grace by running in from the 1 with 28 seconds left.