Despite committing four turnovers, the Ohio State Buckeyes captured the College Football Playoff National Championship by defeating the Oregon Ducks, 42-20, on Monday night at AT&T Stadium. Sophomore Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 246 yards and four touchdowns to lead Ohio State to their first national championship since 2002.
Head coach Urban Meyer, who earned his third national championship after winning two titles with the Florida Gators, received a clutch effort from his defense. The unit held the high-octane Ducks to just two third-down conversions on 12 attempts.
A key moment came in the second quarter, with the Ducks trailing by a touchdown and driving deep in Ohio State territory. Head coach Mark Helfrich elected to not kick a field goal, and instead ran the ball on fourth down and goal on the three-yard line. The Ohio State defense prevented running back Thomas Tyner from getting in the end zone to take over on downs.
But Ohio State’s defense really showed up late in the game. The defense shut out the Ducks in the fourth quarter and even intercepted a late pass to close out the title game. Oregon’s 20-point effort was their lowest scoring output of the season.
Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota completed 24 of his 37 passes for 333 yards, but he rushed for just 39 yards and failed to put the Ducks in the end zone on key drives. Tyner rushed for 62 yards on 12 carries, which was half the yards he posted against the Florida State Seminoles on New Year’s Day.
The Ducks also seemed to make mental mistakes against the Buckeyes, committing 10 penalties for 76 yards.
"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. A job well done, and we're very grateful."
The Buckeyes racked up a 538 total yards. Quarterback Cardale Jones threw for 242 yards and rushed for 38 and a touchdown. More importantly, the quarterback led a efficient offense when they maintained possession. Ohio State converted eight of their 15 third downs, and all three of their fourth down attempts.
It was an impressive championship run by Ohio State. The Buckeyes were defeated by Virginia Tech by 14 points in Week 2, and lost two of their quarterbacks this season: Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett. The offensive line was also decimated by injuries. But the squad closed out the season by thumping Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship, and by edging Alabama, 42-35, in the Sugar Bowl. Elliott seemed to raise his game to another level late in the season, rushing for 220 yards or more in three consecutive games. The Ducks defense didn't seem to have any answer for a stubborn offensive line and a gritty running game.
"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."