A new college football playoff system crowned a traditional champion.
Ohio State clubbed Oregon 42-20 in the first College Football Playoff national championship game on Monday.
In capturing its seventh national championship by a major wire service or BCS and now playoff, Ohio State used a balanced offense and a defense that would not be rattled by Oregon’s up-tempo offense led by Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Marcus Mariota.
The Buckeyes’ triumph also thrusts coach Urban Meyer into an elite status. He captured his third national championship and joined Nick Saban as the only coaches to win titles at two universities. Meyer won two as Florida’s coach in the previous decade.
Ohio State, 14-1, overcame a sloppy third quarter, when two turnovers allowed Oregon to get back in the game. The Buckeyes turned to their stud running back Ezekiel Elliott, who bulled for 246 yards and four touchdowns, and got another stunning performance from quarterback Cardale Jones.
Operating behind a rugged offensive line, Jones’ amazing story concluded with a national championship in his third career start.
Jones took over when starter J.T. Barrett suffered a fractured ankle in the season finale against Michigan and had engineered a finish that included a Big Ten championship-game victory over Wisconsin, a triumph over top-ranked Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and now a confetti shower and podium trophy presentation as national champion.
But the Buckeyes had to clean up their mistakes or the championship would slip from their grasp, just as the football did. Ohio State committed four turnovers.
The two miscues in the first half didn’t cost the Buckeyes points. The Ducks wasted no time scoring after the first mistake in the third quarter, a deflected interception by linebacker Danny Mattingly.
Mariota found Byron Marshall streaking down the middle of the field and hit him for a 70-yard strike. Instead of the Buckeyes perhaps landing a knockout blow, their lead was now 21-17.
The second turnover conjured the spirit of the Rose Bowl, when Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston lost control of the ball while falling backwards that resulted in an Oregon touchdown.
This time, the ball slipped from Jones’ hand and was recovered by Oregon. The Ducks didn’t get a touchdown, settling for Sean Nuernberger’s short field goal that made it 21-20.
But that was a close as Oregon got. Ohio State played error-free football the rest of the way, and the scarlet-clad Buckeyes fans who made up about 60 percent of the 85,689 at AT&T Stadium, could smell victory as the fourth quarter unfolded.
Oregon, 13-2, lost in a championship game for the second time in five years. The Ducks fell to Cam Newton’s Auburn team in the 2010 BCS title game.
The game couldn’t have started better for the Ducks, who ran their offense to perfection on the first series, zipping down the field and seemingly leaving defenders dizzy.
But Ohio State answered on its second possession, and it was definitive.
Oregon had pinned the Buckeyes by downing at punt at the 3, and two plays yielded 2 yards. A failure here, and the Ducks probably would have wound up with excellent field position and the momentum with the lead.
But on third down, the offensive line gave Jones plenty of time to find Corey Smith on a deep out for a 26-yard gain. For the first time in the game, Buckeyes fans had something to cheer, and it wouldn’t stop.
The drive’s next big moment came when Ohio State reached the Oregon 35. On fourth and 2, Jones flipped a pass to Jalin Marshall, who strained for the first down by 6 inches.
Two plays later, Elliott introduced himself to the game. Elliott, a St. Louis product who had gained 450 rushing yards in his previous two games, motored 33 yards for the tying touchdown.
It was only one touchdown drive, but the feeling had changed. Ohio State’s confidence swelled, so much that the next touchdown drive that covered 46 yards took a mere four plays and 87 seconds. Elliott’s 17-yard run set up Jones’ 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Nick Vannett at the pylon.
At this point, it seemed only the Buckeyes could stop themselves, and that’s precisely what happened, with Ohio State losing fumbles on its next two possessions in Ducks territory.
But Oregon could not take advantage. The Ducks drove to the Ohio State 3, and on fourth down remained true to their nature by going for it. The ball went up the middle to Thomas Tyner, who got 2 yards before he ran into a wall of Buckeyes.
The Ducks had passed up sure points, and a few minutes later Ohio State added to its lead with Jones’ 1-yard run.
Oregon, which had sailed 75 yards in 11 plays to open the scoring, lost chances early when its receivers dropped passes on successive drive-killing third -own plays. On the second, Dwayne Stanford might have picked up about 35 yards.
A team that ranked fourth in the nation picking up 51 percent of third downs, went two of 11 on Monday.
Against an Ohio State that was only stopping itself once it started scoring, Oregon could not afford to surrender any opportunities.
Ore—Lowe 7 pass from Mariota (Schneider kick), 12:21.
OSU—Elliott 33 run (Nuernberger kick), 4:36.
OSU—Vannett 1 pass from C.Jones (Nuernberger kick), 1:08.
OSU—C.Jones 1 run (Nuernberger kick), 4:49.
Ore—FG Schneider 26, :48.
Ore—Marshall 70 pass from Mariota (Schneider kick), 11:23.
Ore—FG Schneider 23, 6:39.
OSU—Elliott 9 run (Nuernberger kick), :00.
OSU—Elliott 2 run (Nuernberger kick), 9:44.
OSU—Elliott 1 run (Nuernberger kick), :28.
Time of Possession
RUSHING—Ohio St., Elliott 36-246, C.Jones 21-38, Samuel 1-6, C.Smith 1-3, Marshall 2-3. Oregon, Tyner 12-62, Mariota 10-39, Freeman 10-22, Marshall 1-9.
PASSING—Ohio St., C.Jones 16-23-1-242. Oregon, Mariota 24-37-1-333, Lockie 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING—Ohio St., Marshall 5-52, M.Thomas 4-53, C.Smith 2-76, Vannett 2-9, D.Smith 1-45, Samuel 1-8, Elliott 1-(minus 1). Oregon, Marshall 8-169, Baylis 5-25, Stanford 4-61, Lowe 3-55, Nelson 2-21, Tyner 2-2.