Following a hot-knife-through-butter opening touchdown drive for the Oregon Ducks in last night’s national championship game, the Ohio State Buckeyes took over the game and never relinquished control. OSU running back Ezekiel Elliott averaged 6.8 yards per carry, and it felt like more than that in the second half, when Ohio State called the same counter run play seemingly on every down and repeatedly executed it successfully. Elliott was so hungry for more yards that he tried to eat confetti after the game.
After that initial Oregon drive, the Buckeye defense, lead by coordinator and former OSU head coach Luke Fickell, found the answer, though, and Oregon’s bucket of tricks soon ran dry. Even in the second half, when Oregon’s defense produced a couple of turnovers, Marcus Mariota and the offense couldn’t make any progress.
Oregon accumulated its twenty points with two touchdowns, that opening-drive score and a one-play, seventy-yard TD pass early in the third quarter, and two field goals. Those two field goals, along with a white-flag punt with eight minutes to go in the fourth quarter, felt uncharacteristic of a school that, in recent years, lead the charge of pedal-to-the-metal offense.
In the end, Ohio State ended up knocking off Oregon by nearly as wide a margin– 42-20– as the one by which Oregon defeated Florida State in the semifinal round.
Possibly noteworthy statistics:
- Ohio State converted all three of its fourth-down attempts;
- Oregon went 2/12 on third downs;
- Strictly from a passing perspective, Cardale Jones was better than Mariota by almost every measure;
- Ohio State only gained seventy-three more total yards than did Oregon;
- Oregon committed twice as many penalties for more than twice as many yards as did Ohio State; and
- Oregon only surrendered one turnover, a garbage-time Mariota pass on the last real play of the game, while the Buckeyes had four.
On a final viewing note, I thought ESPN’s Megacast was a success once again. I spent most of the second half toggling between the film room on ESPN2 and “off the ball” on ESPNEWS. Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason was the prescient star of the former, along with Pat Narduzzi, Michigan State’s outgoing defensive coordinator on his way to the head coaching job at Pitt. The latter was even more technical, but the marking up of plays on the all-22 shot as they ran in real time was informative and neat. To the extent viewers found these two simulcasts boring (to say nothing of Classic’s “sounds of the game”!), that finding serves as a reminder of how many lulls there are in today’s traditional football broadcasts. Indeed, I found the break from the time-filling, faux-mythologizing to be something of a relief, particularly as Chris Fowler, in his apparent and quiet succession to the Musburgerian throne, drifts further toward the Nantzian realm.
Thanks to the College Football Playoff, or at least to the playoff structure, fans also are relieved from the rote, annual what-if conversations about teams not included in the BCS national championship game. As much as it pains us all to say it, Ohio State feels like a legitimate national champion.
Going for it on fourth down: I wonder if coaches do this more often now than, say, 5 or 10 years ago. I feel like admitting that you might go for it on fourth down changes the game plan on third down. Then, third and 5+ is no longer a guaranteed throwing down, opening up more things.
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