The speed was stopped. The tempo was trampled. The coolest team in college football was punched in its shiny, swoosh-adorned jaw.
At the sweaty, painful end of their national championship nightmare Monday at AT&T Stadium, the only thing the
It sat at the rear of their sideline. As
"Get up!" shouted linebacker Torrodney Prevot, stalking in front of his teammates, wildly waving his hands. "Get up, get up, get up."
Nobody moved. It was the final indignity. Oregon had been more than just beaten. The fastest team in sports had been rendered motionless.
The dozen or so Ducks left the bench only when the final seconds had disappeared and the gold confetti had begun raining mercilessly down upon their spoiled parade. By the time they had trudged off the field, gold strands struck to their sleek cleats, slowing them one final time.
"It's definitely shocking," Prevot said later, shaking his head. "We had everything in store for them. There was nothing else we could do."
Ohio State wasn't even supposed to be here. Under the old
This was supposed to be all about the Ducks, a fact that was seemingly confirmed after Oregon had driven for a touchdown in less than three minutes on the game's opening drive.
"Then things just went wrong," said Oregon running back Thomas Tyner.
Things like a powerful Buckeyes attack that steamrollered the Ducks for 538 yards, including 246 yards rushing by Ezekiel Elliott. Things like a crushing Buckeyes defense that smothered a Ducks offense that couldn't sufficiently capitalize on four Ohio State turnovers. Things like an overwhelming Buckeyes culture with fans filling much of the stadium with red shirts and ominous cries of "Ohhhhh."
"You know," admitted Tyner, "they played a helluva game."
Once again, being overpowered and outfought has happened to an Oregon team that has long fought the perception it is not big or strong enough. Once again, college football's funkiest uniforms have been stained with blood and flattened against turf. Once again, Nike's team didn't do it.
Oregon is still looking for its first national championship, the
They were duck soup. They were duck, duck goosed. They had the quack beat out of them. They spent three rocky hours on the Oregon Fail.
Marcus Mariota, the
"I mean, it hurts," said Mariota, who was chased and pummeled enough that he actually left the game for a few moments in the fourth quarter. "It's tough to go out with a loss.
Mark Helfrich, the whiz-kid coach, was outschemed by Ohio State's increasingly legendary Coach
"It's a tough, tough pill to swallow, knowing everything that these guys put into this season and how much we want these guys to be successful in the minds of everyone," said Helfrich.
Even with all that, Oregon closed the gap to one point midway through the third quarter. At which point, Jones and Elliott led the Buckeyes on a pounding 12-jab, 75-yard drive that ended in Elliott's nine-yard touchdown run, and the game never felt close again.
"I think they just played their game, to be honest," said Oregon receiver Byron Marshall. "We tried to play ours. It didn't really work out as planned."
The Midwestern game thumped the West Coast game. The big guys stomped the quick guys. It is a narrative that will seemingly never end.
"Ohio State is an amazing team," said Prevot, his eyes wide, as if confirming that this sort of team can not presently be found in the Pac-12, which has now gone 10 years without a national championship.
The Buckeyes truly are amazing, slipping into the postseason at the last minute with a third-string quarterback and dominating it. The best team won. The right team won. There will, finally, be no debate about college football's national champion, and that even means you, Texas Christian.
The new College Football Playoff system works. And in doing so, it painfully revealed that the Oregon way did not. Again.