The talk heading into the inaugural College Football Playoff national championship game was about offense.
Oregon played at the speed of light, with Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Marcus Mariota leading the way. Ohio State was at full speed with running back Ezekiel Elliott and quarterback Cardale Jones making his third start.
But what gave the Buckeyes a 42-20 victory at AT&T Stadium Monday -- their eighth national title -- was defense.
Ohio State made Oregon’s lickety-split offense seem almost ordinary. Sure, the Ducks rolled up yards, mostly on Mariota’s 333 yards of passing. But when a big play was needed, the Buckeyes were there to make it.
Oregon got inside the Ohio State 10-yard line three times. All the Ducks got were two Aiden Schneider field goals.
Trading threes for sevens was a losing proposition.
Jones was Ohio State’s third-string quarterback in August. Starter Braxton Miller was injured before the season began. Jones then became the starter the week before the Big Ten championship game when J.T. Barnett broke a leg. Jones threw for 242 yards and one touchdown in the national title game. He also scored on a one-yard run.
Elliott had gained 220 yards against Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game and 230 yards against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. His effort Monday topped those. He hammered away at the Oregon defense, finishing with 246 yards and four touchdowns.
The victory moved Ohio State Coach Urban Meyer into exclusive company. He is the eighth college football coach to win three or more Associated Press national titles. He is tied with USC's John McKay, Minnesota’s Bernie Bierman and Oklahoma’s Barry Switzer and Bud Wilkinson. Notre Dame’s Frank Leahy and Nick Saban have won four. Saban won his first with Louisiana State and three more at Alabama. The Crimson Tide's Bear Bryant is the all-time leader with five.
Oregon trailed, 21-10, at halftime. Ohio State helped the Ducks out.
The Buckeyes, which had four turnovers in the game, lost the ball on its first two possessions of the second half.
Oregon’s Danny Mattingly grabbed the ball out of midair after Ohio State receiver Jalin Marshall bobbled a pass. Mariota hit Byron Marshall for a 70-yard touchdown on the Ducks’ next play.
Jones then dropped the football while trying to pass, giving Oregon the ball at the 23-yard line. But as it had done throughout the game, the Ohio State defense stiffened. Oregon settled for 23-yard field goal by Aiden Schneider to cut the Buckeyes’ lead to, 21-20, with six minutes left in the third quarter.
Elliott took it from there. He scored on runs of 11 and two yards to push the Ohio State lead to, 35-20.
Mariota threw for 333 yards and two touchdowns. But the Buckeyes took away the Ducks’ running game. Oregon finished with 132 yards rushing, but they were hard yards. The Ducks averaged 4.0 yards per carry. They came into the game averaging 5.5 per carry.
The inability to run hurt Oregon near the goal line.
The Ducks scored on their first drive, with Mariota throwing a seven-yard touchdown pass to Keanon Lowe. After that, the Buckeyes’ defense held the upper hand.
Twice the Ducks got inside the 10-yard line. All they had to show for it was a 26-yard field goal by Aiden Schneider. Ohio State held on a fourth-down play earlier, with Oregon running back Thomas Tyner coming up inches short.
Oregon has averaged less than three punts a game this season. The Ducks punted six times Monday.
Part of that was self-inflicted. Oregon receivers Charles Nelson and Dwayne Stanford both dropped third-down passes on drives in the first half.
Ohio State’s offense had no such troubles.
By halftime, Jones had 171 yards passing, including a one-yard touchdown strike to Nick Vannett. Elliott had 98 yards rushing, including a 33-yard scoring run.
Here's a recap of the game:
Ohio State 42, Oregon 20 (28 seconds left fourth quarter)
Ezekiel Elliott’s one-yard touchdown run is the exclamation point. He has 246 yards rushing and four touchdowns.
Oregon Quarterback Marcus Mariota throws high on fourth-and-11 pass.
Ohio State has the ball back on the Oregon 14-yard line with 2 minutes 45 seconds left.
ESPN broadcaster Kirk Herbstreit giddy.
Time running out on Oregon in the inaugural College Football Playoff national championship game.
The Ducks get the ball back with 4 minutes 17 seconds left with Mariota again at quarterback.
Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota leaves the game after getting hit while delivering a pass.
Actually, Mariota had deliverd the pass and was later hit and driven into the turf by Ohio State defensive lineman Joey Bosa. No penalty, though.
After two more plays, including a second penalty on their possession, the Ducks send Mariota back into the game.
Mariota completes a 19-yard pass to Dwayne Stanford on third and 26. The Ducks line up for a punt, then shift with most the players heading toward the left sideline.
If you’re going to run a gadget play on a punt, snap the ball quickly. Backup quarterback Jeff Lockie (playing punter) hesitates, allowing Ohio State Coach Urban Meyer to call a timeout.
The Ducks opt to punt the ball.
Ohio State 35, Oregon 20 (9:44 left in fourth quarter)
A crisp 76-yard drive by the Buckeyes has the Ducks reeling.
Quarterback Cardale Jones peppered Oregon with passes. Running back Ezekiel Elliott piled up yards. And the Ducks' defense is wearing down.
The scoring drive ends with a two-yard touchdown run by Elliott, his third of the game.
Elliott has scored 18 points in the College Football Playoff championship game. Jimmy Hull had a team-high 12 points in the Buckeyes’ loss to Oregon in the 1939 NCAA basketball championship game.
Ohio State is back to handling quarterback Marcus Mariota and the Oregon offense.
The Ducks are averaging 3.7 yards per rushing attempt in the College Football Playoff championship game tonight. They averaged 5.5 this season.
The ball goes back to the Buckeyes’ offense, which has only been stopped by its own mistakes (four fumbles).
Oregon defense is learning what opposing defenses have felt this season. The Ducks are looking a little worn out. Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott is piling up the yards (215 and counting).
ESPN broadcaster Kirk Herbstreit sounds like he is lobbying to dot the “i” at the next Ohio State home game.
Ohio State 28, Oregon 20 (end of third quarter)
Quarterback Cardale Jones might be a handful, but it’s running back Ezekiel Elliott who is damaging Oregon.
The Buckeyes back powered his way on a 11-yard touchdown run to stretch the lead. Elliott has 201 yards rushing and has scored two touchdowns.
Jones kept the drive alive by bulling his way through two defenders for a first down on a third-and-three play.
Oregon defensive players are going to be sore tomorrow after tangling with these two all night.
Might be quite a quarterback competition in Columbus next year. Cardale Jones is back. Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett should be healthy.
Of course, Miller could transfer as a graduate student and be immediately eligible. Hmm, who needs a quarterback … why, Oregon, if Marcus Mariota declares for the NFL.
Ohio State 21, Oregon 20 (6:30 left in third quarter)
Oregon again settles for an Aiden Schneider field goal, this one from 23 yards, after recovering a fumble.
But the Ducks could have had more. On third and two at the Buckeyes' four-yard line, Ohio State’s Eli Apple saved a touchdown. He pushes Evan Baylis out of bounds in back of the end zone as he leaps to make a catch.
Oregon has converted only two for nine third-down plays.
Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones does his imitation of Florida State’s Jameis Winston. He drops the football while scrambling without being hit.
Oregon recovers the ball on the Ohio State 23-yard line.
Oregon seems to have figured out one thing.
Hit Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones low. You know, like a lumberjack chopping down a tree.
Ohio State 21, Oregon 17 (11:23 third quarter)
Marcus Mariota doesn’t waste any time. The Ducks quarterback tosses a 70-yard touchdown pass to Byron Marshall on the first play after Oregon intercepted an Ohio State.
Marshall showed that he didn’t learn anything from Utah’s Kaelin Clay. Marshall nearly let the ball go before the goal line in nonchalant arrogance. Clay did that against Ducks, with Oregon returning the fumble for a touchdown this season.
Oregon's defense does what it does best: take the ball away.
Ohio State’s Jalin Marshall has a pass bounce off his hands. Oregon’s Danny Mattingly is there to grab it and end a promising Ohio State drive.
His cousin, Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly, could use some saves like that this season.
To put it in Oregon terms, when Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones gets moving, he’s like a loaded logging truck going down hill … without brakes.
The Buckeyes open the second half receiving the kickoff and immediately begin picking up first downs on the lgs of Jones and running back Ezekiel Elliott.
Ohio State 21, Oregon 10 (halftime)
In 1939, Oregon led Ohio State, 21-16, in the first NCAA basketball championship game.
Ohio State leads Oregon, 21-10, at halftime of the first College Football Playoff championship game.
If you took the under, you’re in good shape. The over/under line is 79 points.
Offense dominated the talk heading into the College Football Playoff national championship game. Oregon played fast and loose. Ohio State had bulk and speed.
Yet, through the first half Monday, it was the Buckeyes’ defense that made the difference. Ohio State disrupted the Ducks’ lickety-split offense and leads, 21-10, at halftime.
Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota passed for 189 yards in the first half. The Ducks had 99 yards rushing. But this was not the same polished offense that overwhelmed Florida State, 59-20, in the national semifinal at the Rose Bowl.
The Ducks scored on their first drive, with Mariota throwing a seven-yard touchdown pass to Keanon Lowe. After that, the Buckeyes’ defense held the upper hand.
Twice the Ducks got inside the buckeyes' 10-yard line. All they had to show for it was a 26-yard field goal by Aiden Schneider. Ohio State held on a fourth-down play, with Oregon running back Thomas Tyner coming up inches short of the goal line on a run up the middle.
Oregon has averaged less than three punts per game this season. The Ducks punted four times in the first half. Oregon converted on only two of eight third downs, twice having wide-open receivers drop the ball.
Ohio State’s offense had no such troubles.
Quarterback Cardale Jones threw for 171 yards and one touchdown. He also scored on a one-yard run. Ezekiel Elliott had 98 yards rushing, including a 33-yard touchdown run.
Fumbles kept the Buckeyes from having a bigger lead and running off with the game. A poor decision by Jones on a fumbled handoff gave Oregon the ball back at its own 41-yard line. Buckeyes receiver Devin Smith later fumbled the ball at the Ducks' nine-yard line at the end of a 45-yard reception.
Ohio State 21, Oregon 10 (48 seconds left in second quarter)
Aiden Schneider kicks a 26-yard field goal. But Oregon’s scoring drive can be viewed as an Ohio State victory.
Marcus Mariota showed why he won the Heisman Trophy, completing four of five passes for 57 yards on the drive. Yet, he threw wildly on third down with the ball at the five-yard line.
Ohio State is looking to go into halftime with an 11-point lead. The Buckeyes get the ball first in the second half.
Oregon trailed at halftime only once this season. Michigan State led the Ducks, 24-18, back in September. Oregon, of course, came back to win. That game was in Eugene and the Spartans were far from Ohio State’s level.
Ohio State 21, Oregon 7 (4:49 second quarter)
Oregon is finding out that Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones is not like Florida State’s Jameis Winston.
First of all, Jones hasn’t sacked himself and dropped the ball to lead to a touchdown return for the Ducks. Jones, who is the Buckeyes' third-string quarterback, is doing what he did in his first two starts, extending plays by running and making pinpoint passes.
Jones tosses a 45-yard pass to Devin Smith for a first down at the Oregon six-yard line. On third and goal from the one, Jones pushes his 250-pound body into end zone.
Every time ESPN announcer Kirk Herbstreit starts talking about Ohio State -- his alma mater -- or fellow broadcaster Chris Fowler waxes poetic about AT&T Stadium and this being the biggest event ever, it sounds like the adults in a Peanuts cartoon.
Ohio State is taking away Oregon's running game. The Ducks might not be able to fly on one wing.
The Buckeyes hold the Ducks to a three-and-out series after Ohio State receiver Corey Smith fumbled near the Oregon 10-yard line after a long pass.
Now it is Oregon fans who exhale. Ohio State receiver Corey Smith was wide on a deep route and was flying down the sidelines after a reception. Oregon defensive back Troy Hill met him near the 10-yard line and forced a fumble.
Instead of trailing by two touchdowns, the Ducks have the ball back.
Oregon fans should be concerned that the Ducks are having trouble with Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott, who has 94 yards in nine carries.
Ohio State makes a goal-line stand. Oregon went for it on fourth and goal from the four-yard line. Buckeyes slow Ducks running back Thomas Tyner and finally stop him inches from goal line.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota completed five of seven passes for 48 yards after the Ducks recovered a fumble. On third and goal, Mariota scrambled down the right sideline but was stopped at the four.
With Ohio State moving, Oregon gets a break. A poor decision by quarterback Cardale Jones, who faked a handoff and then attempted to give it to the running back too late, leads to a fumble.
The Ducks get the ball back on their own 41-yard line.
Oregon receiver Evan Baylis is in back in the game after limping off earlier with an apparent ankle injury.
Ohio State 14, Oregon 7 (end of first quarter)
Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones has completed six of nine passes for 62 yards and one touchdown. Buckeyes running back Ezekiel Elliott has 63 yards and one touchdown.
Oregon’s Marcus Mariota has completed seven of 10 passes for 64 yards and a touchdown, but two of the Ducks' receivers have dropped passes. Both came on third-down plays.
Oregon is stopped again. This time it’s not self-inflicted.
Ohio State's defense comes on with third-down play to force a punt.
Ducks receiver Evan Baylis, who had big Rose Bowl, limps off field. Oregon receivers close to catching spotted owls on the endangered species list.
Ohio State 14, Oregon 7 (1:08 left in first quarter)
It’s Ohio State that is now pushing the pace, and Oregon is on its collective heels.
Cardale Jones throws a one-yard touchdown pass to Nick Vannett. It followed a 17-yard run by Ezekiel Elliott. The Ducks helped out with a pass interference penalty by Troy Hill.
Oregon's offense stops itself for a second consective drive.
A wide-open Dwayne Stanford drops a deep pass on third down. Receiver Charles Nelson dropped a third-down pass on Oregon's previous series.
The Ducks are playing without three top receviers: Pharaoh Brown (injury), Darren Carrington (suspension) and Devon Allen (injury).
Ohio State 7, Oregon 7 (4:36 left in first quarter)
Ezekiel Elliott is the key for the Buckeyes tonight. He showed why on a 33-yard, bull-moose touchdown run that helps tie the score.
Ohio State needed something and goes 97 yards to get it. Two key plays kept the drive alive.
Cardale Jones made a big play with Ohio State facing a third-and-eight situation on its own four-yard line. He completes 26-yard pass to Corey Smith. On fourth and two at the Oregon 35-yard line, a shovel pass to Jalin Marshall gets the first down by a matter of inches.
Elliott can make life easier for Jones, and more difficult on the Ducks. He had 220 yards rushing against Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game and 230 yards against Alabama in the CFP semifinal in the Sugar Bowl.
Ohio State clearly knows it can’t waste possessions on field goals. Buckeyes go for it on fourth and two at Ducks' 35-yard line. A shovel pass from Cardale Jones to Jalin Marshall gets the two yards.
Woody Hayes is smiling somewhere. Of Ohio State’s first seven plays, six were runs.
Ohio State fans can exhale. Oregon was moving fast, but Charles Nelson dropped a third-down pass to stall the Ducks' second drive.
Ohio State, though, is pinned on its two-yard line after punt.
So far the score is 7-6 … that'd be seven Oregon points and six ESPN commercials.
Ohio State can’t answer Oregon’s touchdown drive. The Buckeyes get one first down. On third and seven, quarterback Cardale Jones scrambles. Oregon’s Reggie Daniels brings him down short of the first down.
Too early for a must-stop-'em moment, but once the Ducks get rolling and building a lead, it can be an early night. Ask Arizona about that in the Pac-12 title game.
The Ducks did get their first taste of Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones. The 250-pounder bulls his way to first down on a third-down scramble.
Oregon 7, Ohio State 0 (12:21 left in first quarter)
In the 1939 NCAA basketball championship game, Oregon jumped out to a 6-0 lead over Ohio State.
The college football championship game starts the same way. Oregon goes on a not-so-leisurely 2 minute 39 second drive, covering 75 yards.
Marcus Mariota throws a seven-yard touchdown pass to Keanon Lowe. Mariota threw for 30 yards and ran for 15 on the drive.
Words people in Texas hate this week: “The play is under review.”
Like Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant’s catch against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, the call on the field is overturned. Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota had a knee on the ground before he fumbled.
In honor of the 1939 NCAA basketball title game between Ohio State and Oregon, Ducks running back Thomas Tyner dribbles for a first down.
Moments later, Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota has the ball stripped as he's being tackled near the Ohio State 25-yard line and the Buckeyes recover. The play is under review.
Seven plays into the game and Oregon has gained 44 yards.
Oregon wins the toss. What to do, what to do.
Oh yeah, put the nation’s fastest and most prolific offense on the field first.
Ohio State Coach Urban Meyer can join some lofty company with a win over Oregon.
Meyer would become only the eight college football coach to win three or more national titles.
Alabama’s Bear Bryant leads the pack with seven, followed Notre Dame’s Frank Leahy and Nick Saban with four. Saban has won three titles at Alabama and one at Louisiana State. USC’s John McKay, Minnesota’s Bernie Bierman and Oklahoma’s Barry Switzer each have three titles.
Two of the ESPN announcers for the Oregon-Ohio State national title game can go to their neutral corners. Both have ties to the teams in this game.
Kirk Herbstreit was a quarterback at Ohio State from 1989-93 (five touchdown passes and 11 interceptions). Throughout this season, when asked to pick his four teams for the College Football Playoff, Herbstreit would usually leave out Oregon.
Chris Fowler attended Colorado, now a Pac-12 school. He was the first recipient of the Alan Berg Memorial Journalism Scholarship, awarded by the Denver Press Club.
And, of course, his name is Fowl-er. He’s got to like the Ducks.
An Oregon victory would cap, arguably, the best Pac-12 season in conference history.
The Pac-12's last national title was USC in 2004, but that championship was later vacated due to NCAA sanctions.
An Oregon victory would leave the league with a 7-2 bowl record, the best win percentage among the 10 major-level conferences. The Southeastern Conference has seven wins, but has also lost five. All five defeats were sustained by the top five schools in the highly regarded SEC West.
An Ohio State win would give the Big Ten a final bowl record of 6-5. That would be the most bowl wins in conference history. The Big Ten last won five bowl games in 2002.
Conference USA, at 4-1, is the only other league with a winning bowl record.
How the other conferences fared:
Big 12 (2-5), Sun Belt (1-2), American Athletic (2-3), Atlantic Coast (5-7), Mountain West (3-4), Mid-American (2-3).
The bar is set for the first College Football Playoff national championship game … 79 points.
Times college football expert Chris Dufresne predicted Oregon over Ohio State, 46-33, which was the same score of the first NCAA basketball championship game between the same schools in 1939.
The two teams play tonight in Arlington, Texas, to conclude the frisrt College Football Playoff. Oregon averages 47.2 points a game and Ohio State 45.0.
Other 1939 numbers that could get toppled tonight.
--Oregon led, 21-16, at halftime in 1939.
--The Ducks’ John Dick scored a game-high 13 points. One that is certain is certain to fall? The 1939 title game drew 5,000 fans. There might be more than that in the Ohio State band this evening.
Texas Christian Coach Gary Patterson, who may have the biggest gripe about the new four-team College football Playoff, will get one last chance to express his opinion.
Patterson is a voter in this year’s USA Today coaches' poll and will cast his final ballot after Monday night’s College Football Playoff title game between Oregon and Ohio State.
TCU missed the playoff, dropping from No. 3 to No. 6 on the final weekend after a 52-point win over Iowa State.
Where will Patterson rank TCU?
“It depends on how they play,” Patterson said of Oregon and Ohio State. “We’ll see how this game goes Monday … then I’ll turn it in.”
Patterson made his comments at a Saturday reception in Dallas after getting selected coach of the year by the Football Writers Assn. of America.
Patterson insisted he does his voting in the coaches’ poll.
TCU ended up finishing sixth in the final College Football Playoff ranking.
The Horned Frogs, who finished 12-1, made a case for inclusion with a resounding 42-3 win over Mississippi in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl.
Patterson said he has not formed an opinion yet as to whether the playoff needs to be expanded to eight teams.
“Let’s see what the plusses and minuses are of the four teams,” he said.
Patterson received praise for not raising more of a fuss after the controversy that surrounded the first playoff.
“I just felt there’s never going to be a perfect system,” Patterson said. “And I watch, whether it’s politics or it’s football, nowadays all we do is cut everybody down. I felt like I had a great opportunity to do something right for a change. That’s why I did it.”
With five major conferences competing for four spots, it is inevitable at least one deserving team will be left out every year.
The Big 12 drew the short stick this year as it ended up with co-champions, Baylor and TCU, who finished No. 5 and No. 6, since it doesn't have a conference championship game.