Ohio State receiver Michael Thomas was poised for a big game.
The third-year sophomore finished pregame warmups at the Sugar Bowl on Thursday night by catching with one hand a 40-yard pass from quarterback Cardale Jones.
Thomas stayed hot during the game, catching seven passes for 66 yards, including a touchdown, as Ohio State defeated Alabama, 42-35, in a College Football Playoff semifinal.
Thomas, who played at Woodland Hills Taft High, pulled the Buckeyes to within 21-20 at the end of the first half when he leaped to catch a pass from receiver Evan Spencer and then used body control to get a foot down in the end zone.
Earlier in the series, Thomas had left the field with an apparent leg injury after a 14-yard reception.
Thomas, the nephew of former USC All-American Keyshawn Johnson, also caught a two-point conversion pass after Ohio State’s final touchdown.
Thomas heads to the national championship game with 50 receptions, nine for touchdowns.
Access for ‘O’
Former USC coach Ed Orgeron attended the game as guest of Lane Kiffin, Alabama’s offensive coordinator and formerly USC’s head coach.
“Great seats,” Orgeron said in an aisle at the Superdome.
Orgeron added that it was the first college football game he had attended as a fan since he began coaching college football.
Orgeron served as the Trojans’ interim coach after Kiffin was fired last season. He left the program before the 2013 Las Vegas Bowl after USC hired Steve Sarkisian to be head coach.
Orgeron, who lives about 25 miles outside of New Orleans, did not coach this season but he said he was optimistic that he would be back on the field somewhere for the 2015 season.
“I’m just waiting for the right thing to open,” Orgeron said. “There have been some opportunities, but I’m going to wait for the right one.”
Orgeron told The Times in November that he would be open to returning to USC, but Sarkisian has given no indication that it would happen.
Cooper’s finishing flourish
Alabama receiver Amari Cooper caught nine passes for 71 yards and two touchdowns.
Cooper, the Biletnikoff Award winner and a Heisman Trophy finalist, scored on a 15-yard pass in the first quarter and a six-yard pass with just under two minutes left. He finished the season with 124 receptions.