What a ride, what a story. But the Oregon Ducks failed to write the finishing chapter its fans were hoping for, falling 42-40 to the Ohio State Buckeyes in the first-ever college football playoff national championship game this evening in Arlington, Texas. Uncharacteristic dropped passes and missed tackles overshadowed the four turnovers forced by Oregon.
Oregon went out to an early 7-0 lead on a seven-yard pass from Heisman winner Marcus Mariota to senior receiver Kenon Lowe, capping a relentless, 75-yard drive of 11 plays in 2:39 minutes.
Things began to go downhill after that.
Ohio State tied the game late in the first quarter on an Ezekiel Elliott 33-yard run, then took the lead with 1:08 left in the first frame on a one-yard pass from Cardale Jones to tight end Nick Vannett.
The Buckeyes stretched their lead to 21-7 in the second quarter. Oregon responded with a field goal, sending the teams to the locker room with Ohio State leading, 21-10.
The second half opened as promisingly as the first for the Ducks, as Byron Marshall hauled in a 70-yard pass from Mariota for a TD, making the score 21-17 at that point.
When placekicker Aidan Schneider‘s subsequent three-pointer brought Oregon within a single point, at 20-21, it felt as though momentum was finally swinging in the Ducks’ direction. Alas, that was not the case, as Elliott, who was a one-man wrecking crew for the Bucks all night, ploughed in at the end of the the third quarter to make it 28-20.
Ohio State owned the fourth, scoring with seconds left in what felt like an unnecessary gesture to cement the final score.
Ohio State racked up 538 yards in total offense. Jones accounted for 242 yards passing and 38 on the ground. Elliott, who ran through gaping holes all night, gained a whopping 246 yards running, a 6.8 yards per rush average.
Oregon gained 465 yards in total offense. Mariota threw for 333 yards and ran for 39. Thomas Tyner was Oregon’s leading rusher, gaining 62 yards on 12 carries, a 5.2 yards per rush average.
Time of possession favored the Buckeyes, 37:29 to 22:31.
Urban Meyer thus adds to his list of national titles, while second-year coach Mark Helfrich will need to regroup and reload with a team almost certainly led by a new quarterback in the next season.
While the result was disappointing, Ducks fans can rejoice in a magical season, and feel optimistic as they look ahead.
Top photo credit: from Video