We're passionate about the NFL Draft
By Dwayne Wilton
The National Championship game featured the #2 ranked Oregon Ducks vs. the #4 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes. The teams converged upon the Big Flip Phone, otherwise known as Jerry World to face each other. Oregon got there by beating Arizona in the Pac-12 Championship and #3 seed, Florida State in the Rose Bowl. Ohio State beat Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship and then upset #1 seed, Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Never in the history of college football has a team had to win three straight games to win a championship. The excitement leading up to the game was similar to a Super Bowl. Everyone wanted to see if the Cinderella Buckeyes could win a championship with their third string quarterback.
Oregon received the opening kickoff and their high octane, fast paced offense went right to work. Heisman Trophy winning QB Marcus Mariota quickly moved his team downfield. They went 75 yards on 11 plays (7 runs, 4 passes) and he connected with senior receiver Keanon Lowe to put his team quickly on top 7-0. Ohio State did not panic. Although they did not score on their next possession, they forced an Oregon punt on their second possession. Oregon pinned the Buckeyes on their own 3 yard line, but quarterback Cardale Jones continued to show the poise that he’s displayed during this championship run. Behind the running and passing of Jones, Ohio State moved to the Oregon 33 yard line and then sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliott burst through the line for a 33 yard score to tie the game at 7 apiece. The Buckeyes forced another Duck punt and got the ball in good field position at the Oregon 46 yard line. A pass interference penalty on Oregon and a 17 yard run by Elliott put the ball at the 1 yard line. Jones then connected with junior tight end Nick Vannett to give Ohio State a lead they would never give up.
Early in the 2nd quarter, the Buckeyes turned the ball over on a Cardale Jones fumble and junior nose tackle Alex Balducci recovered to give his team the ball at the Ohio State 41 yard line. Mariota quickly moved his team into the red zone, but Ohio State stiffened and held them on downs. The Ducks attempted to go for the touchdown on 4th and goal from the 3 yard line, but were denied. Ohio State threatened again on a 47 yard completion from Jones to junior receiver Corey Smith, but Oregon corner Troy Hill put his helmet on the ball and forced a fumble that was recovered by linebacker Rodney Hardrick at their own 9 yard line. The Buckeye defense again did its job, forcing a three-and-out by the Ducks and they got the ball back in good field position at the Oregon 49 yard line. On 3rd and 12, Jones hit Devin Smith for a 45 yard pass to put the ball at the Oregon 4 yard line. Three plays later, Jones ran it into the end zone to increase the Buckeye lead to 21-7. On the Duck’s next possession, they drove the ball to the Ohio State 15 yard line, but had to settle for a 26 yard field to cut the lead to 21-10 which was the score at the half.
Ohio State continued to shoot themselves in the foot as the 3rd quarter began. Jones drove his team to the Oregon 32 yard line, but redshirt freshman receiver Jalin Marshall bobbled a pass that was picked off by freshman linebacker Danny Mattingly. Oregon is known for putting pressure on their opponents by getting quick scores and quickly changing the momentum. It looked like they had done that when Mariota hit junior receiver Byron Marshall on a quick 70 yard TD to cut the score to 21-17. On their next possession, it looked like the floodgates might open up when Jones fumbled while attempting to pass and Oregon defensive lineman Arik Armstead covered at the Ohio State 23 yard line. The Buckeye defense continued to do their job, keeping Oregon out of the end zone and they settled for a 23 yard field goal to make it a one point game at 21-20. The Buckeyes then relied on their offensive line that was controlling the Ducks front line and they drove 75 yards in 12 plays, taking 6:39 off the clock. Elliott got his second TD of the day to increase their lead to 28-20 as the 3rd quarter ended.
The 4th quarter started with the Buckeye defense again forcing a punt. Jones again led his team downfield, using mostly the running game with a couple of timely passes. Elliott scored from 2 yards out for his third score of the day and all of a sudden the Buckeyes had a two score lead of 35-20. The Ohio State defense continued to stop Oregon, forcing a punt on the Duck’s next possession. With 4:17 left, Oregon got the ball at their 15 yard line needing two scores. However, the Ducks lost a yard on the possession and turned the ball over on downs with 2:15 left, clinching the win for the Buckeyes. Elliott scored again (his 4th TD) from one yard out to make the final score 42-20.
You can’t say enough about the Buckeyes defense. Although they gave up yardage and some chunk plays, they did their job when Oregon got into the red zone. The Ducks made four trips into the red zone, but only got 13 points out of it. Mariota had over 300 yards passing, but I think the loss of Darren Carrington to suspension and Devon Allen to injury in the Rose Bowl may have been too much for the Ducks to overcome. Those two players combined for 78 catches and over 1,300 yards for the year.
Ohio State’s offensive line also dominated this game. With only one returning starter from 2013, this unit was a weakness early in the year, especially in the loss to Virginia Tech. As the year went on this unit got better and better and by the end of the year, it was one of the strengths of the team.
The Buckeyes season was truly magical. They faced, and beat, the three Heisman Trophy finalists (Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon, Alabama WR Amari Cooper and Oregon QB Mariota). No team has ever been able to make that claim. Despite losing the turnover battle, they were able to pull together and knock off a team that many thought was a better team. This is coach Urban Meyer’s third championship and this was probably his best coaching job. He was able to get his team to buy into his philosophy and win it all when very few people outside their locker room gave them a chance.
Here are my notes on the draft eligible players that played in the game. I will start with the winning team.
Cardale Jones, QB, RS Soph (6-5, 250): Reminds me a bit of a more athletic Ben Roethlisberger. Is tough to bring down in the pocket and he has the ability to shake off tacklers and extend the play. Has deceiving speed and athleticism. Willing to lower his shoulder to take on tacklers. Has ice water in his veins. Great poise and pocket presence. Has a cannon for an arm and can fit the ball into tight spots. Has a good sense of when he can escape the pocket and get a first down with his legs. Completed 16 of 23 for 242 yards with 1 TD, 1 INT and 1 fumble. Had 38 yards rushing on 21 carries and converted a 4th and 1 with an amazing run.
Devin Smith, WR, Sr (6-1, 197): Game breaker for the offense. Had an amazing average catch of 28.21 yards. Great concentration. Only had 1 catch, but it was for 45 yards and set up a touchdown.
Michael Thomas, WR, RS Soph (6-3, 212): Big body. Physical blocker. Has the ability to both break tackles and elude tacklers in space. Gets good yardage after the catch. Has the speed to stretch the defense. Does a good job reading defenses and finding openings. Great body control. Snatches the ball out of the air. Had 4 catches for 53 yards.
Corey Smith, WR, Jr (6-1, 180): Good speed. Gets good yardage after the catch. Able to help out rushing the ball. Good special teams player. Had 2 catches for 76 yards, including a 50 yarder, but fumbled the ball back to the defense.
Nick Vannett, TE, Jr (6-6, 260): Huge target. Tough matchup in the red zone. Good blocker and has ability to contribute in the passing game in short spaces, but not a deep threat. Had 2 catches for 9 yards and 1 TD.
Darryl Baldwin, OT, Sr (6-6, 307): Good size. First year starter. Dominating run blocker. Strong at the point of attack.
Jacoby Boren, C, Jr (6-1, 285): Was the only returning starter from 2013 and was the leader of the offensive line. Key to the inside rushing attack. Undersized but scrappy. Good movement skills. Able to pull and lead the sweep. Can get to the second level to block linebackers.
Michael Bennett, DT, Sr (6-2, 288): Prototypical 3 technique in 4-3 alignment. Athletic and quick off the ball. Disruptive player that gets penetration into the backfield. Had a quiet game with only 1 tackle and ½ tackle for loss. Was called for a personal foul.
Adolphus Washington, DT, Sr (6-4, 295): Underrated. Good power. Can push the pocket from the inside. Good motor. Had 3 tackles, 1 tackle for loss and 1 sack.
Joshua Perry, OLB, Jr (6-4, 252): Second in the Big Ten with 124 tackles. Versatile player that can play inside or outside. Tacking machine that is always around the ball. Had 6 tackles.
Curtis Grant, MLB, (6-3, 248): Plays downhill and meets ball carriers in the hole. Knows how to rip the ball out. Had 6 tackles and big 4th down stop in the red zone.
Doran Grant, CB, Sr (5-11, 193): Team captain and the team’s best cover guy. Big hitter. Had 5 tackles, 1 tackle for loss and a 3rd down stop in the red zone.
Marcus Mariota, QB, Jr (6-4, 219): Long and lean with very good speed and athleticism. Plays the game like basketball on turf. Incredible ball handler and great improviser. Sees the field extremely well. Constantly attacks the defense. Good pocket passer, but he is a very good passer on the move. Jukes defenders in the open field. Tough player that was injured in the 4th quarter, but returned. Had a 36-5 record as the starter. Likely to declare for the 2015 draft. Completed 24 of 37 for 333 yards with 2 TD and 1 INT. Had 10 carries for 39 yards.
Byron Marshall, WR, Jr (5-10, 205): Former running back that lines up all over. Has the speed to beat the defense deep. Led the team with 8 catches for 169 yards and had a 70 yard TD catch. Had 1 carry for 3 yards.
Dwayne Stanford, WR, RS Soph (6-5, 201): Great size. Makes tough catches over the middle in traffic. Needs to work on his concentration. Dropped a long ball, but redeemed himself later with a tough catch over the middle. Had 4 catches for 61 yards.
Keanon Lowe, WR, Sr (5-9, 186): Small and quick. Gets good yardage after the catch. Dangerous in the open field. Physical blocker for his size. Runs good routes. Had 3 catches for 55 yards and 1 TD.
Arik Armstead, DT/DE, Jr (6-8, 290): Massive defensive lineman that could play tackle in a 4-3 scheme or end in a 3-4. Powerful run stuffer. Has a good bull rush move. Had a very good game with 9 tackles and a fumble recovery.
Alex Balducci, NT, Sr (6-4, 310): Scrappy, blue collar player. Ties up blockers to allow others to get tackles. Had 5 a season high 5 tackles and ½ tackle for loss.
Rodney Hardrick, ILB, Jr (6-1, 247): Tough run stuffer with the ability to chase down plays. Good hustle. Had 7 tackles and a fumble recovery.
Tyson Coleman, OLB, Jr (6-1, 235): Athletic linebacker that runs well to the ball. Plays special teams. Had 4 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 sack and 1 forced fumble. Was called for a hold on a kickoff return.
Troy Hill, CB, Jr (5-11, 175): Does a good job supporting the run. Good cover corner that knows how to knock the ball away from a receiver. Had 5 tackles, 1 forced fumble and 1 pass breakup. Was called for pass interference in the end zone.
Erick Dargan, S, Sr (5-11, 210): Led his team with 95 tackles for the season. Flies to the ball. Had 5 tackles and 1 tackle for loss.
What a great football season! I hope you had as much fun as I did in this first year of the playoff system. Next week I will begin the transition from game coverage to NFL draft coverage. If you like what you read, like us on Facebook and tell your friends.