Confetti fell and Gatorade showered over head coach Urban Meyer, as the Ohio State Buckeyes regained its prestigious, collegiate football status, defeating the Oregon Ducks 42-20, to win the first ever College Football Playoff.
Performances by running back Ezekiel Elliot and quarterback Cardale Jones have been engraved alongside the legends of Buckeye football. Three game phenomenon Cardale Jones managed the game effectively through the air, completing 70 per cent of his passes while Elliot thrashed the Oregon defense on the ground, rushing for 246 yards and four touchdowns on 38 carries. The hyped Oregon offense led by Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota was outshined and outplayed by a tremendous Ohio State defense.
Ohio State dominated the game ever since Oregon scored a touchdown on its first possession. For Meyer’s team, it was as much of a complete game as one could ask for. When the offense turned the ball over (four turnovers), the defense backed them up. Coaching and lineage were the reasons Ohio State shocked the nation.
Meyer took over an Ohio State program steeped in controversy due to NCAA violations. The program was banned from post-season games in 2012, placed on two-year probation, and was forced to forfeit all of 2010 season’s victories. In the heat of the madness, Meyer quietly assembled one of the best coaching staffs in college football, hiring Tom Herman as Offensive Coordinator while retaining Defensive Coordinator Luke Fickell and Assistant Head Coach of Offense/Running Backs Stan Drayton. The three coaches have combined for 10 single season records, 12 top ten statistical seasons, four career school records, two top assistant awards and two Big 10 offensive player of the year in their time at Ohio State. Such accolades seem rather large compared to the simplistic approach Ohio State attacked Oregon with.
Herman and Meyer utilized automatic plays based on the look of the Oregon defense. ‘Automatics’ are primarily run with a “scratch where it itches” philosophy, or in other words, “take what the defense gives you.” Oregon’s base defense ‘a quarter-quarter two high safety’ look was attacked by Herman’s offense via a variety of running plays. The most effective play on the ground for Ohio State was the “2×2 Dart Counter, Tight End Trap, Y receiver motion” from shotgun. The double pull by the offensive line created space in the C gap, leaving Elliot one on one with a safety, a mismatch of which the talented back took advantage.
Cardale Jones performed exceptionally after being thrust into the starting quarterback position after starter JT Barrett was injured in the final game of the regular season. Barrett also assumed the starting role when preseason Heisman favourite Braxton Miller reinjured his throwing arm before the season begun. Previously, Herman coached back up Kenny Guiton in 2013 when he replaced an injured Miller for two games, the results were as impressive as Jones’. Guiton threw for nearly 500 yards and 10 touchdowns, setting an Ohio State record for passing touchdowns in a game with six. Barrett also tied the record this year, so this result shouldn’t have been as surprising as it seems.
On defense Luke Fickell surprised the Ducks by running multiple defensive fronts, breaking the status quo of how other teams attempted to slow down the fast paced Oregon offense. One of the biggest adjustments Fickell implemented was a sporadic corner blitz by Eli Apple, which countered the read option as the Mariota was accounted for by Apple, allowing the Buckeye’s edge rushers to break on the running back Thomas Tyner. The Buckeye’s defense led by linebacker Darron Lee won their one-on-one battles consistently; breaking the will of many Oregon players.
Ohio State dominated the redzone offensively and defensively, converting all five redzone opportunities into touchdowns while holding Oregon to a combined 13 points on four redzone trips. In the mind of every football coach, the redzone score equated to +25 for Ohio State and -12 for Oregon. Instead of adding an exclamation point to the end of their drives, Oregon’s offense froze. The Ducks offense struggled in short yardage due to the overwhelming advantage of Ohio State’s front seven, ripe with future NFL players.
The future holds many questions for Ohio State, the most popular being the quarterback competition in the spring with Miller, Jones, and Barrett all fighting for playing time. For now, recruiting is in a dead period so hopefully Coach Meyer can have himself a well-deserved break.