2015 College Football Playoff National Championship game recap: Ohio State grounds Oregon
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Oregon football team ended up on the wrong side of history on Monday night.
Too much Ezekiel Elliott. Too much Cardale Jones.
Despite forcing four turnovers, the Ducks lost to Ohio State, 42-20, in the inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship game at AT&T Stadium.
"Congratulations to Ohio State, (Athletic Director) Gene Smith, and (coach) Urban Meyer for a fantastic season," Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said in his postgame press conference. "Played extremely well tonight, extremely hard tonight, and we knew we'd expect that and we'd have to play really well to win. Could not be prouder to be associated with a greater group of guys than the guys in that locker room."
[Related video: Highlights from Monday's game]
In the end, the Buckeyes' backfield duo of Elliott and Jones gave the Ducks defense more than it could handle. Elliott, the team's talented tailback, showed off his aggressive and powerful running style all night long, gashing Oregon for 246 yards and four touchdowns on 36 carries. It marked his third straight game of at least 200 yards.
Asked for his impression of Elliott after the game, Meyer simply said, "a monster."
His partner in the backfield, Jones, used his hulking frame and cannon of an arm to keep drives going all night long. The quarterback stayed true to his recent form and provided the Buckeyes with some key plays on third and fourth downs. The way he played on Monday night, it's hard to believe he began the year as Ohio State's third-string quarterback. Jones finished 16-of-23 for 243 yards and one touchdown through the air, while adding 38 yards and another touchdown on the ground.
"He was able to move the chains and stay on the field and keep our offense on the field, which is never good," Oregon defensive end Arik Armstead said.
[Related video: Oregon players relish teammates, reflect on season after loss]
The Ducks jumped out to an early 7-0 lead after an impressive opening drive that resulted in a Keanon Lowe touchdown catch, but then the Buckeyes would go on to dominate the rest of the first half. The Buckeyes would build a 21-10 lead by intermission, when Elliott already had 98 yards on 11 carries.
Oregon showed some fight in the third quarter and cut the deficit to 21-20 at one point, with the defense leading the way. Danny Mattingly recovered a fumble while Ohio State pushed the ball into Oregon's red zone. The very next play, Ducks receiver Byron Marshall broke wide open down the middle for a 70-yard score, as part of his eight-catch, 169-yard evening.
Ducks fans couldn't help but have flashbacks to the Rose Bowl midway through the third quarter, when Jones fumbled the ball while trying to roll out and make a pass off his back foot. It looked very similar to Oregon's defining play against Florida State in Pasadena, when FSU quarterback Jameis Winston fumbled the ball and Tony Washington returned it for a score.
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Armstead fell on the ball for Oregon, marking the team's fourth turnover of the game. Even though they started on the Ohio State 23-yard line, the Ducks couldn't take advantage of the short field and settled for a field goal. Oregon scored just 10 points off the four takeaways, including a second-quarter drive that ended with no points after the Buckeyes halted Thomas Tyner on a fourth-and-goal run up the middle.
"That's great and all, but we didn't get it done. I take pride in the turnovers," said Alex Balducci, who also recovered a fumble. "In the second quarter we did really well with that and got the game back close. It was a one-point game. We thought we were going to get this thing going, but we just didn't execute on third downs and couldn't get off the field. That's what it boiled down to."
Despite cutting the deficit to a single point, there was no stopping Elliott, who was named the game's offensive MVP. Ohio State leaned on its running back to eat up the clock in the second half, scoring 21 unanswered points to end the game. With 2:46 left, Marcus Mariota's pass to Charles Nelson was broken up in front of the Ohio State sideline to essentially close the door on Oregon's season.
[Related video: Relive Oregon's path to the CFP National Championship]
In perhaps his final game as a collegiate player, the reigning Heisman winner finished 24-of-37 for 333 yards and two touchdowns through the air. Mariota told reporters that he will take the next couple of days to decide whether or not to declare for the NFL draft.
"All I know is that in that locker room, we're all proud of what we were able to do," Mariota said. "Again, we just kind of came up short, proud of those guys in the locker room. Again, I truly believe we had a great season, and nobody can take that away from us."