January 17, 2015

We Did It! - National Champions!


OH-IO! The team of destiny finally finished off a fairy tale of a season. It was something right out of Hollywood. A young team that dealt with adversity from day one and was never given a chance of winning it all. They proved their critics wrong and put together one of the greatest stories in college football. It was a bittersweet victory as they brought home their first national title since 2002. Head coach Urban Meyer, a native of Ashtabula, Ohio was hired back in 2012 and many felt he would be the coach to bring another title to Ohio State. In his third year, he delivered the goods with probably the best coaching job in college history.

Unlike the Sugar Bowl game, I was fairly confident that Ohio State could beat the Ducks for two reasons. Ohio State's record against Oregon is 8 and 0. The second reason is Oregon has never been able to win against teams that play smash mouth football. For years, their rival Stanford was able to beat them because they were a big physical team. I remember watching the 2010 Rose Bowl against Oregon and Ohio State neutered Oregon's high-octane offense by controlling the line of scrimmage, pounding the rock and wearing out the Ducks defense. Ohio State had a stable of stud running backs, a monstrous quarterback in Terrelle Pryor and a punishing offensive line that turned the Quack Attack into foie gras. It was old fashion Big Ten football and Ohio State set a Rose Bowl record for time of possession, controlling the ball for over 40 minutes. It was an epic ass kicking. 

This time Ohio State would be facing the Heisman winner in Marcus Mariota. Last week, his team blew out last season's national champs Florida State and many had them winning their first title. The Buckeyes had beaten the two other finalists in Melvin Gordon and Amari Cooper. Both of them were held in check and never factored in their games. Could Ohio State pull off the trifecta? 

The Buckeyes didn't make it easy for themselves as they turned the ball over four times. But the defense held the high-speed Duck offense to 10 points from those turnovers and only allowed them to score 20 points. Oregon could sneeze and score 20 points. The closest Oregon got was when the score was 21-20. Ohio State hunkered down and put together two long drives. They were up by two touchdowns and the Ducks couldn't stop the run. Oregon made a last stand deep in their zone. Mariota threw an incomplete pass and the Ducks turned the ball over on downs. I whooped and hollered as I knew the game was over. Ohio State tried to use as much time as possible, but Oregon still has two timeouts. The Buckeyes were short on 3rd down, but the Ducks were called for offside. Ohio State was 1st and goal with less than a minute and everybody thought - take a knee and celebrate. Not Urban, he had Ducks by the throat and finished them off by snapping their neck. Elliot barreled in and the final score was 42-20. Another Heisman bites the dust.

The true unsung heroes were the Slobs - the Buckeyes offensive line. Four of them were first-time starters and during the Virginia Tech game, they were clearly overmatched. But as the season progressed, they got better as a unit. The Slobs mauled the Ducks defense and cleared holes for Ezekiel Elliot who went into full beast mode shredding them for a national championship record for 246 yards of rushing and scoring 4 touchdowns. This was Elliot's third consecutive game with more than 200 yards of rushing. As for the defense, both coaches Fickell and Ash called a brilliant game. They rotated players and they held their own against the up-tempo pace of the Ducks. I take back every bad thing I said about Fickell, because last year, I wanted his head on a platter. 

As the clock hit zero, the Buckeyes stormed the field. While this game didn't have the drama and suspense of the 2002 game, it was a game for the ages. If you asked me back in August after Miller was lost for the season, if Ohio State would have won the national championship, I would say you're full of it. They were never respected, never given a chance and always viewed as inferior. But they sneered and played with a chip on their shoulders. Urban Meyer made them believe that they were the best and all he wanted was for them to give their best effort. The new playoff system worked because if it was the old BCS system, it would have been Alabama and Florida State. The Buckeyes peaked at the right time and no pun intended took the ball and ran, never looking back. Somewhere Mark May one of the ESPN college football commentators and resident Ohio State hater was served a huge helping of crow as many others were. 

Cardale Jones will be forever in Buckeye lore. Once a troubled youth from one of the poorest neighborhoods in Cleveland, he came off the bench with no starts or experience and won the Big Ten title, the Sugar Bowl, and the National title. He beat three of the Heisman finalists. On Thursday, Jones announced he would be coming back to Ohio State, instead of entering the NFL draft. Only a handful of starters will be graduating and none of the underclassmen declared for the draft. That means the majority of impact players will be returning. This team will be stacked and Meyer won't let them become complacent. The future looks really bright. Can't wait for the beginning of the upcoming season when they play Virginia Tech. 

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