National Championship Game 2015: Game Grades, Analysis for Oregon vs. Ohio State

David Regimbal@davidreg412Featured ColumnistJanuary 13, 2015

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 12:  Running back Ezekiel Elliott #15 of the Ohio State Buckeyes runs the ball 33 yards to score a touchdown in the first quarter against the Oregon Ducks during the College Football Playoff National Championship Game at AT&T Stadium on January 12, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes won the first-ever College Football Playoff National Championship, beating the Oregon Ducks 42-20 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Monday night.

The Buckeyes found a way to overcome four devastating turnovers, piling up 538 yards against the Ducks' athletic defense. Ohio State was also able to limit Oregon to a season-low 20 points to secure the 22-point victory.

How did the Ducks and the Buckeyes grade out from a highly entertaining national title showdown?

Oregon Ducks Game Grades
Positional UnitFirst-Half GradeFinal Grade
Pass OffenseAB-
Run OffenseB-C-
Pass DefenseC+B
Run DefenseFF
Special TeamsB-B-
vs. Ohio State

Oregon Ducks Grade Analysis

Pass Offense 

Marcus Mariota got off to a hot start, completing his first four passes (which included a touchdown) to put the Ducks up 7-0 early. Charles Nelson and Dwayne Stanford each had big drops that killed drives in the first half, but Mariota was still able to throw for 193 yards before the break.

The Ducks finally got the big play they were looking for on their first offensive snap of the second half as Mariota connected with Byron Marshall for a 70-yard touchdown pass.

The Heisman Trophy winner had a hard time on third down, though, as the Ducks converted just two of 12 third-down attempts. He finished with 333 yards and two touchdowns with an interception, completing just 42.9 percent of his passes in the second half.

Run Offense 

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Oregon's ground game never found traction against Ohio State's physical front seven. Thomas Tyner was able to put together a few nice runs and finished with a team-high 62 yards on 12 carries. But no other Oregon ball-carrier rushed for more than 40 yards. Mariota was bottled up for 39 yards on 10 carries, and Royce Freeman had his worst performance of the season, gaining just 22 yards on 10 rush attempts.


Pass Defense 

Oregon did a good job of forcing Ohio State into mistakes when it dropped back to pass. The Ducks negated a huge play by Corey Smith when they stripped him of the ball at the end of a 47-yard catch. Jones threw an interception that bounced off his receiver's hands and had a Jameis Winston-like fumble in the third quarter that allowed Oregon to cut Ohio State's lead to one.

Oregon forced Cardale Jones into an uneven performance, but it wasn't enough as Ohio State rolled to victory.
Oregon forced Cardale Jones into an uneven performance, but it wasn't enough as Ohio State rolled to victory.Brandon Wade/Associated Press

Jones wasn't asked to do much in the second half, as Ohio State's ground game found a groove. He finished with 242 passing yards and a touchdown against one interception and one fumble.

Run Defense 

Oregon had no chance against Ohio State's rushing attack, surrendering 296 yards and five touchdowns on 61 carries. The Ducks were consistently gashed by Ezekiel Elliott, who accounted for 246 rushing yards and four touchdowns all by himself. 

The Ducks' inability to stop Ohio State's run offense was the difference in the game. After stuffing the Buckeyes on the first few plays, Oregon was consistently blasted off the ball by Ohio State's offensive line.

Special Teams 

Special teams were a non-factor for Oregon against Ohio State. The Ducks could have used a big play in the return game from Charles Nelson, but he averaged just 13 yards on four kickoff returns. Aidan Schneider connected on his two easy field-goal attempts, and Ian Wheeler averaged 40 yards on six punts, but overall, it was a forgettable performance from Oregon's kicking units.


It's almost hard to fathom how Oregon squandered the golden opportunities created by Ohio State's four turnovers. Mark Helfrich and the Ducks weren't able to do what they've been so good at this season—turning opponents' mistakes into points the other way.

The Ducks were also ineffective in scoring opportunities against a below-average red-zone defense, getting just one touchdown in four trips inside Ohio State's 20.

Ohio State Buckeyes Game Grades
Positional UnitFirst-Half GradeFinal Grade
Pass OffenseBB-
Run OffenseAA
Pass DefenseC+B+
Run DefenseA-A
Special TeamsBB
vs. Oregon

Ohio State Buckeyes Grade Analysis

Pass Offense 

Jones had an uneven performance for the Buckeyes, but it was enough to conquer the Ducks. He had an interception that bounced off Jalin Marshall's hands and right into the defender's, and he had a bad fumble on a dropback that allowed Oregon to crawl within one in the third quarter.

Those gaffes only briefly interrupted an otherwise solid performance. Jones completed 69.6 percent of his passes for 242 yards and a touchdown, utilizing Ohio State's bevy of options on the perimeter, as Corey Smith, Michael Thomas, Marshall and Devin Smith all had at least 45 receiving yards.

Run Offense 

Elliott sparked an incredible outing from Ohio State's run offense against the Ducks. The sophomore running back was absolutely sensational, piling up 246 yards and four touchdowns on 36 carries. That included a 33-yard first-quarter touchdown that got Ohio State on the board, and he finished the night averaging 6.8 yards per carry. 

The Buckeyes did what they wanted on the ground. Jones was a contributor, chipping in 38 yards on 21 carriesbut two fumbles negated a lot of that production. In all, Ohio State ran for 296 yards, 152 of which game in the second half as the Buckeyes flexed their muscle and sealed the game on the ground. 

Pass Defense 

Mariota managed to put up solid numbers, throwing for 333 yards and two touchdowns. But the Buckeyes were good when it counted, getting the Heisman Trophy winner and the Ducks' high-powered offense off the field on 10 of their 12 third-down attempts.

The Buckeyes had a busted coverage that allowed Byron Marshall to break open for a 70-yard touchdown early in the third quarter, but that was the only explosive scoring play Ohio State allowed. Mariota was held in check in the second half, completing just six of his 14 pass attempts. 

Marcus Mariota had a hard time finding a groove against Ohio State in the second half.
Marcus Mariota had a hard time finding a groove against Ohio State in the second half.David J. Phillip/Associated Press

Run Defense 

Ohio State's front seven played one of its best games of the season against Oregon. The Ducks came into the game averaging 241.9 rushing yards per game, but they only managed 132 against the Buckeyes.

Oregon uses its tempo in an effort to get opposing defenses out of position, but that just didn't happen against the Buckeyes, who limited the Ducks to a long run of 11 yards on Monday night. No rusher was able to break 65 yards on the ground as Oregon averaged just four yards per carry. 

Special Teams 

Much like Oregon, Ohio State didn't make any impact plays on special teams. Jalin Marshall had a nice 17-yard punt return in the first quarter that set up Ohio State's second score. Two of Cameron Johnston's three punts pinned the Ducks inside their own 15-yard line. Outside of that, there wasn't anything remarkable about Ohio State's special teams.

The Buckeyes were once again solid in kickoff coverage, but that has become the standard for Ohio State this season.


Simply put, Meyer and the Buckeyes outcoached their counterparts on the Oregon sideline. When Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman saw that Cardale Jones was struggling in the second half, they calmly put the game in Elliott's hands—which turned out to be a game-winning decision.

But the defensive staff, led by co-defensive coordinators Luke Fickell and Chris Ash, saved their best game for last. That Ohio State was able to hold Oregon to a season-low 20 points with just 11 days of preparation—following an emotional win over Alabama, to boot—was easily one of the most remarkable coaching jobs of the season.

All stats via NCAA.com.

David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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