In a season defined by its resiliency, Ohio State wasn't about to let four turnovers stop it from winning the national championship.
Ezekiel Elliott ran for 246 yards and four touchdowns, the defense limited the impact of those giveaways and the Buckeyes rolled to an impressive 42-20 victory over Oregon in the first ever College Football Playoff National Championship.
Running behind an offensive line that absolutely dominated the trenches, Elliott displayed vision and power on his way to his third straight 200-yard game. He set a championship record before the end of the third quarter, per ESPN Stats & Info:
Third-string quarterback—by definition, not talent level—Cardale Jones was also thoroughly impressive. Making just his third career start, he tallied 242 passing yards, 38 rushing yards and two total touchdowns, leading the Buckeyes to 538 total yards and a spot in college football history.
While Ohio State's skill players were the stars of the show, former NFL scout John Middlekauff noted the importance of the big boys up front:
It was a long, winding road for the Buckeyes, who lost to Virginia Tech in September and were written off several times during the season. Head coach Urban Meyer, who now has a strong case as the best coach in America, talked about his team's improvement, via Eleven Warriors:
For the Ducks, Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota threw for 333 yards and two touchdowns, capturing yet another individual milestone in the process:
But while Oregon compiled 465 total yards, it turned four red-zone trips into just 13 points and failed to take advantage of the Buckeyes' offensive mistakes.
Oregon began the game with a drive that epitomized its efficient attack: 11 plays, 75 yards, just over two and a half minutes and seven points.
Yahoo Sports gave us an idea of the breakneck speed behind the touchdown march:
But while that drive perfectly encapsulated what Oregon is all about, the rest of the first half was very atypical of Mark Helfrich's squad. Plagued by a pair of drops on third down, the Ducks were forced into three punts in the first quarter.
Not only was that more than its total in the national semifinal, but it was the most in an opening frame from Oregon in five years, per ESPN Stats & Info:
On the other side of the ball, the Buckeyes strung together three unanswered touchdown drives. Elliott was key on the first two, exploding through Oregon's defense for a 33-yard score, then bruising his way to a 17-yard gain to set up the second score.
The Columbus Dispatch's Bill Rabinowitz noted the sophomore's new place in school history, while NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah offered a comparison:
The real star of the half, though, was Jones, who used his mobility, power and unbelievable arm strength to connect on a handful of big plays and pace the Buckeyes to a 21-10 lead at the break.
As ESPN Stats & Info pointed out, it was rare production against Oregon:
The Buckeyes entered the game undefeated when holding a double-digit advantage in the second half under Urban Meyer, but turnovers quickly allowed Oregon back into the game.
Jones was intercepted when a Jalin Marshall drop landed right in the breadbasket of Danny Mattingly, and on the following possession, the sophomore QB did his best impression of Jameis Winston:
Oregon, after wasting a pair of takeaways in the first half, turned those two into 10 points, cutting the deficit to 21-20. But that's as close as the Ducks would get.
The Buckeyes went right back to Elliott on the subsequent possession, feeding him six times as part of a 75-yard touchdown drive that ate nearly seven minutes off the clock.
Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman put the explosive running back's unbelievable postseason production into perspective:
Ohio State's defense held the Ducks to 38 yards on 12 plays in the fourth quarter, the offense continued to grind the ball on the ground and Elliott added and exclamation mark in the final minute.
Bill Hancock, the CFP executive director, reiterated that the selection committee knows what it's doing, per Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports:
The Ducks have little reason to hang their heads after this one, and even though they now likely face the unenviable task of replacing one of the most efficient signal-callers in college football history, they'll surely be back in playoff contention in 2015.
But they—and the rest of the country—will be chasing Ohio State.
The Buckeyes have three potential All-American quarterbacks to choose from. They return Elliott, a Heisman candidate himself, and defensive end Joey Bosa, a potential No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft. They also can expect Vonn Bell, Eli Apple, Darron Lee and Jalin Marshall, among others, to be back in uniform. They have Meyer the helm.
In other words, Ohio State's best is yet to come.