FIRST QUARTER: Fast and furious start

2:39: Time needed by Oregon to score a TD on the opening drive

14: Total plays by the Ducks, on three possessions, after their 11-play scoring drive

0 of 3: How Oregon fared on third down after scoring the touchdown

33, 17: Yards gained by OSU’s Ezekiel Elliott on his TD run, his run to the 1 to set up another score

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Analysis

The first quarter of the first College Football Playoff championship game wasn’t for the faint of heart.

There was plenty of pace, as expected, from Oregon. Yet the Ohio State defense not only made enough plays in the quarter to withstand the Ducks’ brutal speed but also forced three punts and held a seven-point lead and the ball as the quarter ended.

Such a scenario seemed unlikely at the start, especially after Oregon raced down the field on its opening possession, moving 75 yards on 11 plays in barely 21/2 minutes, without facing third down. Only one of the plays went for double-digit yardage, as Oregon picked away 4 to 6 to 8 yards at a time. The touchdown came on Marcus Mariota’s 7-yard pass to Keanon Lowe, in which the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback looked to his right, then headed left and fired a pass to Lowe in the end zone.

Ohio State’s first drive ended in a punt, but the Buckeyes defense then forced Oregon into its first third-down situation — and the Ducks’ throw fell incomplete.

A punt pinned OSU on its 3-yard line, but Cardale Jones threw consecutive 26-yard passes — first to Corey Smith, then to Jalin Marshall — to move the ball to the Oregon 43. Marshall picked up 2 yards, barely, on a fourth-and-2 jet-sweep play, and, two plays later, Ezekiel Elliott put Ohio State on the board with a weaving 33-yard touchdown run.

The Ducks again failed on third down on their next possession, and Ohio State took over on the Oregon 46 after Marshall’s 17-yard punt return. Four plays later, the Buckeyes reached the end zone again, helped by a pass-interference penalty on Oregon’s Troy Hill and Elliott’s 17-yard run to the 1. From there, Jones passed to Nick Vannett for the score in the left flat to make the score 14-7. On its next possession, Oregon faced third down and failed again, giving OSU the ball as the quarter ended.

SECOND QUARTER: What might have been

2, 2: Fumbles and fumbles lost by Ohio State, halting two drives in Oregon territory.

0: Points scored by the Ducks off those turnovers; one drive ended at the OSU 1.

129: Yards passing for Oregon QB Marcus Mariota (11 of 13). Points produced: three.

1 of 2: Oregon in the red zone; stopped at the 1 on fourth down, kicked one field goal.

Analysis

Ohio State took an 11-point lead to the locker room at halftime but, in leaving a couple of footballs on the field, left some points off the scoreboard.

Opening the quarter with the ball, OSU soon moved inside Oregon territory when Cardale Jones converted on third-and-9 with a 17-yard run up the left sideline. Two plays later, though — from the Ducks 39 — Jones and Ezekiel Elliott mishandled an exchange and Alex Balducci recovered the loose ball, returning possession to Oregon.

The Ducks moved smartly downfield behind 20- and 17-yard passes from Marcus Mariota, who finished the first half with 193 passing yards. A first-and-goal at the OSU 10 turned into a fourth-and-goal from the 3, however, and a group of Buckeyes — including Adolphus Washington and Tyvis Powell — gang-tackled Thomas Tyner short of the goal line on fourth down to give OSU the ball again.

The Buckeyes got out of trouble when Elliott ran 26 yards on second down, then got down to business when Jones found Corey Smith on a deep pass. Smith, though, was stripped of the ball by Troy Hill as he fought for more yardage, and Rodney Hardrick recovered at the Oregon 9-yard line to end the drive.

OSU forced a punt, then made it 21-7 with a six-play, 49-yard

scoring drive — the bulk of that coming on Jones’ 45-yard heave to Devin Smith for a first-and-goal at the 6. Jones appeared to score on a second-down run, but video review showed his elbow down inside the 1. He scored on the next play.

Oregon charged back — and finally converted on two third-down plays — to a first-and-10 at the OSU 15. Two running plays netted 6 yards, and on third down Mariota overthrew tight end Evan Baylis, prompting a field-goal try. With 315 yards of offense in the first half, the Buckeyes were in decent shape, but they also knew they had plenty of areas to clean up if they were to hold on.

THIRD QUARTER: Flirting with disaster

2: Turnovers for Ohio State on its first two drives of the quarter (interception, fumble)

10: Points by Oregon after OSU’s miscues, including a 70-yard TD pass

6:39: Time remaining when Buckeyes began the final drive of the quarter

0:00: Time remaining when Ezekiel Elliott punched in for a TD and an eight-point OSU lead

Analysis

For Ohio State, the second half began in much the same way the first half had ended: The Buckeyes kept moving the ball, then giving it away before cashing in for points.

OSU took the opening kickoff and needed only two plays to reach Oregon territory, but on a first-down play from the Ducks 37, Cardale Jones’ pass in the right flat bounced off Jalin Marshall’s hands and directly into the waiting arms of Oregon linebacker Danny Mattingly.

The Ducks needed just one play — and 10 seconds — to close to 21-17 as Mariota lofted a long pass down the middle to Byron Marshall, who was as wide open as a west Texas prairie, for a 70-yard score at the 11:23 mark.

Ohio State played giveaway yet again on its next possession — its fourth turnover in its past six possessions. On a first-down play from the OSU 49, Jones lost his grip on the ball just as he started to throw it out of bounds to avoid a sack. Arik Armstead recovered at the OSU 23 — the first time all game that the Ducks had started a drive on Ohio State’s side of the 50.

Oregon took two plays to get a first down at the 12, but the Buckeyes held tough and on third down Mariota found tight end Evan Baylis in the back of the end zone, but OSU cornerback Eli Apple alertly pushed Baylis out of bounds. Rather than risk another fourth-down stop, coach Mark Helfrich opted for a field goal, pulling Oregon to 21-20 with 6:39 remaining.

Ohio State took the stop as a win, apparently, as it increased its lead with a punishing 12-play drive that consumed the remaining time in the quarter. Ezekiel Elliott did the hard work, carrying six times for 44 yards — including a 9-yard scoring run on a sweep around the left end in which he lowered his shoulder and bulled in for the final yards.

The Buckeyes went to the final quarter having survived Oregon’s best shots and their own mistakes.

FOURTH QUARTER: Finishing school

4: Fruitless possessions by Oregon in the quarter (punt, punt, downs, interception)

47: Oregon’s average points per game, 27 more than the Buckeyes allowed

2: TD runs by OSU’s Ezekiel Elliott as he wrapped up offensive MVP honors

6, 3: Number of national titles for Ohio State, and for Urban Meyer as a coach

Analysis

Ohio State claimed its sixth national championship the hard way — sublime work by the offensive line in the trenches; brilliant running by Ezekiel Elliott, the title game’s offensive MVP with 246 yards rushing; a steady performance by the irrepressible Cardale Jones, a former third-string quarterback making his third career start; and a defensive effort that allowed yards but stiffened when the field shrank in the areas in front of the end zone.

Elliott’s TD run on the final play of the third quarter had made the score 28-20, and the Buckeyes started the fourth quarter by holding Oregon to a one-first-down-and-out, taking over at the OSU 24 with 13:57 remaining.

The ensuing 76-yard scoring drive didn’t cement the outcome but made it abundantly clear that if Oregon was going to come back, it would need more turnovers by Ohio State. The Ducks, after all, were running out of will to stop the Buckeyes.

Jones had two big throws on the drive — 23 yards to Michael Thomas and 19 yards to Jalin Marshall — and Elliott did most of the rest. His 2-yard touchdown run made it 35-20 at the 9:44 mark; and, after OSU held again on Oregon’s next drive, in which Marcus Mariota was briefly rendered groggy after a hit by Joey Bosa, fans of both teams could sense that the national championship was OSU’s.

The Buckeyes could have hammered home the final nail on the next drive, but coach Urban Meyer ignored his players’ pleas and wisely chose to play for field position rather than go for the throat on fourth-and-1 from the Oregon 41. Cameron Johnston’s punt pinned the Ducks at their 15.

Four plays later, Ohio State had the ball again after holding

Oregon on downs. Elliott added his fourth TD with 28 seconds remaining, and, soon, the official celebration began.

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