Arlington, TX (SportsNetwork.com) – A chant of “Zeke” reverberated around AT&T Stadium before Ezekiel Elliott powered into the end zone for his fourth and final touchdown.
The Ohio State Buckeyes are back on top.
They can thank the inaugural College Football Playoff for that.
Elliott ran for 246 yards, totaling over 200 for a third straight game, and Ohio State won its first national championship since 2002 with a 42-20 victory over Oregon in the CFP National Championship Game on Monday night.
“I’m not shy about the love I have about this great state,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. “To bring a national title to the great state of Ohio, it’s almost surreal.”
The Buckeyes snuck into the final four of the CFP committee’s final rankings on Dec. 7 after not being included in any of their previous unveilings.
Their vaulting into the No. 4 spot came a day after Elliott gained 220 yards and two scores in Ohio State’s 59-0 shutout win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game.
The Buckeyes then went out and silenced their critics in the Sugar Bowl when Elliott ran for 230 yards and two more touchdowns in their 42-35 win over top- seeded Alabama.
“He’s one of the best post-contact yard guys I’ve ever been around,” Meyer said of Elliott.
Elliott put the final stamp on the stunning title run Monday night.
After the Ducks pulled within a point in the third quarter, Elliott ran for a trio of scores to lift Ohio State to its sixth national championship.
“We knew that our o-line was bigger and more physical than their d-line,” Elliott said. “They paved the way for me.”
The emergence of the sophomore Elliott took the pressure off Cardale Jones, who was making his third career start. Jones, of course, took over at quarterback following the injuries to Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett.
Jones was 16-of-23 for 242 yards with a touchdown and an interception and added 38 yards rushing and a score for Ohio State, which won despite turning the ball over four times.
Heisman trophy winner Marcus Mariota was 24-of-37 for 333 yards and two touchdowns to go with a pick for the No. 2 Ducks, who routed Florida State 59-20 in the Rose Bowl to reach the title game.
“It’s tough to go out with a loss,” Mariota said. “They just out- executed us for a couple more quarters.”
Mariota also carried the ball 10 times for 39 yards, Byron Marshall caught eight passes for 169 yards and a score and Thomas Tyner ran for 62 yards on 12 totes in defeat.
“I love this guy and will forever,” Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said of Mariota. “The impact that he’s had on the field is significant, but off the field even bigger.”
After failing to capitalize on a pair of Ohio State miscues in the first half, the Ducks were able to post 10 points on the Buckeyes’ first two turnovers of the third quarter.
The Buckeyes committed their third turnover on the opening series of the second half. The ball popped off the hands of Jalin Marshall after Ohio State moved the ball into Oregon territory, and an alert Danny Mattingly was there to pick it off.
Mariota fired a 70-yard TD pass to a wide-open Byron Marshall on the very next play to trim the gap to 21-17.
Elliott darted up the middle for two yards to move the chains on a 4th-and-1, but Jones lost the ball on the next snap when the ball slipped out of his hand as he rolled right. Aidan Schneider hit a 23-yard field goal to whittle the deficit to 21-20 midway through the third quarter.
Ohio State, though, responded by pounding the ball with Elliott.
He carried it six times for 44 yards on its ensuing touch, finishing off the 12-play sequence with a bruising 9-yard TD run off the left edge to up the Buckeyes’ margin to 28-20 on the final play of the third.
The Buckeyes’ defense then forced a three-and-out and Elliott was back at it again.
Jones zipped a 19-yard completion to Jalin Marshall over the middle and Elliott barreled in from two yards out to make it 35-20 at the 9:44 mark of the fourth.
Joey Bosa drove Mariota’s shoulder to the turf on a first down play and the signal caller had to exit for a snap. Jake Fisher was flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and Tyrell Crosby was whistled for a false start to make matters worse.
It was 3rd-and-26 when Mariota re-entered the game and he hit Dwayne Stanford for a pickup of 19 yards, and Helfrich elected to punt.
Mariota’s 4th-and-11 pass fell incomplete on the Ducks’ next touch and Elliott powered in from a yard out with 28 ticks on the clock to cap the scoring.
Earlier, the Buckeyes put up 21 straight points after Oregon scored a touchdown on its opening drive. Ohio State found the end zone on consecutive possessions late in the first quarter after punting on its initial series.
Jones fired a 26-yard strike on a 3rd-and-8 to Corey Smith, then rolled left and tossed another 26-yard completion to Jalin Marshall. Jalin Marshall prolonged the drive when he fought for the first-down marker after going in motion and receiving a pop pass from Jones on a 4th-and-2. Elliott then zoomed through the secondary off the left side of the line for a 33-yard touchdown that tied the game at 7-7.
Marshall returned a punt 17 yards to the Oregon 46 and Elliott later barreled to the 1 following a 17-yard run. Jones flipped a 1-yard TD pass to Nick Vannett in the left flat with 1:08 left in the first quarter.
After a rolling Jones lofted a 43-yard completion to Devin Smith on a 3rd- and-12 in the second quarter, he snuck in from a yard out three plays later for a 21-7 Buckeyes advantage with 4:49 to go in the half.
Schneider nailed a 28-yard field goal in the final minute to get the Ducks within 21-10.
The Ducks, who turned the ball over just 10 times during the regular season, had a pair of close calls on their opening drive.
Tyner lost the football after dashing through a huge hole off right guard, but it bounced right back to him and he gained 12 yards. Mariota later fumbled when he picked his way for seven yards on a scramble, but a replay showed that his knee was down.
Mariota then capped the initial 11-play, 75-yard march when he eluded pressure, stepped up in the pocket and hit Keanon Lowe for a 7-yard score.
Oregon’s first half was defined by miscues. Mariota’s first two incompletions were third-down drops and the Ducks were not able to capitalize on a pair of Ohio State fumbles.
The aggressive Ducks elected to go for it on a 4th-and-goal from the OSU 3 following a fumbled exchange between Jones and Elliott, but the Buckeyes stuffed Tyner at the 1. Oregon then went three-and-out after recovering a Corey Smith fumble following a 47-yard reception.
Meyer won his third national title and first with the Buckeyes. He became the second head coach to win national championships at two different schools, joining Nick Saban … Elliott carried the ball 36 times, averaging 6.8 yards per carry … The Ducks fell to 0-2 in national championship games. They fell in the 2010 title game to Auburn … Oregon was without freshman receiver Darren Carrington, who failed an NCAA administered drug test prior to the game … Ohio State outgained Oregon 538-465 … The Buckeyes were 8-of-15 on third down, while the Ducks finished 2-of-12.