ARLINGTON, Texas -- Ohio State overcame four turnovers and a Heisman Trophy winner Monday night in a 42-20 win over Oregon for the first College Football Playoff championship.
And Ezekiel Elliott might have made himself the most high-profile running back in college football for 2015.
Elliott stole the offensive show from the Ducks' Heisman winner, Marcus Mariota, in rushing for 246 yards and four touchdowns on 36 carries. Between that and some timely passes from quarterback Cardale Jones, the Buckeyes' improbable three-game success story, Ohio State piled up more than enough offense to keep Mariota off the field for much of the game.
"When you have (Elliott) being as fast and physical as he is and then you trump that with a 200-whatever-he-is, 255-, 260-pound quarterback, those are three pretty good hammers when you add in the fly-sweep game and some of the other stuff that they're able to do," Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said. "But (Elliott) is an exceptional player, as is their offensive line."
Mariota completed 24 of 37 passes for 333 yards, but never found enough rhythm to get Oregon's vaunted offense in high gear. The Ducks defense came up with four turnovers -- three on fumbles and an interception by Jones -- but scored just one touchdown off them.
"The chase is complete. These guys accepted their final mission and did it," Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. "It was our final mantra the past few weeks and I'm very grateful for the work these guys put in."
After Oregon breezed to a touchdown on its opening drive -- the Ducks never faced a third down on the series -- Ohio State wasted little time establishing itself offensively. Elliott broke a 33-yard touchdown run to tie the game 7-7, and keyed a go-ahead touchdown drive with a 17-yard run to the Oregon 1-yard line. With 220 yards in the Big Ten title game against Wisconsin, 230 in the CFP semifinal against Alabama, and another 246 against the Ducks, Elliott made the postseason his personal platform to establish himself as one of the elite rushers returning to the college game in 2015. The sophomore hasn't been held to less than 100 yards since the Buckeyes' 31-24 win over Minnesota Nov. 15.
Perhaps more importantly, however, Ohio State found a rhythm on defense, as well.
The last six of Oregon's seven first-half possessions yielded more punts (four) than points (three), plus a turnover on downs at the Ohio State goal line. It was certainly no fault of Mariota, who completed 18 of 23 passes for 193 yards and no turnovers in the first half.
Two Buckeyes turnovers in the first half -- one forced on a strip, the other unforced on a botched handoff -- prevented the Buckeyes from mounting what could have been an imposing halftime lead. The Ducks drove inside the OSU 10 before settling for a short field goal before the half, closing the gap to 21-10.