Buckeyes D Bows Up

Entering the national title game, Oregon was one of the best in the country at turning turnovers into points. Ohio State prevented that Monday.

Entering the CFP National Championship Game, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said that the game, like most big ones, would come down to special teams and turnovers. Monday’s title game did come down to turnovers, but not in the traditional sense. It wasn’t about who committed them, but rather how the Buckeyes responded when they did.

“To have four turnovers and still beat a team like that 42-20, incredible experience,” Meyer said after the win.

Four times the opportunistic Ducks defense capitalized on Ohio State mistakes, but their offense didn’t. The Buckeyes defense prevented Oregon from doing what it had done all season: converting turnovers into points.

Oregon entered the national title game scoring an average of over 5 points on the 30 turnovers they had forced. Against Ohio State, four turnovers resulted in just 10 points.

“We had too many turnovers, but we were able to withstand it just because our defense played, just played their best and they were able to hold them,” right tackle Darryl Baldwin said. “That didn’t really hurt us that bad.

“They were put in some really bad situations and we knew if we wanted to win we couldn’t do that. Unfortunately it happened, but they were able to rally and we rallied and we were just able to wear them down after that.”

After a clean first quarter, Ohio State gave Oregon the ball twice in the second. A Cardale Jones fumble on the Buckeyes first drive of the period set the Ducks up at their 41-yard line, by far their best field position to that point. The Ohio State defense bent but didn’t break, turning Oregon over on downs on fourth and goal.

On the Buckeyes next drive, they were back at it. Corey Smith put the ball on the turf while fighting for extra yards after a 47-yard reception. The Ducks field position wasn’t as good this time as they recovered the ball on their own 9-yard line. The Ohio State defense was even better in their second quick-change situation, forcing a three and out.

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The Buckeye offense answered with a touchdown for a 21-7 lead on the ensuing possession.

“We’ve been faced with adversity all year long, on the field and off the field,” tight end Jeff Heuerman said. “Turnovers are just another example of adversity we had to overcome and we did and it’s truly special.”

In the first half, the Ducks had no points to show for the two turnovers they created.

Safety Tyvis Powell, the team’s leader in tackles and defensive MVP in the championship game, said he was proud of how his unit handled the quick-change situations that they were put in. The fact that the Buckeyes offense had been moving the ball successfully when it wasn’t hitting the turf also gave the defense confidence, he said.

"Just get the ball back," Powell said of the defense’s mindset. "We were excited to get out on the field anytime, and actually we saw that our offense was driving down the field the way we were. They just made little mistakes and turned the ball over. Seeing that, it just made us want to get the ball back."

The Buckeyes defense was not as successful in the second half after turnovers, but they were able to contain Oregon’s high-powered attack.

With an 11-point lead to start the second half, the Buckeyes turned an opportunity to put pressure on the Oregon offense into a tough spot for their own defense. After a ball bounced off the hands of Jalin Marshall and was intercepted by Ducks linebacker Danny Mattingly, Oregon had the ball on their 30. One 70-yard pass from Marcus Mariota to Byron Marshall later and the Ducks were within 21-17.

A Jones fumble on the next drive put the defense in an even worse spot. With the quarterback trying to escape the pocket and throw the ball away he fumbled, giving Oregon the Ball at the Ohio State 23-yard line. The defense bowed up, forcing the Ducks to settle for a 23-yard field goal.

"If you have four turnovers in a national championship game, you should be done," center Jacoby Boren said. "You shouldn't be in the game. Every time we had a turnover, our defense came up big and picked us up and that's what is so special about this team."

On average, the Ducks began drives on their own 39-yard line after turning the Buckeyes over. On its 11 drives that didn’t come after turnovers, Oregon started on its own 18.

Despite being put in tough positions, the Buckeyes defense responded on the biggest stage Monday night, limiting Oregon to 2.5 points per turnover. That’s all the more impressive considering the Ducks scored 34 points on five Florida State turnovers just 11 days before the national title game.

Somehow, the Buckeyes earned a 22-point win in a national championship game despite four turnovers. In that regard, things certainly didn’t go as scripted.

“Any time you talk about the plan to win, you don’t win with four turnovers,” running backs coach Stan Drayton said. “There’s something about this team and the camaraderie and brotherhood. They just persevere. In the face of adversity, we just get better it seems.”

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