Chase Complete: In New Orleans, Ohio State Topples Alabama

By Patrick Maks on February 7, 2015 at 7:15 am
Urban Meyer after the Sugar Bowl.
Chase Complete: Recapping Ohio State's Improbable Title Run

In New Orleans, in front of a raucous crowd in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Urban Meyer got the best of Nick Saban, his old nemesis, and Ohio State toppled mighty Alabama in the Sugar Bowl to advance to the national championship. 

In the process, the fourth-ranked Buckeyes stunned the top-ranked Crimson Tide, 42-35, and overthrew the overlords of college football. 

  1 2 3 4 F
#4 OHIO STATE  6 14 14 8 42
#1 ALABAMA 14 7 7 7 35

"It was a breakthrough win against an excellent team," Meyer said.

After falling behind, 21-6, in the second quarter, Ohio State rallied to score 28 unanswered points before putting the game away in what was a monumental win over a program that had won three of the last five national titles. 

"Everybody called it a shock to the world, I’m not shocked at all. I really believed in my heart that we were gonna get it done," said redshirt sophomore Tyvis Powell, who pointed to his new Sugar Bowl Champions hat. 

"Which is why I left my Big Ten Championship hat at the house," he continued, "just because I knew I was going to get this new hat.”

Player of the Game: Ezekiel Elliott 

In perhaps his best game as a Buckeye, Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 230 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries. Before his career-outing, no player had ever rushed for 200 or more yards on a Nick Saban-coached Alabama team.

On this night, though, Elliott (who was named the game's Offensive Most Valuable Player) gashed the Crimson Tide's defense over and over, whether it was running over defenders or simply just running away from them. 

"Well, he's probably the most underrated back in the country, and against that defense," Meyer told ESPN in the immediate aftermath of the game, "I'm not sure how many yards he ran for, but it was a lot of yards." 

Before the game, though, Elliott entered as an afterthought. His name was misspelled twice during interviews in the week before the game, legendary running back Emmitt Smith took somewhat of a shot at him

“(He) said before the game there were two great running backs that were going to play tonight,” Elliott said of Crimson Tide running backs T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry. “And they both were for Bama.”

Elliott added: "I felt a little bit left out."

Critical Play of the Game: Elliott's 85-yard run late in the 4th quarter

With a 34-28 lead in tow, Ohio State spent the final act of the Sugar Bowl staving off Alabama.

After the Buckeyes surged ahead in the third quarter, Blake Sims engineered a seven-play, 84-yard drive late in the period that recalibrated the rattled Crimson Tide. Yet against Ohio State's defense, their efforts to regain the lead proved futile. 

With 3:24 to play in the contest, on 1st and 10, Ezekiel Elliott bounced to his left before slicing 85 yards through Alabama's vaunted defense for one last gut punch. 

GIF: Ezekiel Elliott goes for an 85-yard touchdown against Alabama to salt the Sugar Bowl away.

The run sent Ohio State's sideline and fans in the crowd around them into a frenzy. After all, it all but sealed (and, in a way, sort of defined), a monumental win against Alabama.

What It Meant

After the game, Urban Meyer and his family hugged tight as a memorable and jubilant celebration unfolded on the turf of the Superdome. 

Amidst a season filled with season-ending injuries, a devastating and humiliating loss to Virginia Tech and the tragic death of a teammate, Ohio State had reached its final destination. 

“I mean, just to think about, we actually went through the season that we went through and faced all that adversity that we went through and to know that we can actually go play for it all. It’s like a dream come true, because every kid that comes to college wants to play for a national championship," Powell said.

The win vaulted the Buckeyes into the national title game for the first time in 12 seasons. For Meyer, who later admitted he wasn't sure if he'd ever reach college football's biggest stage again after leaving Florida, notched a personal triumph in defeating Saban, who unseated him as the sport's alpha coach five years ago.

The purpose of "The Chase," they said, was to play for a national title. Now all that was left was to go and win one against an Oregon team that had just dismantled Florida State by 39 points in the Rose Bowl.

When Meyer learned this at his postgame press conference, he nearly leaped out of his seat to go watch film of the Ducks. 

"I gotta go," he said, smiling. "We gotta go get ready for that one."

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