De­fense leads Buckeyes to Cot­ton Bowl win

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - NEWS - BY STEPHEN HAWKINS

AR­LING­TON, Texas — The play­off-snubbed Ohio State foot­ball pro­gram got to raise an­other tro­phy in the build­ing where it won a national cham­pi­onship three sea­sons ago.

While the stream­ing con­fetti this time was for a Cot­ton Bowl vic­tory in­stead of a ti­tle cel­e­bra­tion, coach Ur­ban Meyer still got a spe­cial feel­ing from the fifthranked Buckeyes’ de­fen­sively dom­i­nant 24-7 win over No. 8 South­ern Cal­i­for­nia late Fri­day night at AT&T Sta­dium, home of the NFL’s Dal­las Cow­boys.

“The mind­set was ob­vi­ous. We wanted to go down as one of the great teams at Ohio State — Big Ten cham­pi­ons, ob­vi­ously a top-five fin­ish,” said Meyer, who is 73-8 in six sea­sons at Ohio State. “This will go down as one of the best teams I’ve ever coached and one of the best groups of young peo­ple I’ve ever been around.”

With All-Amer­ica ju­nior cor­ner­back Den­zel Ward sit­ting out af­ter de­cid­ing to en­ter the NFL draft, fel­low de­fen­sive back Da­mon Webb re­turned an in­ter­cep­tion for a touch­down for the Buckeyes (12-2) af­ter re­cov­er­ing a fum­ble to set up an early score.

The Big Ten and Pac-12 cham­pi­ons would usu­ally play on New Year’s Day in Pasadena, Calif., in­stead of deep in the heart of Texas, but the Rose Bowl is a Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off semi­fi­nal game this sea­son. No. 2 Ok­la­homa (12-1) and No. 3 Ge­or­gia will meet there, with the win­ner ad­vanc­ing to the Jan. 8 national ti­tle game in At­lanta against the vic­tor from Mon­day’s Sugar Bowl be­tween top-ranked Clem­son (12-1) and No. 4 Alabama (11-1).

This is the fourth sea­son of the four-team play­off, and it was the Buckeyes who won the first ti­tle un­der that for­mat. They were the first team left out this sea­son — due largely to a lop­sided loss at Iowa in Novem­ber af­ter an early set­back against Ok­la­homa — but they quickly set­tled in against USC (11-3) as they re­turned to the site of that cham­pi­onship vic­tory.

The Tro­jans, last sea­son’s Rose Bowl win­ners, lost for just the third time in their past 23 games. They had four turnovers that led to 21 Ohio State points in what might have been red­shirt sopho­more quar­ter­back Sam Darnold’s fi­nal game.

Webb had a fum­ble re­cov­ery on the third play of the game, and it led to J.T. Bar­rett’s 1-yard keeper for a score that put the Buckeyes ahead to stay.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ohio State safety Da­mon Webb (7) runs an in­ter­cep­tion in for a touch­down in front of cor­ner­back Ken­dall Sh­effield (8) dur­ing the first half of the Cot­ton Bowl on Fri­day in Ar­ling­ton, Texas.

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