Defense leads Buckeyes to Cotton Bowl win
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.
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.