The Buckeyes joined the Ducks in the final with a 42-35 victory over Alabama in Thursday’s Allstate Sugar Bowl.
After trailing 21-6 midway through the second quarter, Ohio State scored 36 points to Alabama’s 14 as the Tide’s defense couldn’t stop the Buckeyes’ rushing attack.
The dagger came with 3:24 remaining as Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott ripped off an 85-yard touchdown run to give the Buckeyes a 42-28 lead after a two-point conversion pass.
Alabama had a chance late in the game thanks to some curious playcalling by Ohio State, but quarterback Blake Sims’ Hail Mary pass toward the end zone ended up in the arms of safety Tyvis Powell as time expired.
The Tide scored a touchdown to bring the game within seven points with 1:50 to go and, with two timeouts remaining, attempted an onside kick. It failed, but Ohio State, sensing a chance to kill the game off, called a pass play on first down. Jones had receiver Evan Spencer in man coverage on the outside, but the pass fell incomplete, giving Alabama what essentially amounted to a free timeout.
“You start questioning why we threw that ball,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. “It was my call to throw it down the field. And you’re going to not gain a yard anyways against very good players, they’re playing zero coverage. Everyone is within two yards of the line of scrimmage and it was my call.So, maybe it wasn’t the right call.
“So, I just kept thinking I screwed this thing up.”
Two running plays later, Ohio State was forced to punt with 1:39 remaining. However, Alabama’s chances of getting down the field were quickly extinguished when the first two plays of its drive took 45 seconds.