Buckeyes' Elliott and his linemen star with title on line
ARLINGTON, Texas — If anybody's looking for an early Heisman Trophy favorite for next season, look no further than Zeke.
He's already locked up the voting bloc called the Slobs.
Tailback Ezekiel Elliott, known as Zeke to his teammates, had 246 yards on 36 carries and scored four touchdowns. And the "slobs" — the offensive linemen's both affectionate and accurate name for themselves — dominated up front as the Buckeyes ran over, around and through Oregon 42-20 on Monday night to capture the national championship.
Coach Urban Meyer sang the alma mater with his family and then was asked about the job Elliott and his line did.
"That was one of the great performances in college football history to do what they did," he said. "In history."
The championship was the first for Ohio State and the much maligned Big Ten in a dozen years.
"This is just a surreal moment. We finally did it," Elliott said. "This is why we all came here, to compete and win national championships. We did it."
The sophomore piled up an incredible 696 yards — averaging almost 9 yards a carry — in his last three games against defenses representing three of the best teams in the land.
"Phenomenal," said Carlos Hyde, who played in front of Elliott a year ago before jumping to the NFL. "That was one of the best games by a running back has ever had to play in a national championship game."
And the line — with four of five new starters at the outset of the season — continued its powerful play, creating big holes for Elliott and buying time for quarterback Cardale Jones to find receivers or take off on a bruising run.
"The o-line had to raise their level of play," tackle Taylor Decker said. "You know, (Elliott) has always been the same guy, he's always run like that. It's easy to block for a guy that runs that hard and is just not going to be denied."
They call themselves the Slobs because they hang out together, like nothing more than scarfing down a couple of pizzas and will probably never appear on the cover of GQ. No one was more pleased with the line's play than another old lineman, Orlando Pace, a former Ohio State and NFL star who beamed while the team celebrated on the field.
"The improvement in the offensive line was one of the biggest differences in this team this year," he said. "They got better week in and week out. To take control against Alabama like they did in the last game and then pound Oregon tonight, I'm really proud of them."
Ohio State trailed 7-0 when Elliott and his blockers helped turn things around. On second and 10 at the Oregon 33, Elliott raced away from a possible tackler at the line and then outran the Ducks secondary for the touchdown. The score not only electrified the thousands of Ohio State fans at AT&T Stadium, it was a sign that the Buckeyes planned on being in this for the long haul.
Behind the Slobs, Elliott was far from done.
Ohio State forged a 14-7 lead after forcing another punt by the Ducks. Elliott accounted for exactly half of the yards on the 46-yard drive, including a 17-yard burst to the Oregon 1 that set up Jones' 1-yard TD toss to Nick Vannett.
Despite four turnovers, Ohio State remained in control for most of the game — thanks to the muscle up front and the power in the backfield.
After Oregon pulled to a 21-20 deficit Elliott and Co. took over again.
On the last play of the third period, Elliott powered over two tacklers at the goal line on a 9-yard touchdown run that helped the Buckeyes staunch the Ducks' momentum. He then covered the final 2 yards for another touchdown that gave Ohio State some breathing room, 35-20 at 9:44 of the final period before putting a cherry on top in the final minute with a 1-yard burst.
It's hard to fathom how far the line and the running game have come. The Buckeyes rushed for 194 yards (on 40 carries) in the comeback win against Navy to open the season, and then they looked dismal with just 108 yards on 40 carries in the 35-21 loss to Virginia Tech in Week Two.
In 40 carries in his previous two games, Elliott went for 450 yards — 220 yards on 20 carries in a 59-0 rout of Wisconsin and 230 on 20 in a 42-35 win over top-ranked Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
He saved the best for last.
"We knew that our o-line was bigger and more physical than their d-line," Elliott said. "We just had to punch them in the mouth."