Urban Meyer got what he wanted, a victory to conclude a remarkable career at Ohio State as the Buckeyes held on for a 28-23 victory over Washington in Tuesday’s 105th Rose Bowl Game.
Meyer’s No. 6 Buckeyes picked up their 13th win of the season for the first time since they won the national championship in 2014. Under Meyer, Ohio State went 187-32 and were 12-3 in Bowl games. The Buckeyes won their first Rose Bowl under Meyer, the game played in front of 91,853.
Much of the credit for the narrow win over the Huskies goes to Dwayne Haskins, who finished the night with 251 yards passing and three touchdowns, giving him 50 on the season.
Although the game was close in the end, Ohio State jumped out to a 28-3 lead after three periods and seemed to be in control until Washington scored three fourth quarter touchdowns to raise the interest level in the end.
The Huskies final TD came in the last minute of play, but when the Buckeyes pounced on the ensuing onside kick Ohio State finally put the furious comeback to rest.
It also put an exclamation point on Meyer’s final game at Ohio State.
The Buckeye coach was asked about the chances of him returning to the game, but she dismissed the thought saying, “While we enjoy tonight, I don’t believe I’m going to coach again.”
As he looks back on a highly successful career, Meyer talked about how special a win was at the Rose Bowl. “This has been a bucket list. I love all the other bowls, but being a Big Ten guy from Ohio and watching the Rose Bowl in the 70s with Archie Griffin playing, it’s everything everybody says it was. It was a great game and I’ll tell you what, Washington is a hell of a team.”
Meyer gave credit to his good friend Chris Petersen, whose Washington team scratched and crawled back, fighting to the end. “It was, ‘Are you kidding me?’ until we got the onside kick,” said the Buckeye coach. “All credit goes to our opponent and the great defense we faced. Rose Bowl champions, we got our 13th win and time to move on.”
Ohio State struck first, going 77 yards in 11 plays, taking just 2:25 off the first period clock, as Haskins connected with Paris Campbell from 12 yards out, giving the Buckeyes a 7-0 lead.
Washington, going 55 yards in 11 plays, came back to put three points on the board at the 1:19 mark of the first quarter, making it a 7-3 contest at the end of the first quarter.
In their next possession, the Buckeyes took 10 plays to go 75 yards as Haskins found Johnnie Dixon on a 19-yard scoring pass at the 12:23 mark of the second quarter, giving Ohio State a 14-3 lead.
With 14 seconds in the first half, Haskins threw his third touchdown on the day, this one a 1-yarder to the right side finding tight end Rashod Berry as the Buckeyes increased their lead to 21-3 at the break.
On the challenge of playing with a big lead going into the second half, Meyer said: “There’s no challenge. This is the Rose Bowl. We’ve been doing this our whole life. I believe in our players. Their tackling really well right now. That’s what we need to do – tackle.”
Matter-of-factly, Meyer added: “We’re taking care of the ball. You win games when you’re tackling and taking care of the ball.”
On the other side, Petersen said his club needed to stop the run if the Huskies had any chance of making a comeback. “They’re good at running the ball and we know that,” he said at the intermission. “If we make them two-dimensional, it’s tough to defend.”
The Washington coach stressed that it was essential for his team to stay on the field longer offensively over the final two periods and convert more on third down. “We can’t go that quickly – three and out,” stressed Petersen.
Ohio State, which outgained its opponent 272 yards to 109 offensively in the first half, pushed its lead to 28-3 with 8:23 left in the third quarter, taking the ball 80 yards in seven plays, elapsing just 2:02 off the clock, as J.K. Dobbins carried the ball three yards for the only score in the third quarter.
However, the Huskies weren’t done, coming up with a big second half effort.
Washington tried to make a game of it, scoring with 12:17 to go in fourth period when tailback Myles Gaskin flipped the ball over the line of scrimmage for a 2-yard touchdown to tight end Drew Samples, closing the gap to 28-10.
The Huskies inched closer 28-17 with 6:42 to go in the game on a 1-yard run by Gaskin, ending a 5-play, 66-yard drive.
A 2-yard scoring run by Gaskin with 42 seconds in the contest brought it to 28-23, after a 2-point conversion failed. The Buckeye’s Johnnie Dixon sealed the victory when he hauled in the onside kick.
Washington was flirting with pulling off the largest comeback in Rose Bowl history, which was set last year with USC rallied late from 17 down to beat Penn State 52-49.
Washington’s 20 fourth quarter points tied for the fifth most in a Rose Bowl.
The game’s Offensive Most Valuable Player was Haskins (251 yards passing, three TDs) and the Defensive Most Valuable Player was the Buckeye’s Brendon White (eight tackles, two tackles for a loss).
Ohio State’s Parris Campbell, who had 11 catches for 71 yards and a touchdown, became just the fifth Buckeye wide receiver to eclipse 1,000 yards receiving. He also set Ohio State’s sing-season record for receptions, breaking David Boston’s 20-year-old mark.
“Tough one,” said Petersen after the loss. “Very frustrating when you start the first half like we started. I had no idea why. It’s on me. It not these kids. They practiced hard. They’re ready to play. Be we really didn’t play with that edge and that chip that we normally play with, really, just, you know, across the whole squad.”