Arlington, Texas — These short takes are presented as a companion to the Ohio State-Oregon game column, which can be found here. Ohio State won 42-20.
1. Ezekiel Elliott is indeed a big wheel. When in doubt, the Buckeyes simply handed the ball to the man known to Ohio State fans as “Zeke.” His 85-yard burst broke open the Sugar Bowl win over Alabama, and against Oregon he rushed for 246 yards and four touchdowns. His first score — a 33-yard scoot up the middle — tied the game at 7, and his rushes after the Ducks had closed within 21-20 in the third quarter reclaimed the game for Ohio State. He carried six times for 44 yards on the drive that made it 28-20, and he rushed four times for 20 yards on the next possession, which made it 35-30.
2. The Buckeyes don’t exactly shut opponents down, but their defense gets off the field. Oregon, which entered with the nation’s No. 3 offense, converted twice on 12 third downs. In the Sugar Bowl, Alabama had converted three times on 13 third downs. The Ducks still managed 465 yards Monday, but they were hard yards. Marcus Mariota had averaged 10.1 yards per pass attempt — that’s essentially a first time every time he threw, regardless of whether it was completed — during the season’s first 14 games. Against the Buckeyes, Mariota averaged 9 yards per attempt. (A subtle difference, yes, but a big one.) And the game’s biggest moment came when the Buckeyes held Oregon to a field goal, allowing Ohio State to keep the lead, after Cardale Jones fumbled in the third quarter.
3. Mark Helfrich coached an odd game. He had Oregon go for a touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the 3 in the second quarter with the Ducks trailing 14-7. (Thomas Tyner was halted by Vonn Bell, the safety from Ridgeland High in Rossville, Ga.) Inside the game’s final eight minutes, Helfrich ordered a punt on fourth-and-7 from the Ducks’ 26 and his team trailing 35-20. Why, if you have the nation’s No. 3 offense, do you put the game in the hands of the nation’s No. 84 defense — a defense that had already yielded 507 yards?