Dallas, TX – Perhaps a college bowl game with no playoff ramifications has never been quite so compelling on paper.
The Buckeyes were the victors and proudly touted the Scovell Trophy. The final score of 24-7 left an audience of 67,510 with much to be desired from the 82nd Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic.
USC, winners of the Pac-12 Conference this season entered the Cotton Bowl Classic slotted No. 8.
Ohio State won the Big 10 Conference and entered the bowl game as No. 5.
The first half was completely dominated by Ohio State, although USC boasted better total yard statistics. While Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett completed five of his nine pass attempts in the first half for a total of only 75 yards, he added 67 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. Despite two turnovers, Ohio State limited the Trojans to just one scoring run.
Both USC and Ohio State entered Friday tonight’s competition with convincing records of 11-2. Neither team impressed the College Football Playoff selection committee enough to make the playoff.
Still, a USC and Ohio State battle promised to be an interesting matchup of two storied college teams. Surprisingly, this game lacked a great deal of big play flair. Fans for both teams packed AT&T Stadium in anticipation of a high scoring affair and several deep route completions, especially with Ohio State All-American cornerback Denzel Ward electing to skip the bowl game. Ward will forgo his final season and enter the NFL Draft.
The score at halftime was 24 – 7. The score with minutes remaining in the final quarter was still 24 – 7.
USC quarterback Sam Darnold’s first half numbers were completely deceptive. Darnold passed for 170 yards, but was under pressure much of the first half. The Trojan offensive line didn’t do its best job protecting the quarterback, resulting in three first half sacks.
The most consistent dynamic was the Ohio State run defense and their pressure on the quarterback.
“We’ve got the best D-Line coach in America and he had them ready to rock and roll,” said Ohio State Coach Urban Meyer, “You saw what I saw – if you don’t let him (the quarterback) set his feet you have a chance.”
Barrett’s second half statistics didn’t vary much from the first half; however, he did break a total offensive yardage record previously held by Drew Brees. At the midpoint of the final quarter, Barrett had 12,701 total offensive yards for his career.
In dissecting the statistics of this game, the outcome doesn’t add up. Barrett passed for only 114 yards and his team won. Darnold passed for 356 yards and his team only scored a single rushing touchdown.
Someone had to want it more for the entirety of the ballgame. USC struggled to play catch-up from the initial quarter. Even some of their most advantageous passes and spectacular receptions resulted in non-scoring drives. There was just no making up for the turnovers.
“Whenever you turn the ball over that much – it’s hard to win games,” said Darnold.
Before tonight’s game, the Trojans were 5–3 in bowl matchups against the Buckeyes. There were indeed several opportunities for USC to make a comeback, but turnovers and the inability to convert on key third downs made the game fairly easy for Ohio State.