NEW ORLEANS, La. (WIAT) – Led by a quarterback making his second career start, the Ohio State Buckeyes did what very few people said they would do – topple the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide.
The Buckeyes defeated the Crimson Tide 42-35 in the Sugar Bowl, despite a comeback attempt in the final two minutes from the Blake Sims-led Crimson Tide offense.
“I’ll tell you, I love these players, man. This is a group of guys ‑‑ we played awful at times,” said Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer. “We put our defense ‑‑ we didn’t play Ohio State football that we preach and that’s field position. And we overcame it with some excellent efforts, which you have to do at times, like the guys next to me.”
Alabama led 21-6 midway through the second quarter, but the Buckeyes were resilient. Quarterback Cardale Jones gashed the Crimson Tide secondary, taking advantage of a weakness in Alabama’s defense many teams tried to exploit throughout the 2014 season.
Meyer’s Buckeye squad gave Alabama fits all night on third down, converting numerous third and longs and keeping the Alabama defense on the field for 78 plays.
“Probably the most plays we’ve played all season in one game and, you know, we got kind of tired, got gassed and they wore us down,” said Alabama safety Nick Perry.
Ohio State converted 10 of 18 third downs on the night, while Alabama’s offense was only 2 of 13.
“They hurt us on third down, lots of times on third and longs and converted, and we didn’t do very well on third down, so we didn’t continue drives,” said Alabama head coach Nick Saban. “They were able to continue driving and convert scores, (especially) when we were ahead 21‑6.”
Ohio State’s win sets up a Jan. 12 showdown against the Oregon Ducks in the inaugural College Football Playoff Championship Game. The Ducks knocked off defending champion Florida State 59-20 Thursday afternoon.
For Alabama, the loss is a bitter end for a team that excelled despite the expectation that they would not. Fifth-year senior quarterback Blake Sims won the starting job over Jake Coker and led an Alabama offense that looked rejuvenated under offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin.
After the game, Sims, who was 22-of-36 through the air for 237 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions, took the responsibility for the loss, something he’s been quick to do any time the Alabama offense has struggled this season.
“It was all on me. I take full responsibility for everything that happened tonight. It was no other person’s fault but mine,” Sims said.
But as has been the tune all season long, Sims’ teammates sang his praises and took up for Sims despite his willingness to shoulder the responsibility for the loss.
“(Sims) did a fantastic job at what he’s been doing. He played his heart out. As the quarterback we look up to him, and, man, all hands down to him. I love my quarterback to death,” said safety Landon Collins.
In the end, the struggles were not all Sims’ fault. Junior wide receiver Amari Cooper was bottled up for a good portion of the game.
“From what I heard from some sideline reports, every time (Blake Sims) looked at me, a safety would run full speed over there, got a little bit of double coverage,” Cooper said.
Derrick Henry led the Tide in rushing with 97 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. Freshman JK Scott punted the ball seven times with a 55-yard average, pinning the Buckeyes inside the 20-yard line on five occasions.
Scott’s 73-yard punt was a career-long.
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