There have been the second-start mistakes you’d expect from a third-string quarterback, but Cardale Jones has made the plays necessary on the ground and through the air to keep Ohio State within 21-20 of No. 1 Alabama through one half of the Sugar Bowl.
After notching field goals on its first two possessions, Ohio State fell into the danger zone down 21-6 midway through the second quarter, but closed the half with consecutive scores to pull within one. First, Ezekiel Elliott punched in a two-yard plunge with 2:55 to play before the break, and then wide receiver Evan Spencer hit Michael Thomas for a 13-yard scoring strike with 12 seconds left on the clock.
Elliott has gashed the Tide front with 12 carries for 117 yards, and Jones – wobbly early – has completed 13-of-24 passes for 168 yards with an interception and rushed eight times for 39 yards. Overall, Ohio State has rushed for 167 yards (Alabama allows 89 a game, best in the nation before today), out-gained Alabama 348-139, posted a 16-8 first downs edge and converted 7-of-10 third downs, compared to Alabama’s 1-for-6.
Alabama scored two of its three touchdowns on short fields thanks to Ohio State turnovers – an Elliott fumble and Jones’ interception – and put together one 79-yard touchdown drive to accumulate its 21 points, but the Tide’s four other possessions have all gone three-and-out. Blake Sims completed 10-of-14 passes for 60 yards and a touchdown, with six completions, 39 yards and the touchdown going to Amari Cooper. Handling most of the reps for a gimpy T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry has rumbled for 56 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.
Ohio State will receive the ball to open the second half.