PASADENA, Calif. — Urban Meyer’s first trip to the ‘Granddaddy of them All’ resulted in an appropriate grand finale.
No. 6 Ohio State turned in a thrilling performance in the 105th Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day to send their head coach out in style, beating No. 9 Washington by a deceiving 28-23 score on a picture-perfect Southern California afternoon to ring in 2019 in style.
Leading the way was Buckeyes quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who could count the contest as a sendoff himself with a looming NFL draft decision awaiting. The redshirt sophomore certainly looked the part of a first-rounder, throwing for 251 yards and three touchdowns against one of the best pass defenses in the country coming in. In addition to making a number of ‘wow’ throws, he found nine different receivers all told from TE Rashod Berry on a short scoring toss on the goal line to Parris Campbell (71 yards, 1 TD) all over the field.
Tailback Mike Weber made the most of his final game in scarlet and gray by rushing for 96 yards as well.
“Today Mike ran the ball really efficiently and got a lot of first downs with him. Opened up the passing game for us, giving us some wide-open lanes and as far as impacting the zone coverage,” said Haskins. “We did a great job picking up some blitzes today, and we had to be efficient.”
The Huskies certainly had their chances as the sun set on the San Gabriel Mountains but never could get over the hump and truly threaten to make it a close one. Jake Browning failed to extend his record for wins by a Pac-12 signal-caller but did what he could, scrambling often to extend plays while throwing for 313 yards and giving way to fellow senior Myles Garrett in both the passing game (one TD pass off a jump throw) and the run game with 121 yards and two more scores to close out his career.
Though UW’s offense failed to find the end zone enough, their defense continued to battle from start to finish and sacked Haskins three times. It was a solid effort overall that made things closer than expected as the fourth quarter clock ticked away and was even more impressive considering safety Taylor Rapp missed the action with a reported hip injury and linebacker DJ Beavers went down with a leg injury in the first half among other issues.
Still, it wasn’t quite what the throngs of purple and gold-clad fans were hoping for this season after College Football Playoff talk gave way to a Pac-12 title but also four losses on the year. The program’s first trip to the Rose Bowl since 2001 is still not a bad consolation prize but it’s clear that Chris Petersen doesn’t quite have Washington back among the national elite just yet on Montlake.
“Tough one. Very frustrating when you start the first half like we started. I had no idea why. It’s on me. It’s not these kids,” said Petersen. “They practiced hard. They’re ready to play. But we really didn’t play with that edge and that chip that we normally play with, really, just, you know, across the whole squad.”
All eyes were on his opposite number Tuesday however, who will leave the game (for now) with a 187-32 overall record — and 83-9 at Ohio State with a national title — that will put him just behind historical greats like Knute Rockne and Frank Leahy in terms of overall winning percentage. It was the final victory though, in Meyer’s first and only appearance at the greatest of all bowl games, that will surely be cherished unlike any other.
“What an up-and-down year,” remarked a visibly relieved Meyer as he savored his final few minutes in charge. “(The players) gave us their very best. Big Ten Division champs, Big Ten champs, Rose Bowl champs, and one of the great teams in Ohio State history.
“This has always been very personal. I’m from the great state of Ohio and I’m very proud of my state. I’ve been a Buckeye fan as long as I can remember.”
It was a trying final campaign in Columbus for both coach and program but the sweet taste of victory and roses will be the final one for Meyer and the Buckeyes to savor.