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Defense Carries Buckeyes to Victory

Photos: Michael Lark via News4usOnline | News Release via Goodyear Cotton Bowl

Defense Carries Buckeyes to Victory

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Press Release:

It was a warm and winning welcome back to Texas for J.T. Barrett and the Ohio State Buckeyes. With the 82nd Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic as the occasion, Barrett returned to his home state and the fifth-ranked Buckeyes returned to the site of their 2015 College Football Playoff National Championship using an opportunistic defensive effort to notch a 24-7 win over No. 8 USC in front of 67,510 fans at AT&T Stadium Friday night.

Barrett, who rushed for two touchdowns on the night, attended high school in Wichita Falls, Texas, just over two hours from the metroplex. The Buckeyes claimed the inaugural CPF title in Arlington three years ago, on January 12, 2015.

In what was just each teams’ second appearance in the Classic, Ohio State (12-2, 8-1 Big Ten East) snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Trojans (11-3, 8-1 Pac-12 South).

The Buckeye defense forced and recovered three fumbles, notched a pick-six, totaled eight sacks and held USC to 1-4 in red-zone score chances.

All first half touchdowns were the result of turnovers from both teams with Ohio State cashing in for three TDs courtesy of two fumbles and an interception and USC using a special teams mishap by the Buckeyes for its score.

The Buckeyes recorded a turnover in the Trojans’ opening drive of both the first and second quarter, using a forced fumble to take an early 7-0 lead and a pick-six to later go up 17-0. OSU would cap its first half scoring by turning another fumble recovery into a touchdown for a total of 21 points off takeaways in the first half.

On USC’s opening drive of the game, sophomore cornerback Kendall Sheffield dislodged what would have been a first down reception by Deonta Burnett. Damon Webb scooped up the loose ball, putting the Buckeyes on the USC 19 and leading to a J.T. Barrett one-yard rush touchdown just over a minute later.

After opening the second quarter with a 26-yard field goal to extend their lead to 10-0, the Buckeyes turned around and found the end zone 13 seconds later as Webb intercepted Sam Darnold on the first play of USC’s drive, going 23 yards into the end zone for OSU’s first pick-six of the season and eighth since the start of 2016, the most in the FBS. Webb, who had the game-clinching interception for the Buckeyes in the Big Ten Championship game, recorded the first pick-six in a Cotton Bowl contest since 2009 and the only one since the Classic moved to AT&T Stadium.

Up 17-0, the Buckeye defense wasn’t done yet. With the Trojans threatening at the USC 23-yard line, a Darnold sack on third and 5 resulted in another fumble, this one recovered by junior linebaker Jerome Baker. Taking over at the USC 41, Barrett and Co. seized the opportunity again as the senior QB rushed 28 yards for a score to push OSU’s advantage to 24-0 with 5:23 remaining in the half.

The Trojans would get on the board thanks to a muffed fumble by OSU late in the second quarter. Taking over on the OSU 15, USC would use three plays and a one-yard Ronald Jones rush TD to avoid the first-half shutout.

While the second half didn’t see any scoring, the Ohio State defense continued its presence. USC was held to three-and-out on two occasions and kept off the scoreboard despite three trips into OSU territory.  The Buckeyes forced another fumble on a Darnold sack to take over with 8:04 remaining and tallied three sacks on USC’s final drive of the game.

With 114 passing yards, 66 rush yards and two rush touchdowns, Barrett was named the J. Curtis Stanford Offensive MVP award. With his pick-six, fumble recovery and five total tackles, Webb earned the McKnight Trophy as the defensive player of the game.

After claiming a national championship and a Cotton Bowl Classic in AT&T Stadium in the span of three years, the Buckeyes return to Arlington in 2018, facing TCU on September 18.


Dallas Sports Fanatic Co-Owner and credentialed media writer and photographer covering the Dallas Mavericks, Dallas Stars, Dallas Wings, FC Dallas and college football

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