Armour: Ohio State makes habit of overcoming adversity – USA TODAY
After winning the National Championship, how will Ohio State look in the 2015 season? USA TODAY Sports’ Nicole Auerbach examines the Buckeyes.
ARLINGTON, Texas — Any time Ohio State got knocked backward this season – and it was often – the Buckeyes came right back.
The injury to Braxton Miller. The loss at Virginia Tech. A Penn State game that, by rights, they should have lost. The injury to J.T. Barrett that forced Ohio State to turn to its third-string quarterback just as the games really started to matter.
Did you really expect, then, that this game would be any different?
On the brink after Oregon scored 13 unanswered points – 10 just off two huge mistakes by Cardale Jones – and had all the momentum going its way, the Buckeyes should have been the ones trudging back to their locker room in unhappy silence Monday night. That, however, is not the Buckeyes way.
Not this year. Not this team.
“It seems like we’ve been through everything,” Ezekiel Elliott said. “It made us who we were.”
Who were they? Underdogs and underestimated.
Who are they now? National champions.
In a most fitting end to a season that can only be explained by sheer grit and resilience, Jones and Elliott accounted for every yard in the 75-yard drive that put Ohio State back in control for good. Jones threw for 29 yards and ran for another 2 while Elliott had 44 yards rushing, including the 9-yard scoring run that made it 28-20.
Elliott added two more touchdowns, four overall on 246 yards rushing, and the Buckeyes rolled to a 42-20 victory in the inaugural College Football Playoff championship. It was Ohio State’s eighth claimed national title and, no doubt, the most improbable of all.
“This team wasn’t supposed to do this, but they fought through adversity,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said, the look on his face part shock, part joy and all pride. “They got stronger and stronger and stronger, and we finished the year a great team.”
“I’ve never seen anything like it.”
No one has.
It was only two years ago that the Buckeyes spent the postseason on their couches, banned after former players were found to have traded memorabilia for cash and tattoos. The scandal cost then-coach Jim Tressel his job, paving the way for Meyer to return to coaching after health concerns forced him to take a year off.
Meyer might be the ultimate turnaround artist, joining Nick Saban as the only coaches to win national titles at two schools. But he’s no witch doctor or miracle worker.
When Miller was lost to a shoulder injury in August, the Buckeyes’ chances of making the inaugural playoff, let alone winning it, seemed improbable. The odds got longer after a loss at Virginia Tech in the second game. Needing double overtime to beat Penn State only reinforced the doubts.
“When the first college playoff rankings came out, we was like, No. 16,” Jones said. “Long story short, we weren’t supposed to be here. All the odds were stacked against us through the whole season.”
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Just as the Buckeyes climbed back into the national conversation, Barrett got hurt. The Buckeyes would play for the Big Ten title with a third-string quarterback, one whose monster talent was trumped only by his immaturity.
But for everything the Buckeyes lacked, they had the only thing they needed: An unshakable belief in and love for one another.
“This is the closest team I’ve ever played with,” safety Tyvis Powell said. “I’ve been playing football since I was 9, and I’ve never been on a team closer than this.”
When you have a bond that strong, nothing can break you. Not facing Michigan State, Alabama and Oregon in your first three starts as a quarterback. Not being blitzkrieged by Oregon to start the game. Not two huge turnovers that sucked the air out of a stadium awash in red.
Let everyone else doubt, the Buckeyes never did.
“Adversity – it’s how you respond to adverse events in your life,” Meyer said. “Our guys have been trained to do it, but it’s not that easy. These guys have great heart for each other. A lot of people say that, but very few back it up. These guys backed it up.”
Adversity makes you stronger. In the Buckeyes’ case, it also made them national champions.