Meyer: Surreal to bring national title home to Ohio

Tight end Jeff Heuerman had confetti eyebrows. Pieces of gold confetti stuck to his face in the strangest places during the maelstrom of Ohio State’s celebration.

On the podium with the rest of the offensive linemen, as they watched coach Urban Meyer hoist the national championship trophy, Pat Elflein opened his mouth and tried to catch pieces of confetti as if he were a kid trying to snag a snowflake with his tongue.

Tyvis Powell conducted a postgame interview in the locker room wearing a national champion hat that would cost fans buying them on the way out of the stadium $40. As he spoke, confetti leaked out of the back of the hat.

Everywhere the Buckeyes looked, everywhere they walked, all they saw in the aftermath of their 42-20 victory over Oregon on Monday at AT&T Stadium was confetti.

“We knew if we won, the confetti would be unlimited,” said hybrid back Jalin Marshall, a Middletown High School graduate who caught five passes for 52 yards. “It happened. It was a dream come true.”

The College Football Playoff must have spent a small fortune — and it has a big one: it’s getting approximately $500 million per year from ESPN alone — just to shoot small pieces of paper in the air to create some great photo opportunities. It worked. There was no shortage of memorable moments as Ohio State celebrated its first national title in 12 years, a victory that placed it at the top of the final Associated Press poll that came out Tuesday.

Joey Bosa rested his head against the head of the game’s offensive MVP, Ezekiel Elliott, as they hugged during the trophy presentation. They looked like two guys who had just survived a 15-game season, the first in school history, and lived to tell about it.

Numerous players lay on the turf and did snow angels in the confetti. One player even slid across the confetti as if it were a slip-and-slide.

The Buckeyes celebrated as if a weight had been lifted off their shoulders. They’re expected to win national titles. It had happened only once at Ohio State in the previous 40 years. The Buckeyes were due.

Numerous times this season, it didn’t look as if this would be the year. The Buckeyes overcame every manner of obstacle and distraction — injuries, an early-season loss at home and even the death of walk-on Kosta Karageorge — on the way to their eighth national championship.

“It means a lot because going back to August around camp, everybody counted us out when (Braxton Miller) went down,” said quarterback Cardale Jones, who completed 16-of-23 passes for 242 yards and a touchdown in his third start, “and then when the first college football playoff rankings came out we were (No. 16).

“Long story short, we weren’t supposed to be here. All the odds were stacked against us through the whole season. For us to be sitting right here as national champs, it not only means a lot to me but our community, Buckeye Nation, and our hometowns.”

Speaking of hometowns, Meyer brought up his own, Ashtabula, once before the game in a press conference and again after the game. He has now won national titles at Florida and Ohio State, but he grew up in small-town Ohio, not unlike more than a few of his players.

Ohio State’s roster has players from all over the country but also all over the state. This is the state’s championship as much as it is Ohio State’s.

“I’m not shy about the love I have for this great state,” Meyer said. “Ashtabula, Ohio, is my hometown. I’ve got to travel all around the country, and I realized how fortunate I am to grow up in a great town like that in a great state. I played college football here (at Cincinnati), and to bring now a national title to the great state of Ohio, it’s almost surreal.”

How did it happen? Elliott has to be the No. 1 reason.

The sophomore rushed for a career-high 246 yards Monday, moving into second place in Ohio State history in single-season rushing yards (1,878). He rushed for more than a third of those yards (696) in the last three games. He also set an Ohio State postseason record with four rushing touchdowns against Oregon.

Meyer called him a monster after the game.

“I love Zeke because he’s very humble, comes from a great family and deserves the credit,” Meyer said. “However, he’s the most underrated back in America. He’s one of the best post‑contact yard guys I’ve ever been around, and on top of that he’s a great human being.”

Without the offensive line, of course, Elliott would have gone nowhere. It got stronger as the game progressed, too.

Oregon cut Ohio State’s lead to 21-20 on a field goal with 6:39 left in the third quarter. The Buckeyes then scored 21 unanswered points.

Ohio State outgained Oregon 296-132 on the ground and won the total yardage battle 538-465 despite four turnovers.

“To start we didn’t execute that well,” said junior offensive lineman Taylor Decker, a Vandalia Butler High School graduate. “They made it a close game. The defense gave us opportunities. They held them. We stopped them. They held them to field goals. Once we found our groove, we exerted our will on them.”

Decker told his teammates on the line before the game they would make history.

“It’s such a storied program,” Decker said. “To be a part of a national championship at a school like this, it’s a dream come true.”

The offense was only half the story. The defense’s ability to keep Oregon out of the end zone during key stretches ultimately played the biggest part in the outcome.

The safety Powell, the game’s defensive MVP, led the Buckeyes with nine tackles. Linebacker Darron Lee added eight.

The defense got its biggest stop midway through the second quarter. On 4th-and-goal from the Ohio State 3-yard line, defensive tackle Adolphus Washington and safety Vonn Bell tackled Oregon’s Thomas Tyner at the 1.

Oregon’s only sustained touchdown drive came on its first possession: 75 yards and 11 plays. The Buckeyes gave up one big play, a 70-yard touchdown pass from Marcus Mariota to Byron Marshall early in the third quarter, but not much else.

“Guys just needed to settle down a bit,” said defensive lineman and Centerville grad Michael Bennett. “After that first drive and not really knowing what happened, it didn’t seem like we were getting beat. They were just somehow moving the ball. We settled down. We were able to stop them.”