DALLAS — After the Cotton Bowl, Ohio State’s roster will experience much turnover. But during the final game of the season, it was turnovers that kept the Buckeyes in the game.
Ohio State jumped out to a quick lead, scoring the first points less than three minutes into the game, and extended it to 24-0 with 5:27 remaining in the first half. It capitalized on two costly fumbles and an interception that senior safety Damon Webb returned for a touchdown.
The Trojans bounced back, scoring a touchdown near the end of the first half, but did not score again, and the Buckeyes won 24-7 on Friday.
Webb, one of 19 Ohio State seniors playing their final games, recovered wideout Deonta Burnett’s fumble that redshirt sophomore cornerback Kendall Sheffield forced. Then, he had a pick-six just 18 seconds into the second quarter on the first play of a USC drive.
USC quarterback Sam Darnold, a potential top-five NFL draft pick, also fumbled when redshirt senior defensive end Tyquan Lewis stripped him and junior linebacker Jerome Baker recovered the loose ball. On the second play of Ohio State’s following drive, redshirt senior quarterback J.T. Barrett raced for a 28-yard touchdown to give his team a 24-0 lead with 5:27 left in the second quarter.
Barrett made more plays on the ground than in the air Friday.
He rushed for a 1-yard touchdown, which set the program record for most touchdowns in a single season, for the first points of the game. Barrett ended the game, the final of his career, completing 11-of-17 passes for 114 yards. He led the team with 16 rushes for 66 yards.
He did not have much support from his running backs, who struggled to find holes in the Trojans’ defense. Redshirt sophomore Mike Weber and freshman J.K. Dobbins combined for 18 carries for 57 yards. Despite the shaky performance on the ground, the Buckeyes ran the ball heavily. They had 37 rushes for 165 yards, compared to 11 pass attempts for 114 yards.
The Trojans had even less success running the ball, combining for 36 carries for 57 yards. Running back Ronald Jones, who entered the game averaging 6.1 yards per carry, had 19 rushes for 64 yards, an average of 3.4 yards per carry.
Darnold went 26-for-44 for 356 yards with one interception. He made eye-popping throws at times despite his receivers being draped by defenders, but also turned the ball over three times. The Buckeye defense constantly affected Darnold and pressured the quarterback. Ohio State had eight sacks and 14 tackles for loss.
That pressure continued for the entire game. In the fourth quarter, senior defensive end Jalyn Holmes sacked Darnold, forcing a fumble, which redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Robert Landers recovered.
Redshirt junior defensive end Sam Hubbard led the team with 2.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss.