PASADENA, Calif. — After Urban Meyer announced he will be retiring immediately following Ohio State’s Rose Bowl game against Washington, the focus for the team became giving its legendary head coach the proper send off.
With a tricky Huskies defense that features three All-Americans — one of which, junior defensive back Taylor Rapp, would sit with a hip injury — and an offense that had a four-year starter at both quarterback and running back, the Buckeyes seemingly faced a difficult task.
After three dominating quarters, Ohio State made the game difficult, defeating No. 9 Washington 28-23 after nearly blowing a 25-point lead in the fourth quarter.
The win gives Meyer a victory in his first career Rose Bowl and final game on the sidelines as Ohio State head coach.
“This has always been a bucket list. It’s something I’ve dreamed about as long as I’ve been watching Ohio State football, which is as long as I’ve been around,” Meyer said. “It was everything and more.
The Buckeyes led 28-3 after three quarters, then they allowed 14 unanswered points in the fourth, giving Washington momentum while Ohio State’s offense stalled, punting five straight times after going up 25.
“I think we got off to a fast start,” Meyer said. “That’s a top 10 defense, one of the best defenses we faced in the last few years.”
Washington senior running back Myles Gaskin continued to be the backbone for his offense, finishing with 121 yards rushing on 24 carries and two touchdowns, as well as a 2-yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Drew Sample on fourth down to cut Ohio State’s lead to 28-10.
Gaskin would score again, this time in the ground from a yard out with less than seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter to bring the Huskies to within 11.
While Ohio State’s offense continued to stall, Gaskin scored another, making the score 28-23 with 42 seconds remaining after a 2-point conversion attempt was intercepted by sophomore safety Brendon White.
The Huskies attempted an onside kick, but Ohio State redshirt senior wide receiver Johnnie Dixon recovered the kick, ultimately securing the win for the Buckeyes.
In what could be his final game for Ohio State, redshirt sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins threw three touchdowns in the first half, becoming the sixth quarterback in NCAA history to throw for 50 touchdowns in a single season.
He finished the game completing 25-of-37 pass attempts for 251 yards, scoring three touchdowns against a Huskies pass defense that allowed only nine coming into this game.
“They were playing zone coverage, and we had to be patient because they went around us, over the top,” Meyer said. “I thought Dwayne did a great job.”
The Buckeyes opened up the scoring with an 11-play, 77-yard drive that ended with Haskins finding redshirt senior wide receiver Parris Campbell from 12 yards out.
The touchdown gave Campbell 1,000 receiving yards on the season, only the fifth receiver in program history to do so.
“The way he’s developed as a player and as a person,” redshirt senior wide receiver Terry McLaurin said, “I’m happy to see what he’s done at Ohio State, and I can’t wait to see what he does next.”
On that drive, the Buckeyes were faced with a 4th and 1, but redshirt junior running back Mike Weber found space on the left side for 19 yards and the first down.
Weber ran for 52 yards on his first drive of the game, and finished with 96 yards on 15 carries, averaging 6.4 yards per rush.
Late in the second quarter, Campbell reeled in his seventh catch of the game and 86th of the year, giving him the most receptions in a single season in Ohio State history. He finished the game as Ohio State’s leading receiver with 11 catches for 71 yards.
Washington found success in the first half when moved to an up-tempo offense, ran through short throws by senior quarterback Jake Browning.
An 11-play, 55-yard drive by the Huskies ultimately led to a 38-yard field goal by freshman kicker Peyton Henry to cut the Washington deficit to 7-3.
But Ohio State’s defense found success in the secondary, something that had been a question mark for much of its season. Sophomore defensive back Jeffrey Okudah and redshirt junior defensive back Kendall Sheffield stepped up against the Huskies, combining for three broken-up passes and nine tackles.
But Browning, like many quarterbacks have before him, found some success against the Ohio State pass defense, completing 64.8 percent of his pass attempts for 313 yards, tying his season high.
The senior quarterback threw for 137 yards in the fourth quarter, helping outscore Ohio State 20-0 in the final 15 minutes.
In the third quarter, with the Buckeyes looking to pile onto their lead, Haskins found redshirt junior wide receiver K.J. Hill for 39 yards, setting up a 3-yard score by sophomore running back J.K. Dobbins.
The Dobbins touchdown put Ohio State up 28-3, a lead it would carry through the rest of the third quarter, and hold the rest of the game.
After Tuesday’s win against the Huskies, Ohio State earns its first 13-win season since the Buckeyes won the national championship in 2014.
The victory brings Meyer’s Ohio State record to 83-9.
“He’s one of the greatest coaches of all-time,” McLaurin said. “For him to go out in a game with a win that he’s never coached in, I can’t think of a more special way to send him out.”
Story updated at 7:48 p.m. to include quotes from Meyer and McLaurin.