NEW ORLEANS – On to Dallas. On to the national championship.
Ohio State (13-1) kept giving Alabama chances but the Buckeyes somehow found a way to beat the Crimson Tide 42-35 in a College Football Playoff semifinal at the Sugar Bowl on Thursday night.
Now OSU will take on Oregon for the national championship on Jan. 12 at the Dallas Cowboys Stadium.
Ohio State started three of its last three possessions at its own 9-yard line, 8-yard line and 5-yard line but still held off Alabama.
The Buckeyes dodged danger all night after falling behind 21-6 in the second quarter. But one huge run by Ezekiel Elliott with 3:24 to play and just enough defense sealed the victory and the trip to Dallas.
Elliott’s 85-yard touchdown run and a two-point conversion put Ohio State up by two touchdowns, its biggest lead of the night.
The Crimson Tide responded with a 6-yard touchdown pass from Blake Sims to Amari Cooper with 1:59 to play to cut OSU’s lead to 42-35.
Elliott had 230 yards rushing to lead an Ohio State offense that rolled up 537 yards total offense. Cardale Jones threw for 243 yards and one touchdown.
Ohio State cut Alabama’s 21-6 lead to 21-20 by halftime, then drove 75 yards in six plays the first time it had the ball in the second half to go up 27-21. The touchdown came on a 47-yard throw to Devin Smith, who got an assist from Alabama cornerback Eddie Jackson, who fell to the ground near the 10-yard line.
The Buckeyes pushed their lead to 34-21 when defensive end Steve Miller intercepted Blake Sims and took the ball 41 yards to the end zone.
Alabama struck back with a seven-play, 84-yard drive to cut the lead to 34-28 with a minute left in the third quarter. Blake Sims scored on a 5-yard quarterback run and his 52-yard pass to Derrick Harvey was the big play in the drive.
Just when it appeared Ohio State had taken itself out of the game with mistakes, not getting touchdowns when it got inside Alabama’s 10-yard line and some unsteady play by Jones, the Buckeyes turned the game around in the last eight minutes of the first half.
Alabama led 21-6 with eight minutes left in the first half after T.J. Yeldon scored on a 2-yard run.
That touchdown was set up by Cyrus Jones’ interception, which he returned to OSU’s 15-yard line.
Jones struggled early but hit 8 of his 10 passes in the last eight minutes before halftime for 122 yards.
Ohio State cut Alabama’s lead to 21-13 on a 3-yard touchdown run by Elliott at the end of a 12-play, 71-yard drive with 2:55 left in the first half. Then, after stopping the Crimson Tide on a 3-and-out, the Buckeyes made it a one-point game with some trickery when Evan Spencer threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Michael Thomas with 12 seconds left in the first half to cut the lead to 21-20.
Ohio State dominated the first half statistically, rolling up 348 yards to Alabama’s 139 yards.
But the Buckeyes’ offense had to settle for field goals twice in the first quarter when it had first downs at Alabama’s 3-yard line and its 1-yard line.
A fumble by Elliott that led to Alabama’s first touchdown, Jones’ interception, his bobbled snap when OSU was at Alabama’s 1-yard line and his near safety helped Alabama take its 21-6 lead.
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