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Ohio State holds off Washington comeback in 28-23 Rose Bowl win – Pasadena Star News

PASADENA — Washington was always going to need a special offensive performance in quarterback Jake Browning’s swan song to beat Ohio State.

But by the time the Huskies found their groove in Tuesday’s Rose Bowl, it was too late.

The fifth-ranked Buckeyes beat Washington 28-23 in the programs’ first Rose Bowl meeting, holding off a fourth-quarter charge by the Huskies when Ohio State receiver Johnnie Dixon III recovered an onside kick with 42 seconds to play to wrap up the final game of Coach Urban Meyer’s seven-year tenure.

“These players stuck it out,” Meyer said not so much about the game but about a season in which he was suspended for the first three games and then announced his retirement prior to the Rose Bowl. “They gave us their very best. Big Ten division champs, Big Ten champs, Rose Bowl champs and one of the great teams in Ohio State history.”

At first, though, it didn’t seem like this game would be anything other than a blowout.

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It wasn’t until the second play of the fourth quarter that ninth-ranked Washington finally found itself in the red zone, a drive that ended with running back Myles Gaskin taking a direct snap and lobbing it over the line of scrimmage it to tight end Drew Sample for a 2-yard touchdown. It was the Huskies’ first offensive touchdown since their 28-15 Apple Cup victory over Washington State on Nov. 23.

Gaskin scored himself two drives later on a pitch from Browning, cutting the Ohio State lead to 11 with 6:42 to play.

“At halftime just said take it one drive at a time. And I think coming out in the second half, Myles definitely sparked it,” Browning said. “And fourth quarter we were able to move the ball up and down the field pretty well, and we were just a little too little too late.”

After Ohio State (13-1) couldn’t pick up a first down on its next two drives, Washington (10-4) got down to the goal line, in part thanks to two pass interference penalties on the Buckeyes. Browning pitched the ball to Gaskin, who ran to the right and as he was tackled and reached the ball out over the pylon.

The call on the field was a touchdown, and it was upheld by a video review to the dismay of the Ohio State fans in the crowd of 91,853 who thought Gaskin’s foot had gone out of bounds before reaching the goal line. The Buckeyes’ lead was down to five with 42 seconds to play.

But Ohio State’s Brendon White intercepted the two-point conversion attempt and the Buckeyes recovered the onside kick to cement the win, with Meyer lifting his arms in celebration as Ohio State secured the ball.

“I can tell you, my love for Buckeye nation has never been this strong,” Meyer said.

The 54-year-old Meyer is walking away after going 83-9 at Ohio State with one national championship, three Big Ten titles and this Rose Bowl victory, the Buckeyes’ eighth overall in the Granddaddy of Them All. Meyer cited his health last month in his decision to step down. A cyst in Meyer’s brain causes severe headaches that are even worse in a high-stress job.

“I’m a very blessed man,” Meyer said. “I’m blessed because of my family, (but) this team, this year, I love this group as much as any I’ve ever had.”

If you told Washington before the game that it wouldn’t let Browning get sacked in the first half, it would have sounded like the beginnings of a winning formula against the vaunted Ohio State pass rush. But for how good the protection – and Browning’s occasional Houdini act – was, the rest of the offense didn’t meet that standard.

Ohio State stuck to its plan, which was to hold the Washington run game in check – 42 yards on 12 first-half carries. With its ground attack limited, Washington found itself in third-and-long too often.

Even when Washington was able to sustain a drive into Ohio State territory, the Buckeyes always answered the call. Twice cornerback Jeffrey Okudah came up with critical pass breakups, the second a diving swat on fourth down after which Okudah ran across the field wildly waving his arms in celebration.

“It’s just a testimony to the perseverance of our defense,” Okudah said in a jubilant Ohio State post-game locker room. “For us to show up and make some plays today, it gave us a lot of confidence.”

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