Ezekiel Elliott saved one of his best performances for the end of the season again.
The Ohio State running back, in his final game with the team before he heads to the 2016 NFL draft, ran for 149 yards and four touchdowns as the Buckeyes beat Notre Dame 41-28.
Elliott scored Ohio State's first touchdown and its final three. His fourth of the day, a 47-yard run where he broke free of the defense and reminded many fans of runs he had vs. Alabama and Oregon in the College Football Playoff a season ago, made the score 35-21 and ended up putting the game out of reach.
Two other Ohio State players heading to the NFL didn't have days that came close to matching Elliott's. Quarterback Cardale Jones, who started for the team in the College Football Playoff and was the team's starter at the beginning of the year, didn't throw a pass. Star defensive end Joey Bosa, a possible top-five pick in the draft, was ejected for targeting before the first quarter was over.
Notre Dame lost a defensive star too. Linebacker Jaylon Smith, the 2015 Butkus Award winner, suffered a left knee injury in the first quarter and was carted back to the locker room with his leg in an air cast. He returned to the sidelines on the second half on crutches.
Ohio State kept the game at arm's length for its entirety, but Notre Dame refused to go away. The Buckeyes got the lead up to three possessions twice, but each time Notre Dame immediately responded with a touchdown.
Thanks to the help of QB J.T. Barrett, Ohio State had 278 yards rushing and averaged over five yards per carry. And while the Buckeyes' performance wasn't entirely convincing – Ohio State simply couldn't put the Irish away – it likely made some people wonder how Thursday's Cotton Bowl would have gone with the Buckeyes playing Alabama instead of Michigan State.
But that's a pointless exercise. Ohio State didn't beat Michigan State, a game that turned out to be the Big Ten East title game, and lost any right to be considered for the four-team playoff.
The win also makes Urban Meyer 50-4 in his four seasons as Ohio State's coach. After starting his career with an undefeated season (his team was ineligible for the postseasn), the Buckeyes have lost two games over the past two seasons and could finish as high as No. 3 in the final AP poll of the season.
The 50 wins in four seasonsalso means Ohio State's senior class ties Boise State's senior class from 2011 for the most wins of any four-year class.
By all accounts, it's a great season for the Buckeyes. But given the team's lethargic performances at times throughout the 2015 season and the expectations from the national title from a year ago, the year could still be seen as a disappointment.
And that's not entirely fair. But Meyer knows 50 wins in 54 games sets some lofty standards.
For more Notre Dame news, visit BlueandGold.com.
For more Ohio State news, visit BuckeyeGrove.com.
- - - - - - -