PASADENA, Calif. — Urban Meyer stood with his family during one last, emotional “Carmen Ohio.”
The Ohio State coach had his arm draped around his son, Nate, while his wife, Shelley, cried. Meyer’s final game as Ohio State coach had ended in victory, despite some unwanted late drama, and he was savoring the moment.
After the alma mater ended, Meyer stepped onto the band director’s ladder and saluted the band members. Then it was a long walk across the Rose Bowl field to meet with his players one last time in a victorious locker room.Join the conversation at Facebook.com/BuckeyeXtra and connect with us on Twitter @BuckeyeXtra
Ohio State’s 28-23 victory over Washington was in many ways a microcosm of the season. The No. 6 Buckeyes looked like they could play with anyone in the country as they built a 28-3 lead. But then they had to survive a large chunk of confounding play during which they almost frittered away that lead.
No. 9 Washington (10-4) scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns before senior Johnnie Dixon recovered an onside kick with less than a minute left to seal the victory.
The victory caps a 13-1 season for the Buckeyes and gives Meyer an 83-9 record in his seven years at Ohio State. He hands the program’s reins to Ryan Day starting Wednesday.
For Meyer, who grew up when a Rose Bowl victory was the ultimate prize for Ohio State, it was a sweet way to say goodbye.
“This has always been a bucket list (item),” he said of the Rose Bowl. “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. And it was everything and more. “
It also was special for the Buckeyes’ accomplished class of seniors and some underclassmen who may join them in the NFL.
Dwayne Haskins Jr. made his closing argument to become the first quarterback taken in the 2019 NFL draft. The redshirt sophomore hasn’t announced a decision about his future, but he is widely expected to leave.
Haskins threw three touchdown passes, all in the first half, to give Ohio State a 21-3 lead. He finished the season with 50 touchdown passes after completing 25 of 37 passes for 251 yards.
Haskins’ first touchdown was a 12-yarder to Parris Campbell. The senior had 11 catches, giving him 90 for the season to break David Boston’s single-season Ohio State record.
After a Washington field goal following a drive to the Ohio State 21, the Buckeyes made it 14-3 with a 75-yard drive. Haskins drilled a 19-yard pass to Dixon for the score.
The backbreaker, though, came when the Buckeyes went 57 yards in the final minute of the second quarter for a touchdown. The lead was 21-3 at the half.
When Ohio State went 80 yards for a touchdown to start the second half for a 28-3 margin, the game looked destined to be a blowout. But Ohio State’s offense did virtually nothing the rest of the game, and Washington’s awoke.
The Huskies hadn’t gotten inside the red zone until the fourth quarter, when they scored on a fourth-and-goal jump pass from running back Myles Gaskin to Drew Sample with 12 minutes left.
After a Buckeye three-and-out, Washington made it 28-17 with 6:42 left after Jake Browning completed two long passes to set up another touchdown. Ohio State got a first down for the first time since its score to start the third quarter, but it couldn’t get another one and punted.
“We had the ball for only about four minutes in the third quarter,” Day said. “We kind of got stagnant and had some three-and-outs.
“We tried to run the ball to eat up the clock because the defense was on the field. We’re a rhythm offense and, in hindsight, we probably should have kept the foot on the gas.”
Washington took over and drove for another touchdown on a 2-yard Gaskin run with 42 seconds left. Ohio State safety Brendon White intercepted the two-point conversion attempt to keep the Buckeyes ahead by five.
Dixon then recovered the onside kick.
“I guess we let our guard down,” said junior defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones, who will enter the NFL draft. “We could have easily blown them out. We got a little bit too relaxed. The most important thing was we got the win.”
In the locker room, Jones said, Meyer was “dang near in tears. We were all sad because we knew this was it.”