Receivers, Haskins up to the challenge
PASADENA, Calif — Members of Ohio State’s senior-laden receiving corps went into the Rose Bowl cautious but curious about what their one shot in the “granddaddy of them all” would bring.
They knew they had the nation’s top passer in Dwayne Haskins Jr. And they knew they had all contributed greatly to Haskins’ record-breaking season.
Washington walked in Tuesday with one of the top defenses in the nation, having given up just 22 touchdowns in its 13 games. Plus, it sported what some called the best secondary in the country, featuring five defensive backs with a dare-you-to-throw approach.
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But through the first three quarters, at least, Haskins and his senior “three amigos” — fifth-year seniors Parris Campbell, Johnnie Dixon and Terry McLaurin — along with other compadres held sway as the Buckeyes built a 28-3 lead before settling for a 28-23 victory.
“I can’t think of anything any better,” said McLaurin, a rose in his ear and sporting a Rose Bowl champion T-shirt. “This is everything I dreamed of as a little kid, sending coach Meyer out right, sending the seniors out right. We deserved it.”
Campbell caught 11 passes for 71 yards and a touchdown. He had entered with 992 yards receiving, so he leaped over 1,000 for the season, the first Ohio State receiver to do so since Michael Jenkins had 1,076 in 2002.
Dixon had just two catches for 27 yards but pulled in a TD from Haskins on a zipped 19-yard throw over the left middle of the field that beat the safety. He also recovered a Washington onside kick attempt with 42 seconds left to seal the victory.
And McLaurin made an over-the-shoulder catch deep down the sideline to get one drive started and had a major tackle on a punt play, the type of effort that long has endeared him to Urban Meyer.
Along the way, Haskins threw three TD passes in the first half to increase his season total to a Big Ten-record 50 for the season. He also extended his Big Ten record for passing yards in a season to 4,831.
The idea going in, Haskins said, was to keep doing what the Buckeyes had done offensively all season.
“You want to put on a show every game,” Haskins said. “It gives us all the incentives to want to go out there and play well.”
Haskins now has a decision to make on whether or not to forgo his last two seasons of eligibility and turn pro. Some project him as the No. 1 quarterback in the draft should he enter.
“I just imagine with a couple more years under his belt, he’ll be — he’s already legendary,” Dixon said. “So whatever is past legendary, he’ll be that.”