ARLINGTON, Texas — Ohio State returned to AT&T Stadium on Saturday night, a venue where it won the national championship and defeated USC in the Cotton Bowl, and confirmed to the country it will be a factor in this season’s proceedings.
The business trip to Texas ended with a 40-28 victory against No. 15 TCU, keeping order for the Urban Meyer-less Buckeyes. On a day OSU’s chief competition in the Big Ten — No. 6 Wisconsin — and No. 7 Auburn lost, the fourth-ranked Buckeyes feasted on their marquee opponent, humbling the Horned Frogs 18 miles from their campus.
“It gives us some precedence moving forward,” acting head coach Ryan Day said. “You can always go back on this and show that when things don't go well, we can stick together, that when we hit adversity, we can work our way through it.”
Ohio State defensive tackle Dre'Mont Jones (86) scores a touchdown on an interception during the second half of Saturday's game against TCU.
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In a 4-minute, 1-second span in the third quarter, Ohio State scored three touchdowns — a 63-yard touchdown reception by Parris Campbell, a 28-yard interception return by Dre’Mont Jones, and a 24-yard reception by K.J. Hill.
“It went fast right there,” Day said, “and that's where the game turned.”
Without Meyer in the season’s first two games, OSU’s offense produced as many points and yards as anyone in the country. Day orchestrated a game plan that outscored Power Five opponents 129-34 and outgained them 1,300 yards to 526. It’s why Las Vegas oddsmakers installed Ohio State as a 12.5-point favorite.
A plethora of dropped passes — Austin Mack had four alone — plagued the Buckeyes and played the role of Scrooge. They turned 287 first-half yards into zero offensive touchdowns and six offensive points.
The defense saved the day, scoring touchdowns in both halves — defensive tackle Davon Hamilton fell on the football in the end zone during the first quarter and Jones scored the go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter.
“It's all about the game momentum,” Jones said. “Once we found it, we hung on to it and didn't let it go.”
This was set up to be a crowning night for TCU. Eight years have passed since former Ohio State president Gordon Gee spouted off about TCU’s strength of schedule, issuing an infamous quote — one of many by the outspoken Gee — about OSU not playing the Little Sisters of the Poor.
TCU won the Rose Bowl the same season, and the private Fort Worth university has punched above its weight in cementing itself as one of college football’s most consistent programs.
The Horned Frogs have won at least 11 games nine times dating to 2005, finishing in the top 10 seven times, including No. 2 in 2010 when Gee made his ill-fated comment. The ultimate irony is TCU represents a statement victory for Ohio State.
Five schools have finished in the top 10 in three of the past four years. Four of them are the sport’s traditional blue bloods — Ohio State, Alabama, Clemson, and Oklahoma. The fifth is TCU.
One of those top-five finishes occurred in 2014 when the Buckeyes and TCU were linked again. Entering the final weekend of the season, TCU was ranked third in the College Football Playoff rankings, but Ohio State defeated Wisconsin 59-0 in the Big Ten championship game, reshuffling the rankings and placing the Horned Frogs on the outside looking in.
No central characters remain on the roster for either team. Ohio State didn’t have the same head coach Saturday. But they got the same result in Jerry World and sit in a familiar place — firmly among college football’s elite.
“Our goal was to get 3-0, so that when Coach got back, he had a team that was 3-0,” Day said. “That goal is accomplished, but we have a lot ahead of us.”
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