Urban’s Rose Bowl: A lifetime dream fulfilled

By Art Spander

PASADENA, Calif. — Urban Meyer walked off the field at the Rose Bowl, and presumably away from coaching, with the win he cherished in the game he waited a career in which to take part.

If indeed Ohio State’s rather impressive and mostly one-sided 28-23 win over Washington on Tuesday in the 105th Rose Bowl was his final, last, ultimate game as a college coach, then he departs with considerable glory and one huge question — why did his Buckeyes flop against Purdue in October?

That was the only loss for Ohio State (13-1) in a year of tumult (Meyer was suspended for the team’s first three games) and change (the 54-year Meyer announcing he was retiring when the season game to an end, which it did the opening day of 2019).

Had Ohio State not stumbled, the Buckeyes would have played in one of two College Championship semifinals, probably in place of Oklahoma. Not that Ohio State would have done much better against top-ranked Alabama than the Sooners, who were pummeled, 35-34.

That left Ohio State in the “Granddaddy of Them All,” as the Rose Bowl bills itself in a copyrighted phrase, a game as a kid in Ohio Meyer watched on TV but a game in which as player or coach he never had appeared. Until Tuesday.

So there was a nice bit of closure for Meyer, who won two national championships at Florida (before retiring the first time) and another at Ohio State, where he’s retiring again.

“This has been a bucket list,” said Meyer. “We came so close, and I love all the other bowls, but being a Big Ten guy from Ohio and watching the Rose Bowl in the ‘70s with Archie Griffin playing, it’s everything everybody says it was. It was a great game, and I’ll tell you what, Washington is a hell of a team.”

It didn’t play like one for a long while, looking offensively challenged much like the other bowl teams from the Pac-12 conference, other than Washington State. The Huskies were in a 28-3 hole late in the third quarter, doing little while Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr., who would be named offensive player of the game, was throwing three touchdown passes.

Finally, as the evening chill worked its way down from the San Gabriel Mountains, which rise to more than 5,000 feet only a few miles from the stadium, the Huskies warmed up. They scored three fourth-quarter TDs (although wasting a precious minute earlier in the period), then failed to grab their onside kick with 42 seconds remaining.

Asked what was going through his head as Washington awoke on Myles Gaskin’s running (two TDs) and passing (a touchdown throw to Drew Sample), Meyer said, “Are you kidding me? Until we got the onside kick…”

“All credit to our opponent and the great defense we faced. But we got our 13th win. Time to move on.”
His 84th win against nine losses in his seasons at Ohio State.

Washington coach Chris Peterson was known for his unconventional style while at Boise State — remember that bowl upset of Oklahoma — but the Huskies for three quarters either didn’t do much or couldn’t do much.

“Tough one,” said Peterson. “Very frustrating when you start the first half like we started. I had no idea why. It's on me. It's not these kids. They practiced hard. They're ready to play. But we really didn't play with that edge and that chip that we normally play with, really, just, you know, across the whole squad.

“I don't know, being off that much time, it just didn't seem the same. I'm proud of them. A few adjustments at halftime, but really more than anything, just an attitude adjustment, make a few plays. And that breeds excitement when you make a few plays and kind of feed off each other.”

Too little, too late, but at least it turned tedium into fascination.

Someone said to Meyer that on Wednesday morning, he would no longer be a coach, and so what would he do?

“I have no idea, to be honest with you,” he said. “I’ve been thinking about that a little bit and trying not to think about it because it gets in the way of these players and the team.”

Nothing got in the way of that win in the long-awaited Rose Bowl.


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