Fans fill stadium as Buckeyes celebrate title
COLUMBUS (AP) — After leading Ohio State to a national championship, Joey Bosa had one question for the 45,000 fans who crowded into Ohio Stadium in late January.
“How are you guys out here right now? It’s freezing,” he said from a makeshift stage erected on the south end of the field.
Buckeyes fans were on their feet as coach Urban Meyer and the team emerged from the southeast tunnel obscured by fog and flanked by flames. Onstage, local politicians delivered speeches and players danced and joked with each other while chants of “O-H! I-O!” rang out throughout the stadium and several highlight videos from the Buckeyes’ 14-1 season played on the scoreboard.
As he took the podium to address the crowd, coach Urban Meyer said he initially wanted to move the event indoors to Value City Area until athletic director Gene Smith challenged him.
“Gene Smith says, ‘You don’t realize, these Buckeye fans are nuts,”’ Meyer said. “You are nuts, and from the bottom of our heart thank you for being here.”
The university awarded 2,500 free passes allowing fans to watch from the field. More than an hour before the event got underway, they lined a barrier on the 45-yard line as children did somersaults and threw footballs in the north end zone and Brutus Buckeye high-fived those at the front.
Associated Press regional director Eva Parziale presented the AP national championship trophy to Meyer, who also accepted championship trophies from the College Football Playoff and the American Football Coaches Association. Flames and fireworks went off as Meyer accepted the first college football playoff trophy.
After recognizing walk-on cornerback Nik Sarac for selflessly declining a scholarship during the summer, Meyer brought out a handful of players including quarterbacks Braxton Miller, J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones, whom he introduced as “the magnificent three.” Miller, whose status for next season is unknown, told fans, “We’ve got another year to do it, so let’s go Bucks.”
The Buckeyes lost Miller, a Heisman Trophy candidate, to a season-ending shoulder injury 12 days before the season opener against Navy. They began the season ranked fifth in the Associated Press poll, dropped to eighth after a lackluster win in quarterback J.T. Barrett’s first start and fell to 19th after a home loss to Virginia Tech on Sept. 6 that all but sunk their playoff hopes.
Ohio State was only 16th in the first college football playoff rankings released in week 10. Barrett was also lost for the remainder of the season after breaking his ankle in a home win against Michigan, leaving third-string Cardale Jones to lead the Buckeyes into the Big Ten championship game against Wisconsin.
Along with running back Ezekiel Elliott, Jones led the Buckeyes to a 59-0 rout of the Badgers, allowing them to leapfrog TCU for the final playoff spot. That led to a Sugar Bowl date with No. 1 Alabama, where Elliott ran for a bowl-record 230 yards and Ohio State overcame a 21-6 deficit to upset the Crimson Tide, 42-35, setting up a showdown with No. 2 Oregon.
The Ducks’ quick-tempo offense and Heisman-winning quarterback Marcus Mariotta scored on their first drive, but Ohio State captured its first national title since 2002 with a 42-20 win.
The event came to a close with the band playing the school’s alma mater and a voice over the loudspeakers urging the Buckeyes to beat Virginia Tech in next year’s season-opener.
The next time Ohio State will be on the field at Ohio Stadium will be for the school’s annual intrasquad scrimmage, set for April 18.