USC handled by Ohio State in Cotton Bowl
By Joey Kaufman
ARLINGTON, Texas — USC’s return to AT&T Stadium didn’t look much different than its first visit.
The Trojans were defeated in convincing fashion by Ohio State on Friday night, a 24-7 pummeling in the Cotton Bowl, tainting some of a season that weeks earlier had brought their first conference championship in nearly a decade.
In a matchup between the powerhouse programs, two teams that had been in contention for the College Football Playoff during much of the regular season, it was the Buckeyes, the Big Ten Conference champions, who looked superior.
Turnovers slowed the eighth-ranked Trojans, who fell behind by a score of 24-0 in the first half and never recovered, overwhelmed by a physical, imposing defense.
“We kind of shot ourselves in the foot,” USC coach Clay Helton said.
The third play on USC’s opening series proved a harbinger of their evening, when Deontay Burnett caught a pass over the middle of the field, grabbing a first down, until the football was poked loose by Ohio State cornerback Kendall Sheffield. The fifth-ranked Buckeyes recovered it, them started a drive inside the red zone and reached the end zone in 72 seconds.
“We really hurt ourselves,” running back Ronald Jones said. You can’t do that against good teams.
The Trojans, who dropped to 11-3 overall, were punished for four turnovers, including three in the first half that ended half of their first six drives.
Quarterback Sam Darnold cost USC three of the four turnovers, including an interception early in the second quarter, a slant route picked off by Damon Webb, who returned it for a 23-yard touchdown, as Ohio State (12-2) gained a 17-0 advantage, to the delight of the scarlet-and-grey-clad fans, the majority of the announced crowd of 67,510.
After the game, Darnold said the play was a run-pass option, and regretting not handing the ball off.