College Sports

Ohio State’s Cardale Jones shows he’s no backup

Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones (12) throws during the second half of the NCAA college football playoff championship game against Oregon Monday, Jan. 12, 2015, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones (12) throws during the second half of the NCAA college football playoff championship game against Oregon Monday, Jan. 12, 2015, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero) AP

Has a starting quarterback ever accomplished more in less time than Ohio State’s Cardale Jones?

In his third game as a starter, Jones led the Buckeyes to a 42-20 victory over Oregon in the College Football Playoff national championship game.

His first start produced a Big Ten championship in a 59-0 romp over Wisconsin in the league title game.

His second came against top-ranked Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, which served as the national semifinal.

And now this, a performance complete with master strokes and mistakes but enough of the positive to give the Buckeyes a victory.

Jones had plenty of help. A stout offensive line gave him plenty of time to throw, as he completed 16 of 23 for 242 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

Running back Ezekiel Elliott was simply amazing, rushing for 246 yards, a school bowl record, and four touchdowns.

In the Sugar Bowl, Elliott became the first player in Ohio State history to surpass 200 in successive games. It’s up to three and counting.

Jones was the wild card, and it was a wild ride.

Ohio State scored five touchdowns and committed four turnovers. The Buckeyes never trailed after taking a 14-7 lead in the first quarter, but let Oregon back in it with mistakes, some by Jones, including a fumble that simply slipped from his grasp.

But in the end, the player who entered fall camp third on the depth chart, became perhaps the most unlikely national champion quarterback.

Jones’ best moment might have come in the second quarter when, flushed out of the pocket, he flicked a 45-yard completion on the run to Devin Smith that put Ohio State at the 5.

Jones appeared to have scored from the 4, but a replay showed his elbow had banged the turf before the ball had crossed the goal line. No matter, not for Jones, a 6-foot-5, 250-pound sophomore, who would not be denied on his next attempt.

He picked up first downs by dragging defenders, running them over and on one occasion, leaping over one.

Jones has been described as goofy by his teammates, immature by coaches, but none of that showed up on the field over this stretch. He’s been all football business, leading a team that actually lost its first two quarterbacks since preseason camp.

First, three-year starter Braxton Miller went out because of a shoulder injury in the preseason. His replacement, J.T. Barrett, fractured a bone in his ankle against Michigan. That when Jones took over, and the Buckeyes never missed a beat.

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