PASADENA, Calif. – The sun set at the Rose Bowl at 4:53 p.m. Pacific Standard Time, and 49 minutes later it figuratively set on Urban Meyer’s career as Ohio State’s football coach when the final seconds ticked off the clock in a 28-23 win over Washington on Tuesday.
What looked like it would be a tension-free send-off for Meyer turned into a close game when Washington scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns after OSU had built a 28-3 lead after three quarters in its first Rose Bowl trip in nine years.
Dwayne Haskins, playing what many people expect to be his last college game before going to the NFL, completed 25 of 37 passes for 251 yards and three touchdowns to lead OSU (13-1) over Washington (10-4). Mike Weber ran for 96 yards on 16 carries.
Washington quarterback Jake Browning was 35 of 54 for 313 yards and Myles Gaskin rushed for 121 yards on 24 carries.
Haskins threw three touchdown passes in the first half to lead OSU to a 21-3.
The first came on a 12-yard pass to Haskins with 9:04 left in the first quarter for a 7-0 lead. That score came at the end of an 11-play, 77-yard drive, which included four carries for 52 yards by Weber.
Washington cut the lead to 7-3 on a 38-yard field goal by Peyton Henry with 1:19 left in the first quarter.
OSU’s lead grew to 14-3 on Haskins’ second TD throw, a 19-yarder to Johnnie Dixon with 12:23 to play in the first half. That drive covered 75 yards in 10 plays.
A 1-yard touchdown pass from Haskins to tight end Rashod Berry in the last minute of the first half made it 21-3 at halftime.
A 3-yard touchdown run by J.K. Dobbins at the 8:23 mark of the third quarter gave Ohio State a 28-3 lead. But then Washington’s offense came alive, or maybe OSU thought it could finish the game on cruise control.
Gaskin’s 2-yard touchdown run with 42 seconds to play cut the lead to 28-23 and the Huskies went for a two-point conversion, but Browning’s pass was intercepted by Brendon White, who had eight tackles, two tackles for losses and was named the Defensive Player of the Game.
The Huskies then attempted an onside kick but Johnny Dixon recovered it and OSU ran out the clock.
“Washington played great,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. “What an up and down year but when we needed them (OSU’s players) most, they gave us their very best.”
Browning said Washington never gave up. “On the sideline we were saying, ‘Keep swinging, keep after it.’ We’re never out of it.”
Even after the game Meyer deflected talk of what his emotions were in his final game at Ohio State.
Asked if walking off the field Tuesday was different than all the other games he coached at Ohio State, he said, “Sure. I would have been on the phone recruiting the last half of the walk. And right now I’d be putting pencils to paper about who’s coming back, who’s not coming back, what do we do at left tackle, what do we do about this or that. Now the new guy has to worry about that.
“Now I get a chance to reflect and you do that with your family and people who are close to you,” he said.
Wide receiver Parris Campbell, who broke David Boston’s OSU record for most catches in a season in the game, said, “Coach Meyer does a great job of hiding his emotions. He never let that get in the way of winning the Rose Bowl.”