Buckeyes ride turnovers, dominant defense to Cotton Bowl victory

Published: Friday, December 29, 2017 @ 10:30 PM
Updated: Saturday, December 30, 2017 @ 12:16 AM

Ohio State celebrates Cotton Bowl victory

The Ohio State Buckeyes bid farewell to senior quarterback J.T. Barrett and a number of other cornerstones of the program and also soothed some of the pain associated with their last bowl game, beating Southern California 24-7 on Friday in the Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium.

» RELATED: Pregame photo gallery from Cotton Bowl

A year after losing 31-0 to Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl, the Buckeyes took advantage of three first-half turnovers to build a 24-7 halftime lead against the Trojans, a program they had not defeated since 1974. That was all they would need as both defenses dominated the second half.

“It was a great win for Ohio State,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. “We'll be a top five team, Big Ten champs. We just had every senior say a few words. And I can't get enough of those guys. They're everything that you want in a young person. They lead the team. They live right off the field. And, obviously, they're winners. Won a lot of games here, and they're champions.”

Ohio State closed the season with a 12-2 mark. It’s the fifth season with at least 12 victories in Meyer’s six seasons. The Buckeyes improved to 2-0 in the Cotton Bowl and won a bowl game for the first time since the 2016 Fiesta Bowl when they beat Notre Dame 44-28.

In his final game, Barrett didn’t put up big numbers, but he avoided the mistakes that plagued USC quarterback Sam Darnold. Barrett completed 11 of 17 passes for 114 yards and rushed 16 times for 66 yards.

The Buckeyes won despite getting only 57 combined yards from running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber.

Barrett, who finished his career with a 38-6 record as a starter, rushed for two scores in the half. Damon Webb returned an interception 23 yards for a touchdown. Sean Nuernberger provided the other score with a 26-yard field goal.

» RELATED: Quarterback derby begins when Cotton Bowl ends

USC wide receiver Deontay Burnett lost a fumble on the third play of the game. The Buckeyes had to go just 19 yards for their first score, a 1-yard run by Barrett.

The Trojans punted on their next two possessions. Then on the first play of their fourth drive, Darnold threw a pick six to Webb. It was a big play by an Ohio State secondary missing one of its stars.

Ohio State announced just before the game junior cornerback Denzel Ward had decided to enter the NFL Draft and not to play in the game for fear of suffering an injury that would hurt his draft stock. Ward decided on the day of the game not to play, according to an Ohio State press release. Ward explained his decision on Twitter.

“At the end of the day, I feel this is the best decision for my family and I,” Ward wrote.

» PHOTOS: Faces of the Cotton Bowl

Later in the second quarter, Ohio State’s Tyquan Lewis hit Darnold and forced a fumble. Jerome Baker recovered it. Two plays later, J.T. Barrett ran 28 yards for a touchdown.

USC got on the board in the final minutes of the half, capitalizing on a fumbled punt by K.J. Hill. Ronald Jones scored on a 1-yard run.

Each team punted twice in the third quarter as the Buckeyes maintained their lead. Chase McGrath’s 28-yard field goal attempt early in the fourth quarter hit the right upright as the Trojans failed to cut into the deficit.

The Trojans had one last chance to get into the game midway through the fourth quarter. Jalyn Holmes sacked Darnold and forced a fumble. Wayne grad Robert Landers recovered it.

Darnold completed 26 of 45 passes for 356 yards. The Buckeyes shut down USC’s run game. The Trojans gained 57 yards on 36 carries.

“Whenever you turn over the ball that much, it's hard to win games,” Darnold said. “I made a bad read on the pick six. I shouldn't have thrown it, obviously. He jumped inside of the receiver right after the ball was snapped, and I didn't see him. And it was a bad play on my part.”

Ohio State will return to AT&T Stadium in 2018, playing Texas Christian on Sept. 15 in the third game of the season. The Buckeyes open the season Sept. 1 against Oregon State at Ohio Stadium and host Rutgers at home on Sept. 8.

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Anthony Muñoz on sports in Ohio: ‘It’s special’

Published: Saturday, March 24, 2018 @ 7:05 PM

Cincinnati Bengals great Anthony Munoz learned right away how important sports are in Southwest Ohio and throughout the state.

Anthony Muñoz was a special player for the Cincinnati Bengals for 13 seasons. 

In Columbus at the boys’ basketball state championships to be recognized as part of the OHSAA Circle of Champions, the California native explained the special place sports have in Ohio helped convince him to stick around long after his pro football career was over. 

His daughter, Michelle, and son, Michael, also were recognized as part of the Circle of Champions along with former Ohio State basketball star Dennis Hopson, Ohio State football standout William White and Dwight “Bo” Lamar, who played in the ABA and NBA. 

Michelle Muñoz was part of a state championship season for the Mason girls’ basketball team while Michael was a highly-regarded offensive line prospect at Moeller High School. 

They both went to Tennessee for college, though Michelle finished her career at Ohio State.

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Trotwood-Madison loses to Akron SVSM in D-II boys state final

Published: Saturday, March 24, 2018 @ 7:18 PM
Updated: Saturday, March 24, 2018 @ 9:21 PM

            Amari Davis (left) and Myles Belyeu watch Akron SVSM accept the championship trophy. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF
Amari Davis (left) and Myles Belyeu watch Akron SVSM accept the championship trophy. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Trotwood-Madison’s bid for an elusive boys state basketball championship was undone by nemesis Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary 60-51 at Ohio State University’s Schottenstein Center on Saturday night.

It was the second straight Division II title for the Irish, who also defeated the Rams in last year’s D-II state semifinals. It was a record eighth state title for Akron SVSM, the program that LeBron James elevated during his celebrated run with the Irish. That snapped a tie with Middletown.

Trotwood (26-4) had a 19-game win streak snapped. Akron SVSM (21-8) also defeated Trotwood early in the regular season.

Myles Belyeu ended a great Rams career with a game-high 20 points. Junior Amari Davis added 19 points on 9 of 13 shooting.

Lunden McDay led the Irish with 19 points and Scott Walter added 17.

Both teams made 21 field goals and each had three 3-pointers. The difference was at the line, where Akron SVSM converted 15 of 17 free throws to Trotwood’s 6 of 9. The Irish also had a decisive 35-20 advantage in rebounds.

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Flyers’ Mescher on state title: “We got a little help from upstairs”

Published: Saturday, March 24, 2018 @ 3:42 PM
Updated: Saturday, March 24, 2018 @ 4:07 PM

Marion Local senior Tyler Mescher hit the game-winning free throws in a 52-51 defeat of Willoughby Cornerstone Christian to win a boys high school basketball D-IV state championship at OSU’s Schottenstein Center in Columbus on Sat., March 24, 2018. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

His knees knocking, Tyler Mescher of Marion Local heeded a little help from teammate Tyler Prenger.

“He said calm down, you got this and relax,” recalled Mescher. “Easy shots.”

Not quite. Mescher’s pair of rim-rattling free throws with 2.6 seconds left in the second overtime was the difference as Marion Local stunned Willoughby Cornerstone Christian 52-51 to win a boys high school Division IV state basketball championship on Saturday afternoon.

»RELATED: Marion Local after basketball title, too

»RELATED: Bruns’ late heroics lifts Marion Local

It was one of four season-ending divisional championships that were held at Ohio State University’s Schottenstein Center.

It also completed a rare state-title double for Marion Local (25-4), which also won a D-VI state football championship last December.

»RELATED: Marion Local state semifinal photo gallery

»RELATED: Trotwood joins Marion Local in finals

No one came up more clutch than Mescher for the Flyers. Trailing by one in the second OT, his first free throw clanged several times on the rim and backboard before circling and falling through the net.

WATCH: Marion Local wins state title on late free throws(David Jablonski - Staff Writer)

The second rim-rattler wasn’t as dramatic, but almost.

“We got a little help from upstairs,” said Mescher, a robust senior who doubled as a blocking tight end and defensive end on the football team.

»RELATED: Springfield standouts on All-Ohio teams

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“I couldn’t stay still at all. It’s a dream come true to be able to shoot those free throws. Any little kid, that’s their dream, to be able to shoot two free throws at the end of a state championship game and make them both.”

Cornerstone (21-8) missed a half-court heave and the Flyers’ fans - among the 9,620 in attendance - rocked the Schott in celebration.

»RELATED: Rams’ opposing coach, ‘They’re crazy athletic’

»RELATED: Boys state final four pairings

Mescher’s bucket with about 10 seconds left in regulation forced overtime.

“There aren’t many 6-1, 240-pound guys on our schedule,” Cornerstone coach Dan Selle said of Mescher. “He’s not a vegetarian. He eats meat for breakfast. He’s tough as nails and a lot of respect to him. He’s a guy you hate to fight against but you want to have on your team.”

»RELATED: Moeller bumps Wayne off tourney trail

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Mescher and Nate Bruns each had 18 points to lead the Flyers. Mescher also had nine rebounds.

Bruns, a 6-6 wing who doubles as the Flyers quarterback, added 14 rebounds. It was Bruns’ 3-pointer with 17.7 seconds left that knotted the teams even and forced the second OT. He had several late key field goals, free throws and rebounds for the Flyers.

“We had to go to our money man late in the game,” Flyers coach Kurt Goettemoeller said of Bruns. “He’s a stud.”

»RELATED: Boys regional results

»RELATED: Ahrens, Barhorst earn top D-IV boys honors

Prenger added three 3-pointers and 10 points.

Cornerstone, anchored in Lake County and a Cleveland suburb, is an independent that mostly played high-level Division I and II teams, which made its record deceiving. The Patriots also had the D-IV state player of the year in Michael Bothwell. The Furman signee tallied a game-high 23 points.

“State-wide, I definitely had the feeling we were an underdog,” Goettemoeller said. “We figured it out at the end. We just found a way a get it done.”

»RELATED: Trotwood-Madison back to final four

»RELATED: Girls state final four results

Is was the third boys state basketball title for Marion Local, which also won in 2003 and 1975. The Flyers were a state runner-up in 2004.

Cornerstone won a D-IV state title in 2016 in its only other final four appearance.

Of the Flyers’ 12 players, 10 also played on the state-title football team.

“This senior class, that really shows what they’re made of,” Bruns said. “To be able to do that in both (sports), that’s something special for them.”

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Mescher hits winning free throws as Marion Local wins state title

Published: Saturday, March 24, 2018 @ 12:58 PM
Updated: Saturday, March 24, 2018 @ 1:01 PM

WATCH: Marion Local wins state title on late free throws

Tyler Mescher converted two free throws with with 2.6 seconds left as Marion Local stunned Willoughby Cornerstone Christian 52-51 in double-overtime to win a boys high school basketball Division IV state championship on Saturday.

That matched Marion Local’s D-VI football state title it won last fall, making the Flyers a rare double state winner in the same school year.

A senior, Mescher’s first free throw rattled all around the rim before falling. His second also clanged in. Cornerstone inbounded and missed a half-court heave as time expired. Marion Local players and their fans erupted in celebration.

Mescher and Nathan Bruns each had 18 points to lead the Flyers (25-4). Bruns also had 14 rebounds. Tyler Prenger added 10 points.

Cornerstone (21-8) was led by D-IV state player of the year Michael Bothwell with 23 points.

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