PASADENA, Calif. — Just too little, too late.
The No. 9 Washington football team wanted to play spoiler to end its season, but instead No. 6 Ohio State sent head coach Urban Meyer out on a high note, winning the 105th Rose Bowl 28-23 in a game that didn’t take long at all to get out of hand before suddenly becoming one onside kick away from real drama.
The Buckeyes (13-1, 8-1 Big Ten) jumped out to a 28-3 lead, but the Huskies (10-4, 7-2 Pac-12) scored 20 unanswered points in the final 13 minutes to make it interesting.
“We started doing the right things,” senior linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven said. “We were still calling the same stuff, making the same reads. Guys were tackling, going to the ball, and doing what we had to do to hopefully give ourselves a chance to get a shot at the end.”
The Huskies did ultimately get that last shot. After Myles Gaskin just barely made it to the end zone on a swing pass with 42 seconds remaining to cut the deficit to five points, Washington had one final hope on a Peyton Henry onside kick.
Henry’s grounder rolled 15 easy yards and never took a bad hop, going right into the waiting arms of Johnnie Dixon. Two knee-downs later, the Buckeyes were dousing Meyer in Gatorade.
It’s the third straight New Year’s Six Bowl loss for the Huskies.
Jake Browning finished his decorated UW career with a 35-for-54 night — not helped by more than a couple key drops by his receivers — for 313 yards. Gaskin ended his career with a 124-yard performance on the ground, and in the frenzied comeback logged a passing touchdown, and two rushing touchdowns.
In the first half, Washington all but abandoned the run on offense, giving the ball to Gaskin just seven times for 24 yards. Instead, it was a half of screens, with Andre Baccellia matching his career high with eight receptions.
Baccellia finished with 12 catches for 109 yards to lead the Huskies.
But with the Dawgs throwing the ball all over the place, the Buckeyes were able to force them into tough situations. Washington went just 3-of-9 on third downs, and were only to manage three points on a 38-yard Henry field goal.
Meanwhile, Ohio State used its rushing attack to set up Haskins, who went into the locker room with three touchdowns in the opening 30 minutes.
The script began to flip in the fourth quarter. Washington forced four straight punts, holding OSU to just 15 total yards in the final 15 minutes.
“We started doing the right things,” Burr-Kirven said. “We were still calling the same stuff, making the same reads.”
And finally, the Huskies were able to do something with the ball. Three long drives — all at least 66 yards long — reached paydirt, and the atmosphere among the Ohio State crowd went from one of polite respect to unease. Browning slung the ball around the field for 135 yards on 12 completions in the fourth quarter, though it was Gaskin who finished with the only passing touchdown of the day for the UW, a two-yard flip out of the Wildcat to senior Drew Sample.
Then it was a goal line toss to Gaskin, and finally the wide toss and dive to the pylon.
But ultimately it was just too little, just too late, and Meyer got his storybook ending.
Reach Sports Editor Josh Kirshenbaum at email@example.com. Twitter: @J_Kirshenbaum