PASADENA, Calif. -- No. 2 Oregon took care of business Thursday against No. 3 Florida State in the 101st Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual. The Ducks came out with a strong second half and earned themselves a spot in the national title game with a 59-20 College Football Playoff semifinals win over the Seminoles.
Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota was his usual self (minus one interception, just his third of the season) as he completed 26 of 36 passes for 338 yards and two touchdowns. His brilliant redshirt junior season continues as the Heisman winner will now lead his team to the College Football Playoff National Championship presented by AT&T.
How the game was won: Oregon capitalized on multiple Florida State turnovers in the second half. Oregon held a slim 18-13 margin at the half. Then all the turnovers happened. Here's how it shook out:
FSU freshman running back Dalvin Cook fumbles, Oregon linebacker Derrick Malone recovers the ball. Six plays later, Oregon freshman running back Royce Freeman runs in a 3-yard touchdown to extend Oregon’s lead to 25-13.
Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston fumbles (see best-play video below). Oregon linebacker Tony Washington recovers the fumble and returns it 58 yards for a touchdown to give Oregon a 45-20 advantage.
Oregon safety Erick Dargan intercepts Winston. Six plays later, Mariota keeps the ball himself and runs in a 23-yard touchdown. Oregon extends its lead to 52-20 less than two minutes into the fourth quarter.
Winston completes a 14-yard pass to Jesus Wilson, who fumbles the ball. Linebacker Tyson Coleman recovers the fumble. Four plays (and four Thomas Tyner rushes) later, Tyner runs in a 21-yard score as Oregon takes a 59-20 lead.
More injuries for the Ducks: After returning the game’s opening kick, wide receiver Devon Allen limped off the field. He was attended to by the medical staff and looked to be in serious pain. The Oregon medical staff wrapped his right knee and took him off the sideline in a wheelchair.
Allen returned to the sideline later in the game but was in sweats and on crutches. If he's not able to return for the title game, he'd join wide receiver Bralon Addison (injured last spring but has apparently been practicing), offensive tackle Tyler Johnstone (injured during fall camp) and cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (injured during Rose Bowl practices) among the Ducks' season-ending injuries.
Game ball goes to: Yes, Mariota was fantastic, but let’s spread the credit around to some other players. Such as the offensive breakout guys -- Carrington and tight end Evan Baylis.
Who had heard of Baylis before the Rose Bowl? Coming into the season he was listed as a split second-string player with Johnny Mundt behind Pharaoh Brown. Brown suffered a season-ending injury when the Ducks played Utah, and Baylis got a little more play but very little action in the pass game. Coming into this matchup with the Seminoles, Baylis had recorded just four total catches all season. Chances are, he wasn’t really listed as a high-priority player on the FSU game plan. But for some reason the Seminoles just couldn’t figure out how to take Baylis down. He finished with six catches for 73 yards.
Carrington didn’t really break out, per se, against Florida State. This season he has been a starter for the Ducks, but he has never had a performance like he did against the Seminoles. With Allen -- the Ducks’ fastest receiver -- out, Oregon needed someone to attack the FSU secondary, and that guy turned out to be Carrington. The freshman had his previous best performance of the season in the Pac-12 championship game, recording 126 yards and one touchdown on seven catches. But against FSU he tallied two touchdowns and 165 receiving yards on seven catches while making the Seminoles' secondary look confused and befuddled.
Also, let’s give a quick defensive game ball to the Oregon secondary, which recovered from losing a Jim Thorpe Award finalist in Ekpre-Olomu and still played a very solid game. The Ducks had to shuffle guys in and out of the lineup, but young players such as redshirt freshman Chris Seisay held up against Winston and a talented group of receivers.
Best play: There was no shortage of impressive plays in Oregon’s rout of Florida State, but one play seemed to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. With FSU trailing 39-20 with just less than two minutes remaining in the third quarter and Winston under pressure from Rodney Hardrick and Washington, Winston lost the ball while falling backward. Washington recovered the fumble and returned it 58 yards for his first defensive touchdown of the season.