Oregon players walk off the field after the NCAA college football playoff championship game Monday, Jan. 12, 2015, in Arlington, Texas. Ohio State won 42-20. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)
Brandon Wade
January 13, 2015

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Oregon had cut the biggest deficit of the season to a single point and was in position to grab the national championship that eluded the Ducks four years ago.

They fell short - again.

Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott scored four touchdowns, three in the second half after the Oregon rally, and the Buckeyes won the first College Football Playoff national championship with a 42-20 victory Monday night.

The message from coach Mark Helfrich in the $1.2 billion home of the Dallas Cowboys was the same one Chip Kelly offered when the Ducks couldn't secure the school's first crown at the NFL home of the Arizona Cardinals to wrap up the 2010 season.

One of these days ...

''Everything is in place from a support standpoint and facilities standpoint and infrastructure standpoint, talent, our coaching staff is outstanding, and the leadership is outstanding,'' Helfrich said. ''That's kind of all the ingredients.''

Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota passed for 333 yards and two touchdowns, but the Ducks' warp-speed spread offense missed too many red-zone opportunities and couldn't unleash its running game against linebacker Darron Lee and an Ohio State front seven stacked with future NFL draft picks.

''We fought through a lot of stuff,'' Mariota said. ''We ended up short tonight, but that shouldn't take away from what we were able to do this year.''

Even with the benefit of four Ohio State turnovers, the Ducks were held to their lowest point total of the season, four touchdowns below their average coming in.

Oregon has done just about everything as it blossomed into a national power over the last two decades, but it will likely continue the search for its first national championship without Mariota. Barring a major surprise, the junior is likely to turn pro - though he wouldn't talk about his upcoming draft decision after the game.

Assuming Mariota makes the move, the players he's leaving behind have little doubt they can get Ducks in position again.

''If this program doesn't have credibility yet then I don't know, then college football's messed up,'' said receiver Keanon Lowe, who caught a 7-yard scoring pass on the opening drive for Oregon's only lead. ''Obviously you haven't won the first national title. But this program's great. No one wants to play Oregon. No one wants to come to us.''

Ohio State third-stringer Cardale Jones, who took over three games ago for the injured J.T. Barrett (who had taken over at the start of the season for the injured Braxton Miller), passed for 242 yards and a touchdown and ran for score. The 250-pound third-year sophomore proved he could keep up with Mariota - at least on this night.

And the Ducks simply couldn't slow Elliott, who had his third straight 200-yard game with 246 yards on 36 carries.

''He just runs hard, can break a lot of tackles,'' said defensive end Arik Armstead, who had a fumble recovery when Oregon was cutting a 14-point deficit to one. ''We try to get as many bodies on him as we can.''

Fifth-year senior center Hronnis Grasu was a redshirt when the Ducks made their other appearance in the title game. He figures he'll be watching another run at the title in the future.

''Every single day in this program is a building block,'' Grasu said. ''We're always going forward with this team and this staff that we have, the players that we have. They're going to have so much success in the future. They don't even know it yet.''

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