GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Ezekiel Elliott was Ohio State’s drive capper in the first half. He became the show stopper with a burst of speed in the second.
Not a bad way to head off to the NFL.
Elliott ran for 149 yards and matched a Fiesta Bowl record with four touchdowns, sparking No. 7 Ohio State’s prolific offense in a 44-28 win over Notre Dame on Friday.
The Buckeyes (12-1) were left out of the College Football Playoff thanks to an inopportune loss. They may leave the desert wondering what could have been after blowing past another late-season playoff contender.
Ohio State rolled past the Fighting Irish (10-3), quick-hitting its way to one scoring drive after another and 496 total yards.
Elliott, who’s leaving school early for the NFL, scored on three short runs first half and left Notre Dame defenders flailing as he raced past them for a 47-yard score to open the second.
The Fighting Irish had some good offensive moments behind DeShone Kizer after Buckeyes star defensive end Joey Bosa was ejected for targeting in the first quarter.
They just couldn’t keep up with the blistering Buckeyes after losing linebacker Jaylon Smith, one of their best defensive players, in the first quarter.
Kizer threw for 284 yards and two touchdowns on 22-of-37 passing, but had an interception and lost a fumble.
Notre Dame missed its CFB chance by four points; two-point losses to Clemson and Stanford.
Ohio State lost to Michigan State in its penultimate game and had to watch the Spartans join fellow one-loss teams Alabama and Oklahoma in the playoff.
Those just-misses turned the Fiesta Bowl into a talent show, with NFL-caliber players dotting rosters from both teams.
Two of the best players were gone before the first quarter ended.
Smith, the Butkus Award winner as the nation’s best linebacker, had to be helped off four minutes in after suffering an apparent leg injury and did not return.
Bosa, projected as a top-10 NFL draft pick, was gone a few minutes later after driving the top of his helmet into the chest of Kizer, long after the Notre Dame quarterback had released the ball.
Ohio State had its way with Notre Dame’s defense without Smith in the lineup, racing down the field for scores like a 7-on-7 drill.
Elliott, another potential first-round pick, was the Buckeyes’ punctuation mark, scoring on a pair of 1-yard runs and another from 2 yards. Barrett accounted for the other score, finding Michael Thomas on a 15-yard TD to put Ohio State up 28-14 at halftime.
Elliott showed off his speed to open the second half, blurring through a hole for his 47-yard touchdown to match the Fiesta Bowl record set by Arizona State’s Woody Green against Missouri in 1972.
Notre Dame took advantage of Ohio State’s Bosa-less defense a few times, though not enough to keep pace with the Buckeyes.
Kizer was the key, moving the Irish down the field to set up a 3-yard touchdown run by Josh Adams and on another drive that he capped himself with a 1-yard score. It was his 10th rushing TD, most by a Notre Dame quarterback in one season.
Kizer connected with Chris Brown on a 4-yard touchdown pass to open the second half, pulling the Irish within a touchdown.
After a quiet first three quarters, Will Fuller finally got a chance to show off his speed, using a quick move to create space before racing off on an 81-yard touchdown. The second-longest TD reception in Fiesta Bowl history pulled the Fighting Irish within 38-28, but they got no closer.