Clemson Edges Out Ohio State in Thrilling Semifinal Contestby Ryan Potts December 29, 2019 0 comments
After the blowout of LSU and Oklahoma, Ohio State and Clemson treated us to one of the best games in recent history. At the minimum, the game should be considered the second-best of the playoff semifinal games, trailing only the instant classic Georgia-Oklahoma double-overtime showdown in 2017.
Despite jumping out to a 16-0 lead in the first half, Ohio State’s lead felt uneasy as they were forced to settle for three field goals on their three drives that entered the Clemson red zone. Aside from a pair of 60-plus yard runs by Jk Dobbins (including a touchdown), the Buckeyes were generally kept in check. Dobbins narrowly turned the 13-0 lead into a 19-0 lead, but he bobbled a third-down play in the end zone, forcing Ohio State to settle for a field goal.
Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne accounted for 45 of 75 yards on an ensuing touchdown drive with the Tigers being the beneficiary of a pair of 15-yard defensive penalties. One turning point of the game was a targeting call on cornerback Shaun Wade, knocking Wade out of the game and breathing life into a fairly stagnant Clemson offense.
After forcing a three-and-out, Lawrence hit Justyn Ross for 16 yards on a third-down before setting State Farm Stadium alight with a 67-yard rushing touchdown straight out of a video game. After escaping the pocket on a quarterback draw, Lawrence outran the Ohio State defense to the corner of the endzone, cutting the lead to just two.
Entering the half, Ohio State punted and Clemson knelt one play to go into the half down 16-14.
To open the second half, the teams exchanged punts before Clemson found the endzone to give them a 21-16 lead on a 99-yard touchdown drive. The drive was extended by a roughing the punter penalty on a fourth-and-six on Clemson’s 15. Two plays later, Lawrence found Etienne who scampered in for a 53-yard touchdown catch-and-run.
Ohio State’s next drive ended in a punt.
After going back on their first two plays of the next drive, Lawrence hit Ross for a short gain before Ross fumbled. The fumble was picked up and returned for a touchdown…
However, the play was sent to a video review. The referees determined that Ross had not made a football move, wiping the touchdown off the board and leaving the Tigers with a punting situation.
Three plays later, Isaiah Simmons undercut a Justin Fields throw, leading to just the second interception of Fields’s season, giving the ball back to Clemson.
Four plays later, Clemson punted back to Ohio State.
On the ensuing drive, Fields hit eight-of-nine throws on a 13-play touchdown drive. On fourth-and-one from Clemson’s 23-yard line, Fields diagnosed a blitz and found Chris Olave in single coverage in the end zone, giving the Buckeyes a 23-21 lead.
After forcing a punt, the Buckeyes got the ball back with 10 minutes left in regulation. Aided by two early defensive penalties, Ohio State started marching down the field, converting on a critical third-and-one with seven minutes, enabling the erosion of four extra minutes off the clock with the next five plays.
After a punt, Clemson had 3:07 left in regulation to get into field goal range. Starting from their own six, Lawrence hit Ross to pick up 11 yards before getting an 11-yard scamper of his own to escape the shadow of their goal line. On the third play of the drive, Lawrence hit Amari Rodgers for 38 yards to push Clemson inside the Buckeye 35. As poised as ever, Lawrence faked a quarterback draw, taking a step up into the pocket and unleashing Etienne. Etienne outran several Buckeyes before crossing the goal line to give Clemson a 27-23 lead.
On the conversion attempt, Lawrence rolled out to his right before finding Tee Higgins for two points.
Getting the ball back with under two minutes to go, Fields hit Dobbins for 22 yards on two plays, losing just a handful of seconds. Fields found KJ Hill for a first down before extending the drive with another swift toss to Dobbins. After an incompletion, Fields converting a third down with his legs before adding a three-yard scramble down to the Clemson 23.
After a timeout, Fields dropped back and lofted a pass into the end zone for Nolan Turner, a Tiger.
Clemson knelt out the clock and will be joining LSU in the National Championship Game on Jan. 13, 2020. The Tigers are currently 3.5-point underdogs.
After tossing one interception in his first 13 games with the Buckeyes, Fields tossed two in the game. For the first interception, Fields was baited beautifully by Isaiah Simmons, a future Day 1 NFL Draft pick. For the second pick, Fields and Chris Olave had a miscommunication as Olave broke his route off to the corner of the end zone and Fields launched the pass to the center of the end zone.
Lawrence has improved to 25-0 as a starter. While his run is at stake against the seemingly unbeatable LSU Tigers, Lawrence was sensational in Glendale. Lawrence was consistently able to move the chains with his arm and his legs, and his 67-yard touchdown flipped the momentum after Ohio State had used JK Dobbins to jump out to an early lead. Lawrence was poised and effective both in the pocket and on the move, flashing the talent that makes him the 2020 Heisman favorite and likely 2021 No. 1 overall pick.
What is next for Ryan Day and the Buckeyes?
Fields will be back in 2020, and the Buckeyes will likely be in contention for another trip to the College Football Playoff. While the likes of Dobbins, Chase Young, and Jeff Okudah will likely declare for the draft, the Buckeyes should have plenty of talent for the 2020 season.
The consensus 2020 No. 2 pick in the draft, Young was quiet on the stat-sheet in his final game for Ohio State (not confirmed, but likely). Young was unfortunate to not get on the stat sheet as his pressures and attention led to other lanes for pass rushers. Young was good, but Clemson did not enable Young to be a game wrecker.