Ohio State delivered a lot of punches to Clemson in the first quarter and a half of Saturday night’s PlayStation Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium, including a targeting shot to the head of quarterback Trevor Lawrence. But the Buckeyes could not deliver the knockout blow. Given life midway thru the second quarter, the Tigers rallied twice, from a 16-0 deficit with 21 straight points, and from 23-21 with a quick scoring drive capped by a 34 yard touchdown pass from Lawrence to Travis Etienne. An end zone interception by Nolan Turner with :37 left to play sealed the thrilling 29-23 win over the Buckeyes.
The victory puts the Tigers into the CFP National Championship Game against LSU January 13th in New Orleans. It also extends their winning streak to a nation’s best 29 in a row and ends Ohio State’s winning streak at 19. The Tigers will be making their second straight appearance in the title game and their fourth in the last five years.
Here’s my RECAP from State Farm Stadium in Glendale, AZ
Key points to Clemson’s win over Ohio State
- The Tigers never panicked when they fell behind by 16 points. They stuck to their offensive game plan of using Lawrence’s legs as much as his arm because they felt that would be effective against Ohio State’s single safety look. And they shored up their defense. After allowing 222 first quarter yards, they game up 144 yards over the next two quarters as they mounted their rally.
- Ohio State had its share of big plays, 11 to be exact, but sputtered in the red zone. The Buckeyes had 10 red zone snaps against the Clemson defense but could not find the end zone and had to settle for three field goals.
- Lawrence had a career high 107 rushing yards on 16 carries. Etienne only had 10 carries for 36 yards, but he did score three touchdowns, two on receptions of 53 and 34 yards.
- Lawrence completed 18-33 passes for 259 yards and had another game without an interception. The Tigers won the turnover battle 2-0.
- Clemson benefited from critical penalties against the Buckeyes. A targeting call on a hit on Lawrence kept alive Clemson’s first touchdown drive and cost the Buckeyes starting corner Shaun Wade for the rest of the game. Clemson immediately threw at his replacement Amir Riep and he was called for pass interference. And in the third quarter, a roughing the punter call led to Lawrence’s 53 yard touchdown pass to Etienne.
- A huge replay reversal late in the third quarter also benefited Clemson. It appeared Lawrence had completed a third down pass to Justyn Ross at the Clemson 31. The ball was knocked from Ross’s hands and picked up by Jordan Fuller and returned for a touchdown that would have given the Buckeyes the lead. But the SEC crew reviewed the play and determined Ross never made the catch and thus there was no fumble. Clemson then punted.
- Fields finished 30-46, including one stretch where he completed 15-16, for 320 yards and 1 touchdown, but he also threw two interceptions. JK Dobbins rushed for 174 yards on 18 carries. Most of his yards came on two big runs of 68 and 64 yards in the first quarter.
- Lawrence was named the Offensive MVP and Chad Smith, who had a dozen tackles, was named the defensive MVP.
- FINAL STATS
Press conference with Dabo Swinney, Trevor Lawrence and Chad Smith
Jeff Scott on having one more game at Clemson before moving on to USF
Brent Venables on his defensive adjustments