In one of the most legendary performances by an Ohio State player, QB Justin Fields threw for nearly 400 yards and six touchdowns in the Buckeyes’ 49-28 victory over the Clemson Tigers. Despite opening the game as seven-point underdogs, Fields lead the Buckeyes’ convincing victory over their ACC-champion rival. (Can we call it a rivalry now?)
To beat Clemson, we knew Fields needed to be fantastic; he outperformed QB Trevor Lawrence and was certainly the primary reason for Ohio State’s victory. That doesn’t need much explaining. But what else did they do that made this performance possible, and what else put them over the top in this shocking result?
The return of WR Chris Olave to the offense cannot be understated. Justin Fields’ favorite target returned after missing the Big10 Title game was a game-changer for the Buckeyes. Despite making only six catches, these catches went for 132 yards two touchdowns. The second touchdown came immediately after Clemson picked off Justin Fields and drove the ball 80 yards for a score, which restored Ohio State’s 21-point lead and lead to a huge momentum swing in favor of the Buckeyes.
Additionally, RB Trey Sermon continued his late-season surge that started in the Big10 Championship game and ran for 193 yards and an early touchdown. This first touchdown was critical, as Clemson scored seven on their opening drive and forced the Buckeyes three and out on their first drive. It looked like they might build a big lead early on in the game. Sermon’s 32 yard run to the endzone tied the game at 7-7, gave Ohio State a foothold in the game and eventually allowed them to breakaway in the second quarter. The second of Sermon’s contributions was helping give the Buckeyes a 35-minute to 25-minute time of possession advantage. It goes without saying that Clemson’s offense, which averaged about 44 points per game before the Sugar Bowl, is one of the most lethal in college football. By keeping the ball out of their hands, Clemson’s chances of closing the deficit were greatly diminished.
Could Sermon be the Cardale Jones of 2020 for the Buckeyes with his late-season heroics? The championship against Alabama sets the scene perfectly.
The last, and maybe most surprising thing, was that the Ohio State defense played up to the occasion and kept Clemson relatively quiet through a stout second-quarter shutout. An offense that averaged 44 points and over 500 yards per game was held to 28 points and 444 total yards. They also knocked the ball out of Trevor Lawrence’s hands twice and recovered one of the fumbles, leading to yet another huge momentum boost for Ohio State. Many analysts (myself included!) had serious doubts about this Buckeye defense after watching their performance against Indiana, but they proved on Friday night that they can match up with the most talented of offenses and create turnovers, even against teams who almost never turn the ball over. (Lawrence had only three fumbles coming into the game).
Many said that the Buckeyes had not yet played a complete game, nor had they played up to their full potential. Against Clemson, they did both and posted a performance that will be not soon be forgotten.
But naturally, the question arises: Can they do it again against the Crimson Tide? Stay tuned…