Okay, now that everyone has had time to cool off after Saturday night’s game, let’s really discuss what happened. I’ll be the first to admit that game hurt. The Buckeyes should have had that game in the palm of their hands, having dreams of a National Championship celebration. Instead, the players will have of how it slipped just out of their grasp. I will also be the first to admit the referees did not help Ohio State try to win, but the entire blame is not on the referees; the players did not help themselves, either.
J.K. Dobbins’ injury in the first half of the game was the first thing that started to hinder the Buckeyes’ chances of winning. With minutes left in the half, Dobbins hurt his ankle on a tackle and went to the sidelines early before halftime. After halftime ended, Dobbins returned to the game and on the first play of the second half reinjured his ankle on a non-contact play and slumped to the turf. He would return to the game; however, he would not be the force on the offense that he was in the first half.
Justin Fields had been a dominant force in college football all season, leading the Buckeyes to their 13 wins and being the second-ranked team coming into the Fiesta Bowl. However, when the lights got bright Justin did not meet expectations. Fields went 30 of 46 had 320 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. One of which was the game-clinching interception by Clemson in the endzone. The Buckeyes were on the verge of taking the lead with minutes left in the game, but as Fields threw the ball, his receiver tripped in the endzone leaving the Clemson defender wide open with the ball coming right to him. This is not to say that Fields cannot meet expectations the next time a situation like this comes his way; he should use it as a learning experience and let’s remember this is only his first year as a starter under a first-year head coach. He will bounce-back and will be a successful quarterback in college and most likely in the league as well.
Lastly, the referees did not help the Buckeyes in the slightest. The targeting call was a bad call, in my opinion. Wade tackled with his helmet, but if you look at the replay, there was no intent on that hit and there are points during a game where that cannot be avoided. The roughing the kicker call that gave Clemson a first down was also an errant call by the officials. The player was trying to stop himself during the play, and it could not be avoided.
While the referees had a part in causing the Buckeyes to lose the game, the players didn’t do themselves any favors and at the end of the day, they are the ones who complete the plays. The game rides on them and if a team loses – it’s on them.
End of story.
It’s disappointing right now, but this team should have many players return next year and be just as impactful. For one last time this season…