GLENDALE, Ariz — In a moment of uncertainty, one player zigged when another thought he was going to zag and with that Ohio State’s season came to an end at the hands of the Clemson Tigers 29-23.
Having taken the lead back early in the fourth quarter of the Fiesta Bowl, Ohio State (13-1) had just given up a quick scoring drive to the Tigers (14-0) that left the Buckeyes down six with 1:49 left in the game.
Ohio State used six plays to move the ball to the Clemson 23 and was facing second-and-seven.
OSU’s Justin Fields dropped back looking for Chris Olave on a post pattern, but Olave broke off the route and the pass was intercepted by Clemson’s Nolan Turner to send the Tigers on to the National Championship game against LSU.
“It was the look we wanted and Chris, it was just basically just a miscommunication,” Fields said. “That happens in life and you really can’t do anything about it now.”
“He thought that Justin was scrambling,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “He was running a post route right there and we had on exactly the right call that we wanted. He felt like Justin was in a scramble mode. So they weren’t on the same page.
“They’re playing football and they’re competing and those things happen. Nobody feels worse than Chris right now.”
The Buckeyes had gotten off to a strong start and led 16-0 midway through the second quarter on a 68-yard run from J.K. Dobbins and three Blake Haubeil field goals.
On the series after OSU went up 16-0, it looked like Ohio State had stopped Clemson again when Shaun Wade sacked Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence on third down. But a review of play resulted in a targeting call and Wade was ejected from the game. Clemson scored five plays later.
Clemson added another scored before the half to make it 16-14 at the break in favor of the Buckeyes.
While the Buckeyes did benefit from an overturned call early in the game, the video reviews weren’t kind to OSU overall with a Dobbins touchdown catch overturned early in the second period (leading to a field goal), Wade’s ejection and a second-half fumble return for a touchdown ruled to be an incomplete pass.
“The catch that was returned for a touchdown was such a huge play in the game, the play with Shawn Wade, that was a fourth-down play, it was such a huge play in the game, the JK Dobbins catch — those were major plays and they didn’t go our way,” Day said. “I’m not crying about it, but at the same time those were big plays that didn’t go our way.
“In a game like this, where the margin of error is so tiny, one play can alter the game and it didn’t seem like we got any of those plays.”
Day said that even with some of the calls going against his team, they were able to overcome them.
“We kept fighting and kept playing. I think when we look back on it, it’s just going to be overwhelming how those game-altering plays that happen in a game — you need those things to go beat a team like Clemson — to miss a couple of them, that hurts you.”
Dobbins, a junior, led the Buckeyes with 174 yards rushing and added 47 receiving. After the game, Dobbins was noncommittal when asked if he’d be back for his senior season, saying, “We’ll see.”
Fields, a sophomore transfer quarterback, threw for 320 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
Lawrence was Clemson’s leading rusher with 107 yards and threw for another 259.
Overall, Ohio State outgained the Tigers 516-417.