It’s been almost two weeks since Clemson lost to LSU in the national championship game, and the Tigers have already turned the page and started working on the 2020 season.
At Ohio State, its football program is still focused on 2019, or at least that is how it seems. Thursday night, during a home basketball game, the Buckeyes’ football team was honored for their 13-1 season, which ended with a loss to Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl.
And though it’s one thing to fire up the crowd and get them ready for the 2020 season, it is another thing all together to harp on what happened in the Fiesta Bowl and make excuses for why they lost the game. At least that’s the way it came off to this writer when Ohio State football coach Ryan Day spoke to the crowd at the Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio at halftime of the Buckeyes’ game against Minnesota.
“That game out there in Arizona didn’t sit well with any of us,” Day said. “I just want everybody to know in the room right here — that game did not sit well with us. And you have my word we’re not going to forget about that game. And our guys have already been working hard, working hard with coach Mick (Marotti), and we’re going to do everything we can to keep that game in the back of our minds so next year we come back even stronger.”
I understand Day and his team being sour about the loss and using it to motivate the team in the off-season. But don’t say “that game did not sit well with us” in public, especially after you have already whined about the officiating from the game.
Did Clemson catch a couple of breaks in the game? Absolutely, it did. However, Ohio State did not lose the game because a couple of calls did not go their way.
You didn’t and still have not heard Dabo Swinney bellyaching about LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase’s obvious push off of A.J. Terrell, which allowed him to score on a 52-yard touchdown pass to tie the national championship game at 7 in the first quarter. Swinney did not complain about the fact Tanner Muse forced LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire out of bounds on a second-quarter play and the officials said he stayed in as he rumbled for another 23 yards.
Replay clearly showed his hand landed out of bounds, but replay officials failed to buzz down in time to negate the long gain. LSU went on to score the go-ahead touchdown a few plays later.
In the fourth quarter, Clemson’s Tee Higgins caught what looked like a 48-yard touchdown pass from Trevor Lawrence, but the Pac 12 officials said Higgins pushed off to gain an unfair advantage. Replay showed Higgins did nothing wrong and Clemson had a touchdown whipped away.
However, did any of these things cost Clemson the game? No, they did not. LSU was the better team. They played the best and made plays when it mattered the most.
When the game was over, Swinney did not mention those three calls, which resulted in two LSU touchdowns and took one away from Clemson.
“Tonight, was all about LSU. What an unbelievable game,” Swinney said afterward. “We had an opportunity there in the third quarter. I loved how we responded and got the ball back with a three-point lead, and we just couldn’t quite put enough plays together. It’s probably the worst we’ve been on third down in a long time. We had opportunities on third down, but we just didn’t convert, and give them credit.
“I thought LSU played a beautiful game. I thought their quarterback was tremendous. Those receivers -man, they made some incredible plays that were really well-covered, several of them, but they just made the play. And that’s what you’ve got to do to win these type of games. You give them credit, I thought they played a heck of a game and deserved to win the game. They were definitely the better team tonight for sure.”
Day could take a lesson from Swinney and stop harping on the past.
Ohio State did not lose the game because of a couple of calls that did not go its way. It lost because Clemson beat them and made the plays it had to in order to win the game. Ohio State was up 16-0 in the second quarter.
It was J.K. Dobbins that dropped a touchdown pass in the end zone that would have made it 17-0. It was J.K. Dobbins that dropped a wide-open screen pass that would have probably gone for six points and made the score 20-0. Instead, the Buckeyes got two field goals out of those possessions and led 16-0.
But from the time Travis Etienne found his way into the end zone on an 8-yard touchdown late in the second quarter, Clemson owned the game. The Tigers outscored Ohio State 29-7 over the final 33 minutes of the game. They outhustled, outplayed, outcoached and outgained the Buckeyes from that point on.
Clemson caught some breaks and then found a way to capitalize on them. Just like LSU did to Clemson in the national championship game.
Clemson won the game. It’s time to except that Ohio State and move on. The sooner you do, the sooner your team will move on and be ready for the 2020 season.
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