Ohio State more than avenged its loss to Clemson last season and rolled the Tigers 49-28 to secure the Sugar Bowl title and advance to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game.
The Tigers surrendered a season high 640 yards and seemingly imploded on defense as the game progressed and several players fell prey to injury. The total was the most yards ever given up by Clemson in a bowl game as they surpassed LSU’s 628 in the Superdome last January and just the seventh time a Clemson team has allowed over 600 yards.
Clemson opened the game with a touchdown and forced a three and out on the Buckeyes’ opening drive. But Justin Fields got the ball rolling for Ohio State and the feel of the game changed dramatically on a critical play with just over six minutes to play in the second quarter.
On third-and-13, Fields ran for 11 yards and Tigers’ linebacker James Skalski met him with force. The play was reviewed and the officials in the booth determined Skalski targeted Fields and he was ejected from the game. Two plays later Fields delivered a nine-yard touchdown pass to Chris Olave with 5:12 remaining in the half to take a 28-14 lead.
The Buckeyes continued to roll offensively from that point and scored on five consecutive drives after the opening three and out.
Fields finished the game 22-of-28 passing for 385 yards and six touchdowns in a gutsy performance as he grimaced in pain after the targeting call on Skalski. Clemson surrendered six touchdown passes to Joe Burrow and LSU in the CFP National Championship Game in New Orleans at the conclusion of last season.
The woes also continued in the rushing game where the Tigers allowed another season high on the ground. Ohio State ran for 639 yards behind Trey Sermon who carried the ball 31 times for 193 yards and a touchdown.
Clemson forced just four punts and two three-and-outs but did intercept a Fields pass in the end zone to start the third quarter.
In addition to Skalski’s early exit and Nolan Turner’s late arrival, due to targeting in the ACC Championship, injuries certainly didn’t help the Tigers. Several players including Tyler Davis, Mario Goodrich, Myles Murphy and K.J. Henry missed time during the game.
Clemson’s season is complete but the Buckeyes advance to the CFP National Championship Game to face off with No. 1 Alabama at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Fla.