This time Tigers are abused by Ohio State
NEW ORLEANS — The Superdome and the Sugar Bowl has really become the House of Horrors for Clemson.
The previous two times the Tigers played in the Superdome in New Orleans, Clemson was beat by 18 points by Alabama in the 2017 Sugar Bowl and 17 points by LSU in last year’s national championship game. However, Friday’s 49-28 Sugar Bowl loss to No. 3 Ohio State was worse than both of those games.
“Well, obviously it was not our night,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “Incredibly disappointed in how we played.”
The Buckeyes took out 42 years of frustration, when Clemson first beat Woody Hayes’ Buckeyes in the 1978 Gator Bowl, to get their first win in five meetings against the Tigers.
Friday’s Sugar Bowl defeat also marked the Tigers’ sixth straight loss on New Year’s Day. Clemson has not won on New Year’s Day since beating Illinois 30-0 in the 1991 Hall of Fame Bowl.
Clemson also fell to 0-3 all-time in the Sugar Bowl.
Friday’s Sugar Bowl started well for Clemson (10-2) when Trevor Lawrence ran for a two-yard touchdown on the opening drive of the game. But as the first half wore on, Ohio State started to dominate the Tigers.
The Buckeyes’ offense shredded the Clemson defense, as they amassed 639 total yards, the most yards allowed by a Clemson defense in a bowl game. Ohio State scored touchdowns on each of its last five possessions of the first half after going three-and-out on its opening drive.
“The credit goes to Ohio State. They just absolutely dominated the game,” Swinney said. “You’ve got to give them credit for that. They were the better team, and they earned it.”
Justin Fields, the game’s MVP, was 22-of-28 for 385 yards and six touchdowns with one interception. Running back Trey Sermon rushed for 193 yards and one touchdown on 31 carries. The Buckeyes ran for 254 yards.
The Buckeyes (7-0) scored the last 28 points of the first half and had 229 total yards in the second quarter alone.
“We had great preparation, but it wasn’t our night, and you have to give Ohio State credit for that,” Swinney said. “They were awesome. They absolutely dominated the line of scrimmage. You can’t win games like this if you can’t stop the run and the big plays.
“I think they had five straight touchdowns and we just really couldn’t respond like we needed to. Had a chance there in the third quarter. We got the score. Got the interception, got the score, cut it to two scores. So maybe if we could get one more stop and that was kind of our ‑‑ get one more stop, score again, now you’ve got a one‑score game going into the fourth quarter. But it just wasn’t to be.”
The Clemson offense did not do much better than its defense. After scoring touchdowns on two of their first three drives, Lawrence and the offense struggled for just 29 yards in the second quarter after having 167 total yards after the first quarter.
Lawrence finished his last game at Clemson 33-of-48 for 400 yards and two touchdowns with one interception and one lost fumble. However, the Tigers had just 44 yards on the ground, while Travis Etienne had 32 yards on 10 carries and had one touchdown in his final game as a Tiger.
“Ohio State, they played a heck of a game. You’ve got to give it to them, obviously,” Lawrence said. “They kicked our butt tonight.”
Etienne did catch four passes for 64 yards. Cornell Powell, also playing in his last game, led all Clemson receivers with eight catches for 139 yards and two touchdowns.
Clemson opened the scoring when Lawrence led the Tigers on an 8-play, 82-yard drive with 2:50 to play in the first quarter. Lawrence capped the drive himself with a two-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead with 12:10 to play in the first quarter.
But Lawrence’s touchdown was just the beginning of a first quarter that saw both teams combine to score 28 points and 332 yards.
The Buckeyes tied the game on their ensuing possession. It took just three plays, which Sermon capped with a 32-yard touchdown through a gabbing hole on the left side.
The Tigers reclaimed the lead on a three-yard Etienne touchdown to cap a 75-yard drive with 5:01 to play in the first quarter.
However, Ohio State quickly scored again. Fields hit wide receiver Garrett Wilson for 47 yards for a first down inside the Clemson five-yard line. Three plays later Fields finished the drive with an eight-yard touchdown pass to tight end Will Farrell to tie things at 14 with 1:36 to play in the first quarter.
Things got bad for Clemson from there. Not only did Ohio State take control of the game with three second-quarter touchdowns but the Tigers also lost linebacker James Skalski for the game after he was ejected for targeting on a mid-section hit to Fields.
Fields and the Buckeyes poured it on in the second half as the quarterback hit Chris Olave for a 56-yard touchdown and 45-yards to Jameson Williams.
Lawrence threw touchdown passes of 10 and 26 yards to Powell in the second half.