By Austin Payne
Ohio State sought out their revenge on Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl last night, finally having a chance to avenge for their 31-0 embarrassment of a loss that was handed to them by the Tigers in 2016. Though they may have failed in their attempt, the game itself wasn’t here to disappoint.
These two teams come into the game with almost entirely different rosters compared to the last time they faced off. With Clemson losing several defensive stars as well as, obviously, Deshaun Watson, Ohio State also endured their own replenishment cycle. Replacing JT Barrett was no small task, though i guess when you upgrade to someone like Justin Fields it isn’t that difficult after all. Despite this, losing guys like Curtis Samuel, Malik Hooker, Gareon Conley, Nick Bosa, Lattimore, and many others, and being able to adequately replace all of these guys who are currently playing in the league is no small task.
The evolution and maintained success of both of these programs is on par with exactly what we would consider elite, and they’re both in the conversation of top 5 college football programs without a doubt. Though this success wouldn’t be anywhere near possible without their astounding recruiting pedigree, much of it can also be attributed to those in charge of the programs themselves. Dabo Swinney, and now Ryan Day, are both the epitome of top notch college coaches.
While Swinney has built a resume as the head coach in Death Valley, we can’t forget that Ryan Day is simply an Urban Meyer disciple who has stepped in to his position after his retirement and being promoted from his offensive coordinator position.
This upper level excellence was put on display in this matchup, in a game that turned out relatively competitive, unlike some others that we saw today…(is Joe Burrow a human?) The first half was almost entirely dominated by OSU, that is until roughly the last 5 minutes of the second quarter when Clemson scored back to back Touchdowns after having being held to 0 points for the entire time prior to that. The Tigers proceeded to pitch a shutout in the third quarter, adding one touchdown to go up one score, 21-16.
Coming down to the 4th to decide the game, Justin Fields hit Chris Olave down the seam for a 23 yard score to lead it off and reclaim the earlier lead. After exchanging some fruitless possessions, Trevor Lawrence hit Etienne, who had far more success catching the ball than running it on Saturday night, for the touchdown to take the lead back.
In a perfect position to be the hero of the game and bring home the win, Fields threw an interception in the end zone with 37 seconds remaining. From the looks of it, this play may very well have not even been his fault. It seems as if the receiver may have ran the wrong route, breaking left instead of right. All in all a simple miscommunication ended up costing OSU the game.
Ohio State will without a doubt be in the hunt again next season as long as Justin Fields and Ryan Day are still around, but as for Clemson, they will make their fourth national title game appearance within the last five seasons, currently holding a 2-1 record in their previous 3 matchups against Alabama.