Written by Erik Slaby
(Phoenix, AZ) -On a cool, cloudy evening here in Glendale, at the University of Phoenix Stadium, the 2nd ranked Clemson University Tigers (13-1) defeated the 3rd ranked Ohio State University Buckeyes (11-2), 31-0 to win the Fiesta Bowl and advance to the College Football Playoff National Championship game. At points, this game seemed closer then what the final score indicated. Numerous times, especially early on, Ohio State had opportunities to score but were unable to score. Most notably in the first quarter.
On Clemson’s first drive of the game, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson was intercepted by Ohio State defensive back Gareon Conley on the Clemson 33 yard line, after wide receiver Mike Williams slipped during his route. At that point, Ohio State had great field position but they were unable to move the ball offensively. On fourth down, Ohio State kicker Tyler Durbin came on to kick a 47 yard field goal but he missed and Clemson got the ball back.
On Clemson’s next drive, they drove down the field and Clemson kicker Greg Huegel kicked a 45 yard field goal. The drive was highlighted by a 37 yard pass from Watson to Williams.
After a huge 54 yard kickoff return from Ohio State returner Parris Campbell, the Ohio State offense got the ball back in great field position. Unfortunately, they were unable to capitalize. They only could gain 12 yards until they were forced to bring Durbin back on for another 47 yard field goal attempt. This attempt did not go any different than the first attempt as he missed this one as well. With this miss, Durbin has now missed four field goals between this game and their last game of the regular season against Michigan. After this point, Clemson had control the rest of the game.
Offensively, Clemson was led by Watson who completed 23 of 36 passes, for 259 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.He also had two rushing touchdowns. The two interceptions did not come back to bite Clemson either as Ohio State was unable to capitalize on them. Williams led the receiving group with six catches for 96 yards and running back Wayne Gallman led the rushing attack with 18 carries, for 85 yards and one touchdown. While Clemson’s offense played well, their defense may have been more impressive.
Defensively, Clemson dominated Ohio State the entire game. For the game, Ohio State had only 215 yards of total offense and nine first downs. The Clemson defense had everything to do with this as their front seven was constantly overwhelming Ohio State’s offensive line and getting in the backfield. Clemson had 11 tackles for a loss, three sacks and five pass breakups, with three of them batted by the defensive line. As a result of their constant presence in the backfield, the Clemson defense forced many incompletions, or short throws for minimal yardage or no gain by Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett.
With this shutout pitched by the Clemson defense, several records were set for Ohio State, and not in a good way. This loss was the first shutout loss in Urban Meyer’s head coaching career, the first shutout for Ohio State since 1993 and the first shutout in a bowl game in 93 years. In addition, at one point in the fourth quarter, Ohio State had more return yards than offensive yards. Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer had firm words to say after the game about shutout.
“Ohio State is not used to this. I’m not used to this, and we will not get used this,” Meyer said. “That’s (the shutout) not going to happen again. So we’ll get things worked out.”
With this win, Clemson now will face the 1st ranked Alabama for the second straight year in the National Championship Game. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney spoke after the game about playing Alabama.
“We get an all-expenses-paid trip to Tampa to face Alabama,” Swinney said. “So that’s going to be another tough week of preparation and get ready to play the best team in the country in Alabama. They’ve earned that. But you can best believe we’re going to show up. And we’re going to lay it all on the line and see if we can find a way to finish.”
Linebacker Ben Boulware also spoke about looking forward to Alabama.
“Honestly this is the game we wanted,” Boulware said. “We want our revenge. We want our redemption. I think we will be coming with fire for the big game.”
Clemson will face Alabama in Tampa, Florida, at Raymond James Stadium on January 9th at 6 PM EST for the College Football Playoff National Championship.
Written by Brett Korpi
Bulletin board material need not apply when Clemson's Deshaun Watson and Ohio State's J.T. Barrett take the field New Year’s Eve in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl, with the winner earning a spot in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Two of the most explosive quarterbacks in the nation have all the motivation they need to get back to the title game.
For Watson, its how he watched as the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrated the CFP National Championship last year on the University of Phoenix Stadium turf, after losing a heartbreaker 45-40. After the game Watson said, the loss was, “obviously pretty sad. At the end of the season comes a conclusion and it was not the way that we wanted it to.”
The ACC Player of the Year, Heisman finalist and Johnny Unitas Award winner, has done his part to get his team in a situation to create a better ending. While leading the Tigers to a 12-1 record this season and their second consecutive ACC Championship, Watson has thrown for almost 4,000 yards and a gaudy 37 touchdowns. He added another 526 yards and six touchdowns on the ground.
Barrett, had a better experience in Glendale last year, leading the Buckeyes to a 44-28 victory over Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. However, it is two seasons ago, when an injury ended his season and he had to watch his teammates celebrate a national title from the sidelines, that fuels him. “It's one of the things when I first came here, wrote down my goals. One of them was to win a national championship.” He said in a press conference on Sunday. “We won one, but I didn't get to play in it because I broke my ankle. It was bittersweet.”
With a national title on his mind, Barrett has lead Ohio State to an 11-1 record and another playoff run, throwing for almost 2,500 yards and 24 touchdowns, and rushing for 847 yards and another nine scores. He was awarded the Griese-Brees Big Ten Quarterback of the Year Award.
It wasn’t easy for the two quarterbacks on their respective journeys back to Arizona. Watson struggled with turnovers at times, throwing 15 interceptions this season, including three in the Tigers lone loss to Pittsburgh. Barrett also had his issues playing in college football’s toughest conference. Facing some of the best defenses in the country, he was under a great deal of pressure as he was sacked 26 times. In their loss to Penn State, the Nittany Lions limited his effectiveness on the ground, holding him to just 26 yards rushing, and sacking him six times.
Despite their struggles Watson and Barrett were both able to find ways to win. Clemson won five games that were decided by one-score or less. The Buckeyes won four.
After last year’s crushing defeat Watson said, “you'll see us in Tampa next year.” He’ll have to go through Barrett first, who sent him a friendly text after the match-up was revealed. “I’ll see you in Arizona, Brother.”
The PlayStation Fiesta Bowl will be played at the University of Phoenix Stadium, in Glendale, Arizona, on Saturday, December 31st at 7:00pm EST.
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