The Semifinal matchup between Ohio State and Clemson was built as the biggest in the playoff era. That star power of these two illustrious programs perhaps only rivaled by the USC vs Texas game of 2005. Now, many times these games don’t live up to the hype. However, this was not one of them as the Tigers outlast the Buckeyes to advance to the National Championship.
Tigers Outlast the Buckeyes to advance to National Championship
Ohio State Jumps Up Early
Ohio State has been one of the most dominant and complete teams in the country. They showed that early on in opening up a big 16-0 lead midway through the second quarter. J.K. Dobbins galloped 68 yards for a score to give Ohio State a 10-0 lead. In fact, he became the single-season Ohio State rushing leader passing Eddie George.
The Buckeyes would add two field goals in the second quarter to extend the lead to 16 points. But, the inability to get a touchdown in the red zone allowed the door to stay open. Ohio State has been one of the best red zone teams in the country so credit the Clemson defense to for keeping them in the game when they were on the ropes.
Controversial Call Gives Tigers Momentum
With 4:47 left in the second quarter, Shaun Wade was called for a targeting penalty against Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Without the penalty, Clemson would have faced a 4th down play. However, three plays later Travis Etienne ran eight yards for the first touchdown of the game for the Tigers.
The momentum carried Clemson to the first three and out on defense on the next possession. And, the Tigers marched down the field. But, they did so in unconventional fashion. Lawrence took a quarterback draw 67 yards for a score of his own. After being dominated for most of the half, Clemson found themselves in a two-point game at the halftime break.
Special Teams Miscue Gives Tigers the Lead
Dabo Swinney and Ryan Day are both known for their ability to make good in-game adjustments. With that, there was a bit of a feeling-out period to begin the second half. But, Ohio State managed to pin the Tigers back inside their one-yard line. After forcing a fourth-down play, the Buckeyes were guilty of a roughing the kicker penalty. Clemson would capitalize with a 53-yard Lawrence to Etienne touchdown pass.
The Buckeyes nearly capitalized on a potential Clemson mistake. On a third and long, Lawrence appeared to connect with Justyn Ross on a catch and then a fumble. Jeffrey Okudah returned the fumble for a scoop and score to give Ohio State the apparent lead. However, the replay official overturned the call on the field keeping the score 21-16 in favor of the Tigers.
Fields Bounces Back
Now, the Buckeyes were held scoreless in the third quarter. In fact, Justin Fields threw just his second interception of the year. However, the Buckeye defense was able to hold the Tigers to a subsequent three and out. Then, early in the fourth quarter, it was decision time for Day and the Buckeyes. Instead of going for another field goal, the Buckeyes went for it. And, Day was rewarded as Fields connected with Chris Olave for a 22-yard scoring strike to reclaim the lead, 23-21.
Clemson Defense Gets a Late Stop
Ohio State took clear momentum in the fourth quarter off of some mistakes by the Tigers defense. Clemson committed two defensive penalties on the Ohio State drive. In fact, one of which overturned another Fields interception. However, Ohio State was able to possess the football for nearly six minutes. But, Clemson was able to force a key fourth down to get the ball back for a potential game-winning drive with 3:07 remaining in the fourth quarter.
After struggling most of the fourth quarter, the Clemson offense was in a do or die situation. Lawrence connected with three different receivers on the drive that began on their own six-yard line. Finally, he hit Etienne once again out of the backfield for a 34-yard touchdown to give the Tigers the lead back. And, doing what Ohio State didn’t do, Clemson connected on a two-point conversion to take a 29-23 lead.
Tigers Seal the Deal
The calling card for the Clemson football program has been on the defensive side of the ball. Brent Venables has directed great defenses for the Tigers. And, after driving nearly the length of the field, the Tigers were able to get a turnover. Nolan Turner was able to pick off Fields in the end zone to seal the victory and send the Tigers to New Orleans to face the LSU Tigers for the 2019 National Championship.