In one of the most-hyped semifinals of the college football era, Ohio State and Clemson certainly did not disappoint. The Buckeyes, who dropped a lopsided national semi to the Tigers in 2016, matched the defending national champs toe-for-toe for 60 minutes.
Ohio State ultimately dropped a 29-23 contest Clemson, decided in the waning moments with an interception in the endzone after driving deep into Clemson territory.
The Buckeyes jumped out early to a 16-0 lead behind the legs of All-American running back J.K. Dobbins who rushed for 174 yards on the game including a 68-yard TD scamper that put the Buckeyes up 10-0 in the first quarter. Justin Fields, Ohio State’s Heisman trophy finalist, threw for 320 yards on a career-high 46 attempts.
Ohio State completes the 2019 season at 13-1, the champions of the Big Ten for the third straight year.
Ohio State took the games’ opening kickoff and drove 71 yards in 10 plays, capped off by a 21-yard field goal from Blake Haubeil. Fields completed six of seven passes on the drive for 64 yards, including a 22-yarder to Garrett Wilson along the sideline to set the Buckeyes up in the red zone.
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On the first play of Ohio State’s second drive, Dobbins went untouched for a 68-yard touchdown. Haubeil’s extra point gave Ohio State a 10-0 lead. It was Dobbins’ fourth run of 60 or more yards this season.
For the quarter, Ohio State outgained Clemson 222-77 as Dobbins ended the quarter with a 64-yard run. On the play, he broke Eddie George’s record for single-season rushing yards.
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Haubeil kicked two second-quarter field goals for the Buckeyes, one from 22 yards and another from 33 yards, to give the Buckeyes a 16-0 lead. Clemson would respond, however, with an eight-yard Travis Etienne touchdown at the 2:45 mark of the quarter and Trevor Lawrence’s 67-yard run. The extra point pulled the Tigers to within two, 16-14, at the break.
Dobbins rushed nine times for 144 yards and one touchdown in the opening half while Fields completed 12 of 22 passes for 126 yards. His top target was Wilson, who caught three passes for 39 yards. On defense, Malik Harrison and Jeff Okudah both had four tackles.
Clemson took its first lead of the game on a 53-yard Lawrence-to-Etienne screen pass. The extra point gave the Tigers a 21-16 edge. It was the first pass play this year against the Buckeye defense that went for 50 or more yards.
Neither team would score again in the quarter, as the Buckeyes held Clemson without any points on its final two possessions. Baron Browning sacked Lawrence on a third down on Clemson’s final possession of the quarter.
The Buckeyes had 366 yards of total offense through three quarters – 188 through the air, 178 on the ground. Dobbins totaled 149 yards on 11 carries (13.5 yards/rush).
With their backs against the wall and several key players gutting through the game, Ohio State turned in its best drive of the game to regain the lead it lost early in the second half. Fields capped a 13-play, 84-yard drive that spanned 4:52 with a 23-yard strike to Olave in the middle of the endzone.
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The Buckeyes turned in another solid drive in the waning moments of the final quarter before pinning the Tigers deep in their own territory. Clemson quickly turned the tables and drove 94 yards in the matter of 1:18 to retake the lead 29-23 following a 34-yard TD catch by Etienne and a 2-point conversion to Tee Higgins.
On the ensuing possession, Ohio State moved right down the field deep inside Clemson territory until Fields’ second interception in the Tiger endzone essentially ended the game.