Clemson Debriefing: Ohio State Fails Offensively, Shut Out for the First Time Since 1993

By Kevin Harrish on January 1, 2017 at 9:15 am
Playing in his last game as a Buckeye, Cameron Johnston was one of the few bright spots for Ohio State.

We witnessed history, folks. Clemson shut out Urban Meyer for the first time in his head coaching career, and for the first time in my life Ohio State did not score points.

The Buckeye offense had been worrisome most of the season, but Saturday it went full-fledged historically terrible. Ohio State managed just 215 total yards and failed to score a  single point. At times, it almost seemed as if the team was actively trying not to score.

The defense was quite good, considering they were playing a future NFL Draft pick at every skill position, but it's literally impossible to win a football game when you score zero points.

Ohio State got flat out embarrassed on the biggest of stages, falling 31-0 to Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl.

Let's debrief.

The Short Story

The defense kept it close for much of the game, but it turns out even one Clemson score was too much. The Ohio State offense had its worst game of the Urban Meyer tenure, failing to score points for the first time in his coaching career. Meanwhile, The Tigers scored in bunches. Clemson's talent was evident at nearly every position and they Tigers outprepared, outplayed and outchoached the Buckeyes. It wasn't just a win, it was a beatdown; an embarrassment.

What Went Wrong?

A lot. A lot of things went wrong. However, I'm going to keep this very simple – Clemson was better than Ohio State. Sure, the Buckeye could have had a better gameplan, they could have caught the passes they dropped, they could have hit the field goals they missed and they could have called better plays. They could have done all those things, but they probably still would have lost.

It's a hard and unfamiliar reality to face as an Ohio State fan, but Clemson was the better team. They had NFL talent at every skill position, the best defensive line in the country (Pro Tip: The team with the ungodly defensive line will almost always win the game, regardless of the skill players. See Florida over Ohio State in 2006, or Ohio State over Oregon in 2014), and the best quarterback in college football.

There's no denying there were issues, particularly with the playcalling.

The former players have a point. It was bad, it's been bad and it needs to be fixed, but Clemson is still going to win that game even if Ohio State has Tom Herman in the booth. Arguably the most talented and explosive team in college football played the youngest team in college football and the result was honestly what it should have been.

As much as Buckeye fans don't want to hear it, they should just be happy their team was even in the playoff against all odds.

Silver Linings

  • This is the youngest team in college football. The bulk of its talent will be returning in 2017. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year after losing 14 players to the NFL Draft. Instead, Ohio state was one of the four best teams in the country.
  • A 31-point shutout will likely force real, necessary changes in staff and scheme when a close loss may not have.
  • Billy Price and Sam Hubbard announced they will be returning while J.T. Barrett strongly hinted the same.
  • Ohio State's 2017 recruiting class is only going to get better.

Who EArned a Buckeye Leaf?

Offense: Cameron Johnston

There legitimately was not any other offensive player more deserving of a Buckeye leaf than Cameron Johnston. This is both because Johnston was genuinely great Saturday night and because no other offensive player really came all that close to earning it.

In his final game as  a Buckeye, Johnston boomed seven punts for an average of 49 yards a punt, sending one 61 yards down field. He did all he could early on to keep Ohio State in the game by winning the field position battle, but punters generally cannot win games by themselves.

Ohio State fans may not fully realize it, but they've been lucky to have such a weapon at the punter position for the past four years. The Buckeyes don't lose a lot of talent after this season, but they lose their Aussie, and that hurts.

Defense: Raekwon McMillan

In what was likely his final game in a Buckeye uniform, Raekwon McMillan had probably the game of anyone wearing Scarlet and Gray.

McMillan led all defenders with a game-high 15 total tackles, two tackles for a loss and one sack. He was flying all over the field, Saturday night.

While he has not officially declared for the NFL Draft yet, it's almost a foregone conclusion that he will. Though if by some miracle he decides to return, Urban Meyer would take him back with open arms.

Plays of the GAme


The offensive play of the game was when J.T. Barrett overthrew a wide open Corey Smith who would have scored a touchdown. It was the closest Ohio State got to scoring a touchdown all game and is therefore the play of the game.

An honorable mention is Curtis Samuel's 64 yard run on which he appeared to outright refuse to score by not running straight and slowing down instead.


The Silver Bullets kept the offense in the game as long as they could, against all odds at times.Malik Hooker's interception was a prime example of that.

Gareon Conley was beaten – his man had a step on him and the ball was thrown perfectly. It was a sure Clemson touchdown. Then seemingly out of nowhere, Hooker closed in took the pass himself, saving seven points and keeping Ohio State within two scores.

Of course, it really didn't matter how close the defense kept it or that Hooker made an incredible touchdown-saving interception, because the offense needed to score points for the team to win, and they did not.

Still, it was fun to see Hooker do his thing one last time before he takes his talents to the NFL.

Biggest Surprise

It looks like Binjimen Victor took home this year's Vonn Bell Oh, He Should Have Played More This Year award. The true freshman played hefty minutes Saturday, making the longest catch of the game and burning Clemson deep to draw a pass interference flag.

The surprise isn't really that he's going to be good, or that he is good now, but that the staff magically had faith in his young talent for this game and not all of the ones before this one.

Jim Tressel's Least Favorite Moment

Jim Tressel put on his slippers and fleece robe and reclined in front of his trusty big-screen projector television. He'd been waiting quite some time to watch his beloved Buckeyes.

From the start, it was everything Tressel wanted. The Buckeyes punting when they needed to punt and kicking field goals when they should be kicking field goals. Soon though, he noticed a problem: Ohio State wasn't scoring points.

In all his years, he had never fully realized that while the punt is undeniably great, it rarely scores points for your team. And when the placekicker wasn't making his kicks, there was no way of scoring.

Noticing the issue, Tressel began doing something shocking – he rooted against punting. To his horror, this didn't stop it. Cameron Johnston came out again and again, and the Buckeyes never got on the board. Tressel watched his former team get shutout for the first time since 1993."

Tressel spent the evening pacing around his bedroom, pondering whether his offensive philosophy was the way to go after all.

Eventually, he went to bed with a bit of comfort in the back of his mind: "At least I still have the the Penguins next week."

Underrated Moments

J.T. Barrett Called For...?

Following his second interception, which was returned about 90 yards the other direction, J.T. Barrett was somehow flagged for an illegal block below the waist.

Here's the thing – it was an interception return. Barrett is the quarterback of the team that threw the interception. If he was throwing blocks on anyone, he was doing football very incorrectly. Who could he possibly be blocking? A blocker trying to block one of his teammates?

Uh... Clemson?

I've seen some strange, inexplicable and even vile things in college football, but I have never seen anything like this.

I would absolutely love to hear any sort of explanation for that.

Spectator Quote Book

First Quarter
  • "I feel like our receiver rotation works like fourth graders taking turns playing quarterback at recess. 'Can I try this drive? I want to try.'"
  • "If we score on this drive, I believe that we will win. If we do not, I believe that we will lose
Second Quarter
  • "Oklahoma must be absolutely terrible."
  • "They should honestly just not play music at these games. Or sounds. Just no sounds."
Third Quarter
  • "It's still a three-score game!" joked one spectator. "Can you imagine us even getting one two-point conversion if we somehow scored, much less three? Because we also aren't even going to score," said another.
  • "That pass interference call is for sure the best offensive play of the game, right?"
  • "That penalty could be a spot foul and it still would not matter," said one spectator. "That penalty could be a 15 point penalty and it still would not matter."
Fourth Quarter
  • "Jumping into the Grand Canyon would make such a great Facebook Live."
  • "Urban Meyer should punch a Clemson linebacker in the throat, probably."
  • "We really should try to beat Clemson one day."

It Was Over When

Curtis Samuel couldn't handle a J.T. Barrett pass late in the third quarter, and tipped it into the arms of a Clemson defender for an interception, ending Ohio State's best offensive drive of the game in the redzone. The game was probably over before this, but this was the nail in the coffin.

Biggest Question Going Forward

What does Ohio State do to rebound from this? Losing is one thing, getting shut out and losing by 31 in a completely uncompetitive football game is another. It will be interesting to see what happens as a result. Will heads roll? Who are the replacements? Will players who were NFL leans consider another year?

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