Chris Olave and Justin Fields' Fiesta Bowl Mishap Ended the 2019 Playoff Run, but Their Connection Will Define the 2020 Passing Attack

By David Regimbal on December 30, 2019 at 12:45 pm
Ohio State wideout Chris Olave

Ohio State was down six points and driving for the go-ahead score in the Fiesta Bowl against Clemson.

There were 43 seconds on the clock when Justin Fields took his time in the pocket and waited for Chris Olave to break his route to the right side of the end zone. The sophomore wideout thought Fields scrambled left, so he broke that way the moment Fields released the ball toward the middle of the end zone.

The pass was intercepted by Clemson's Nolan Turner, ending the Buckeyes' 2019 season and championship run.

"It was a one-on-one play, me on the safety and I was supposed to run a post. When I looked back, I thought [Fields] scrambled," Olave explained after the game. "That’s why I tried to work the second part of my route and he ended up throwing it and that’s how the game ended."

It was a heartbreaking mishap for the pair who had fueled Ohio State's efficient passing attack all season. Entering the game, Fields had thrown just one interception all year and Olave was his favorite and most consistent target.

And looking ahead to 2020, that connection will need to grow stronger.

Olave led the Buckeyes with 849 receiving yards and 12 receiving touchdowns this season, but the receiving corps is set to take a huge hit in the offseason. K.J. Hill (who led the team with 57 receptions), Binjimen Victor (a big-play threat who could make tough catches) and Austin Mack (who came on strong late for the Buckeyes) will all graduate in the offseason.

That's three of the the top five pass-catchers moving on for the Buckeyes just a year after Ohio State lost its three starting wideouts in Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin and Johnnie Dixon.

Ryan Day and Brian Hartline's recruiting will lessen the blow of that tremendous turnover. True freshman Garrett Wilson looks like a superstar in the making, and fellow freshman Jameson Williams showcased elite speed in limited duty this year.

Then there's the incoming crop of freshmen that features tremendously talented wideouts in 5-star Julian Fleming and high 4-stars Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Gee Scott Jr. and Mookie Cooper. 

Ohio State has the resources to reload on the perimeter, but the unit needs to a leader to anchor the group and lead by example. That's where Olave comes into play, and his ability to shake off the Fiesta Bowl mistake and lead a young group in 2020 will determine just how good Ohio State's passing attack can be next fall. 

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