With the national championship on the line, Ryan Day trusted seven of his 24 scholarship freshmen to battle Alabama. That number would have been eight had Miyan Williams been available, but the freshman running back didn't make the trip due to a positive COVID-19 test.
Here's a look at how the youngsters performed on the nation's biggest stage.
Stat Book Stuffers
With Blake Haubeil and Dominic DiMaccio unavailable, the placekicking responsibilities fell on Jake Seibert's foot. The Cincinnati La Salle grad was perfect on his three extra-point attempts and connected on a 23-yard field goal.
Justin Fields attempted to connect with Jaxon Smith-Njigba four times, but the talented receiver was only able to come down with two of the passes. Smith-Njigba finished the game with two catches for 20 yards, but he was a replay overturn away from finishing with three catches for 40 yards and a touchdown.
Smith-Njigba completed the shortened 2020 campaign with 10 catches for 49 yards. JSN's season will be remembered for his gravity-defying toe-tapping touchdown grab against Nebraska in the opener.
Lathan Ransom and Cody Simon each recorded a tackle. Ransom had nine snaps in the secondary and did his best to corral Alabama's ridiculous receivers. Simon made his stop on special teams.
Receivers, Julian Fleming and Gee Scott Jr. had their numbers called during Ohio State's first series of the fourth quarter. On the sixth and seventh plays of that drive, Day had his three freshmen – Fleming, Scott and Smith-Njigba – as the Buckeyes' three wideouts.
Fleming's third, and final snap, nearly ended with a touchdown. On 4th-and-goal, the 6-foot-2 receiver from Catawissa, PA, was wide open in the back of the end zone. Unfortunately, the pass was just off target and the Buckeyes' last scoring opportunity ended with a turnover on downs.
Paris Johnson Jr. replaced Matthew Jones at left guard at the 9:50 mark of the 4th quarter. Jones had his lower left leg rolled on and Johnson Jr. filled in for three consecutive plays. Jones then returned and finished the final five plays of the drive that ended with the misconnection to Fleming.
On Ohio State's next drive, Johnson Jr. replaced Harry Miller at right guard. The Princeton grad was on the field for the Buckeyes' final three offensive snaps of the game.
Special Teams Spotlight
Cody Simon was used on two specialty teams. The linebacker was a blocker on kickoff returns team and was also utilized on the punt team. Joining Simon on the kickoff return team were Ransom and Scott.
Paris Johnson Jr. anchored the line on Ohio State's three extra points and the lone field goal. Fleming contributed with the punt team.
The 2020 class closes its freshman season with a 7–1 record, a Big Ten title and Sugar Bowl victory over Clemson.
|NAME||POS||DEBUT||UA STATS||GP||SEASON STATS|
|JULIAN FLEMING||WR||NEB||3 offensive snaps||8||
7 catches, 74 yards
1 tackle, 1 FF
|LATHAN RANSOM||SAF||NEB||1 tackle||8||6 tackles, 1 PBU|
|PARIS JOHNSON JR.||OT||NEB||6 offensive snaps||7|
|CODY SIMON||LB||NEB||1 tackle||7||4 tackles|
|JAXON SMITH-NJIGBA||WR||NEB||2 catches, 20 yards||7||10 catches, 49 yards, TD, 3 punt returns, 11 yards|
|GEE SCOTT JR.||WR||NEB||2 offensive snaps||5|
|JAKE SEIBERT||PK||RU||3/3 PAT, 1/1 FG (23 yards)||3||16/16 PAT, 1/2 FG|
|RYAN WATTS||CB||RU||4||4 tackles|
|MIYAN WILLIAMS||RB||RU||3||10 rushes, 64 yards|
|CJ STROUD||QB||RU||3||1 rush, 48 yards, TD|
|TY HAMILTON||DL||NEB||3||1 tackle, 1 sack|
|JACK MILLER III||QB||NEB||2||2 rushes, 23 yards, TD|
The NCAA gave all players a free year of eligibility this season so Ohio State did not have to worry about preserving redshirts for its freshmen this year.