Clemson Debriefing: Buckeyes Boatrace Clemson, #VARSITY Has One More Game To Go

By David Wertheim on January 2, 2021 at 8:25 am
Trey Sermon is dialed in

When Ohio State is throwing touchdowns to the tight ends, you know something weird is happening.

Ohio State came into this game as significant underdogs. After all, I thought the No. 11 team was ineligible for the College Football Playoff? 

Anyways, Justin Fields dotted the vaunted Brent Venables Clemson defense all night long to the tune of 385 yards and six touchdowns, and a Buckeyes defense that needed to put pressure on Trevor Lawrence and get sacks and turnovers did just that.

#VARSITY is one game away from a championship. Let's debrief.

The Short Story

This game actually reminded me a lot of the contest against Oregon in 2014 (without the obnoxious opposing head coach). 

The Tigers, much like the Ducks on that January night in 2015, marched down the field easily on the first drive, taking just 2:50 to go 82 yards and get into the end zone. After the teams traded a pair of scores, Ohio State added 28 unanswered to take a 35-14 lead into the locker room. The teams played even football in the second half, resulting in a 49-28 final.

Quick Breakdowns


Confirmed: Justin Fields is a man. Imagine throwing two touchdowns, getting hurt, throwing another touchdown the play after, and then throwing three more touchdowns, including a 56-yarder and a 45-yarder.

It was a gutsy performance from Fields, who outdueled Lawrence and finished with 385 yards and six touchdowns.

Chris Olave returned from his one-game absence in grand fashion, pacing the Buckeyes receiving corps again with 132 yards on six catches and two touchdowns. Jameson Williams had his biggest play as a Buckeye with a 45-yard touchdown reception, and Ohio State's tight ends got involved (miraculously!), as Luke Farrell caught a touchdown while Jeremy Ruckert also scored twice.

Trey Sermon continued his Zeke-esque run with 193 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries, getting ever so close to etching his name in Buckeye lore forever. 

It was truly an all-around dominant performance from a unit that was stymied by Northwestern a week ago. The real question: could Northwestern beat Clemson?


It looked a little shady there at the beginning for Kerry Coombs and his unit, but the Ohio State defense played one of their best games of the year against future NFL Hall of Famer Trevor Lawrence. 

Lawrence threw for 400 mostly-worthless yards and two touchdowns (with one interception by Sevyn Banks late in the game, and one should-be interception by Josh Proctor). He also fumbled a couple times, one of which was recovered by Justin Hilliard, and one of which was recovered by Jackson Carman, who if you will recall spurned Ohio State to go to Clemson and proceeded to get whipped all night long in this game.

There is always one wide receiver who goes off against Ohio State, and this time it was Cornell Powell who had eight catches for 139 yards and scored twice. Shaun Wade was probably the worst player on the field for the Buckeyes in this game and Devonta Smith will be in his dreams all week. 

It was another solid game from sixth-year senior Justin Hilliard, who notched eight tackles (one TFL) and a fumble recovery. Sevyn Banks had a Tyvis Powell-like interception, refusing to go down late in the game. The Buckeyes did a really nice job of getting pressure on Lawrence all night, notching a couple of sacks, three forced fumbles, and five TFL's. 

Coombs now has his hands full in trying to stop Mac Jones, Smith, and the Crimson Tide next week. Here. We. Go.

Jim Tressel's Point of View

It's not fair to always point out Tressel's least favorite moment, especially in a game that the Buckeyes won by three touchdowns.

If I had to point out a least favorite moment, it would have to be Demario McCall grossly misjudging a kickoff that he thought was going to go into the end zone and instead landed at the five-yard line. But even on a late night (an 8:15 start is usually about an hour past Tress's bed time anyway), The Vest certainly isn't a fan of Dabo's antics (being so low-key himself) and he had to enjoy the beatdown Ryan Day delivered yesterday.

Oh, and throwing to the tight end. It feels like we haven't seen that since Ben Hartsock laced them up. 

Biggest Question Going Forward

Here is the question: Who is going to cover Devonta Smith? The should-be Heisman winner torched Notre Dame for 130 yards and three scores, and Shaun Wade was... far from excellent against Cornell Powell last night.

I guess, in theory, Ohio State has won several games despite opposing wide receivers enjoying career games. Powell's performance last night was just one on a list that includes Ty Fryfogle and Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman this year alone. 

One thing the Buckeyes always seem to do well is contain opposing elite running backs. This has been the theme going back to the days of stopping Melvin Gordon and Saquon Barkley. They must keep that up against Najee Harris, or else it will almost certainly be a long night.

Final Thoughts

I can't write this piece without taking the time to introspect and acknowledge that this what you dream of as a student at Ohio State. Dumping Dabo and getting to a championship is super cool, and I'm so hopeful I will be able to race down High Street next Monday night as so many of you have done previously. It's all a cycle. 

#VARSITY has one more.

View 102 Comments