Ohio State is heading to Miami.
Clemson struck first in Friday night's Sugar Bowl, and it was back and forth through the first quarter before the Buckeyes put their foot on the gas pedal and did not let up for a 49-28 win. Ohio State scored 21 points while holding the Tigers scoreless in the second quarter, and went on to dominate Clemson for the majority of the rest of the game.
In this edition of Three Key Stats, we're looking at major offensive contributions from the tight ends, Justin Fields throwing for six touchdowns and the Clemson offense struggling mightily on the ground against an Ohio State defense that came prepared to play.
Tight Ends contribute for Three touchdowns
Against Clemson, the Buckeyes used a pair of weapons they hadn't employed much in the regular season, and the gamble paid off. Instead of strictly throwing to Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, as had been the trend in the regular season, Justin Fields made the Clemson defense look like Play-Doh by tossing three touchdowns to the tight ends. Junior Jeremy Ruckert accounted for two touchdowns, while redshirt senior Luke Farrell was responsible for the other tight end touchdown.
This throw could not have been more perfect. pic.twitter.com/5tdA3Bi2uR— Eleven Warriors (@11W) January 2, 2021
Prior to this game, the tight ends had a combined three touchdowns all season, and they were targeted by Fields a significantly smaller number of times compared to other receivers. Five of their 17 receptions through seven games came on Friday.
Justin Fields throws six touchdowns
After Fields' less-than-stellar performance against Northwestern, many were wondering how the Ohio State quarterback would respond against a Clemson defense that is traditionally known for wreaking havoc in the pocket. Fields more than exceeded expectations, breaking a Sugar Bowl record by throwing six touchdowns.
On Nolan Turner, too. Poetic. pic.twitter.com/zaQ7LLT0PV— Eleven Warriors (@11W) January 2, 2021
Fields continued to impress even after he was on the receiving end of a nasty hit to his ribs from Clemson linebacker James Skalski. Fields was clearly in pain from the hit, but continued to play throughout the duration of the game, and he made some pretty impressive plays after the hit. The Buckeyes quarterback threw touchdown passes to Jeremy Ruckert (2x), Chris Olave (2x), Luke Farrell and Jameson Williams, throwing as many touchdowns as he did incompletions while racking up 385 passing yards.
Ohio State defense holds Clemson to 44 yards on the ground
Coming into the College Football Playoff semifinal, many questions surrounded the Buckeyes' defense, including the ability of the front seven to contain Clemson star Travis Etienne on the ground. The Ohio State defense successfully limited Etienne throughout the night and was also able to eliminate big running plays, with the longest run from Clemson only being 15 yards and from Etienne being eight yards.
Ohio State was also able to limit Trevor Lawrence on the ground, too, who accumulated negative-8 yards on 10 carries for the Tigers. Lawrence was chased out of the pocket multiple times, often resulting in a scramble for no or minimal gain. The Tigers had 22 carries for 44 yards.
After the dominant Sugar Bowl performance from nation's 11th-best team, Ryan Day and Ohio State move on to play Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship on January 11th.