It happened. It really happened.
A year in the making, Ohio State got payback on Clemson with a 49-28 Sugar Bowl victory and is headed to a national championship date with Alabama. After the win, head coach Ryan Day and several of his players – including quarterback Justin Fields and running back Trey Sermon – met with the media to answer questions about what just transpired.
A bullet-point rundown of what each of them had to say:
- “Very happy for this team after such a long journey to get here.”
- “This team really showed what they're made of, and it was fun to be out there tonight.”
- Day said he thinks playing Clemson again “added flavor” to tonight's game.
- On preparing to play Alabama in the national championship game: “We're gonna enjoy it tonight, have a great champions' meeting and then move on from there.”
- Day said “Dabo has always been nothing but professional to me.” He said Swinney told him after the game, “Go have a great game and win it all.”
- On how Justin Fields bounced back from his struggles against Northwestern: “A lot of people were talking poorly about him as a quarterback, and that bothered him.” Day said he told him no one would remember the Big Ten Championship Game if he played well tonight, and that's what he did.
- Also on Fields: “What a gutsy performance ... what a special young man Justin Fields is.”
- Day said he doesn't know exactly what happened to Fields. “I just asked ‘Can you do it?’ He said yes, and we went from there.”
- On the significance of finally beating Clemson: “This was big for our program ... but again, we're not done.”
- On Fields playing through the pain: “I'm just thinking to myself, this kid is tough.”
- Day on Fields: “He had an edge to him all week ... he didn't like seeing people talk ill about him.”
- On Chris Olave: “That game (last year) didn't sit well with him, the way he had to come off that field ... it just made him sick... (Olave and Fields) were hungry. They wanted to come back and win.” Said the Buckeyes were nervous he wouldn't be able to play this week after his positive COVID-19 test, but Olave came through in the clutch once again.
- On how he would rank Justin Fields' performance tonight among the quarterback performances he's seen: “As high as I can think of.”
- Day said he hopes tonight's game, not only by Justin Fields but the entire team, will be viewed as “a landmark game in Ohio State history” because of everything the Buckeyes had to overcome to get to this point.
- Day said Fields' interception was his fault. “I should have called a run there.”
- Day said the defense knew Clemson would make some plays and score some points, but they stuck together and stepped up the way they needed to.
- On Trey Sermon's performance down the stretch: “He's been special.”
- Day said the Buckeyes decided after Fields' injury that they weren't going to run him.
- Fields audibly groaned in pain as he sat down at the podium. “I know my body's going to be hurting tomorrow morning, but it was worth it for this win and for my teammates.”
- Fields said it hurt to throw the ball after the hit from James Skalski, even just throwing the ball 10 yards, but he fought through it.
- Fields said his whole right side is sore, but he hasn't gotten an injury diagnosis yet.
- “I just think everybody doubting us just pushed us a little more.”
- “Coach Day, he's a great leader, he's a great coach. He treats me like his own son ... He's everything you want in a coach, want in a person.”
- “This just shows that anything is possible.”
- Fields said he didn't think this game really had a turning point, he thought Ohio State was just relentless the entire game.
- Fields said the Buckeyes huddled more on Friday because they didn't want Clemson to steal their signals.
- On the touchdown passes to Luke Farrell and Jeremy Ruckert: “Those are two of the best tight ends in the country, and I'm just glad we finally got to use them.”
- On Chris Olave: “He had a hell of a game.” He said he was more comfortable having Olave out there after not having him for the Big Ten Championship Game.
- Fields said he had no idea Alabama won because he was so focused on tonight's game.
- Fields said he “prepared like I've never prepared before” this week, and he “definitely had an edge” after the criticism he received following the Northwestern game.
- On his performance today and the win: "It means a lot. Just thank God first of all. Just glad my family got to be here. It's been a tough year." He says he's blessed to have experienced this.
- Olave says this was the Justin Fields everybody knows: "I know he took a huge hit. I heard it from where I was." He says Fields told him there was no chance he was going out of that game.
- The win: "I feel great. Coming off last year was tough trying to train all year just to be in this position."
- On Dabo Swinney's comments: "I think that just gives us extra motivation, extra ways that we can get our guys going, get our guys pumped about this game. I think it's really important to be gracious in victory and in defeat, and that's what we're doing."
- On getting the run game going: "It's a whole lot of fun, especially after the start of the season that we had." He says people were questioning this run game early on, which fueled them.
- On Matthew Jones stepping in and others coming in off the bench: "I think it just speaks to the culture of our offensive line room. I think it speaks to coach Stud as a coach."
- "I've gotten extremely comfortable over time." He says he's getting in sync with the offensive line.
- He says it was frustrating to begin the season the way he did, but he trusted in the coaches.
- Sermon says he's being decisive, which has helped him get rolling.
- He says Justin Fields is "one of the toughest quarterbacks" he's ever played with.
- "It was very important for us to win this game." Says they're one step closer to the ultimate goal.
- "We just played our game, did our job, and we just hug in there." Says they stayed in their gaps and did their job, which is what Day preaches.
- On the defensive line's performance: "We knew that we had to play them every down, every series because Trevor Lawrence is a great quarterback. He didn't show it tonight, but the cards fell the way they fell."
- Garrett says each year is different, and last year's calls against Clemson were "momentum-changing calls" that they capitalized on.
- "What a journey it's been to get back to this spot."
- He says they knew they had to contain Travis Etienne and Trevor Lawrence who are "great playmakers for that team."
- Garrett says they pride themselves on stopping the run. He says they're called the Rushmen, which people think is about pass-rushing: "But, no, our goal every week is to keep a team under 100 yards rushing."
- "To be honest, it's still kind of surreal. I've never done anything like this before." He says he gives credit to his teammates.
- What changed after the first two drives: "I just feel like we got into a rhythm."
- Cooper says after his strip sack, he celebrated with Haskell Garrett because he loves this team.
- "If you want to be developed as a person first and the a tight end, there's no better place than here." He says he wouldn't be half the player he is playing for any other team.
- He says Ryan Day is one of the best he's ever seen scheming offensively.
- On Ohio State's tight ends: "No moment's too big for us. We've been tested. We're a veteran group."
- On Alabama: "They're a great team. They've got a great defense."
- On Swinney's comments: "We heard everything he was saying. We definitely used that a little bit as motivation." But he also notes that everybody in this position should be motivated anyway.
- On his late-game injury: "Unfortunately, my knee buckled and it flared up, but I will be all good."
- On Paris Johnson stepping in mid-game: "I feel like Paris, when he stepped in, he made the most of his opportunity. I'm excited for his future."
- Davis says right after the first series, they knew they'd be able to control the line of scrimmage. "I feel like we did a great job of doing that today."
- Something like that is expected coming from a guy like that." He calls Fields a great leader and teammate. "He took some nasty shots today." He says he had no doubt Fields would be back after taking that shot.
- On having a productive run game: "It feels great, especially having a guy like Trey back there." Says Sermon was making "exceptional plays."
- On the win: "Obviously it feels great with everything this team has been through the last 10 months or so."
- Borland says they knew Clemson was one of the best offenses in the country. "We couldn't get down on ourselves." He says bouncing back from a couple ugly early drives showed this team's character.
- His message to Ohio State's defense on Friday: "Stay at it." He says they couldn't give up touchdowns, and they played complementary football.
- I think that plays a role in it. I think generally going into each game, each week, we have a good idea how people like to attack our defenses." He says they struggled with defending the quarterback run last year and learned from it.
- On Justin Fields: "Each week with him at QB, you have a good chance to win."
- He says for the past month or two, Sermon has picked up in practice along with the offensive line.