Buckeyes’ Title Hopes Overturned In Frenetic Fiesta Bowl

Wyatt Davis Fiesta Bowl

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Arizona desert gets cold at night, but there is nothing as frigid as the frozen black heart of the SEC replay officials.

Three times in Saturday night’s Fiesta Bowl between Clemson and Ohio State the Buckeyes had their football fate in the hands of the SEC replay officials who were assigned to work the College Football Playoff semifinal and three times the icy phalanges of judgment found in favor of the Clemson Tigers.

Leading 10-0 in the second quarter, Buckeye quarterback Justin Fields dropped in a soft pass on a quick wheel route to running back JK Dobbins, who made a diving catch for a 5-yard touchdown score to make it 16-0. The play was reviewed and Dobbins was correctly judged to have failed to maintain control of the ball as he hit the ground. The Buckeyes ended up kicking a field goal to make it 13-0 instead.

Later in the second quarter, OSU cornerback Shaun Wade sacked Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence on third-and-5, forcing a punt. The replay officials then buzzed the referees on the field to let them know they wanted to review the play. Upon further review, they determined Wade was guilty of targeting on the play even though the officials on the field saw nothing to merit a penalty.

Instead of the Buckeyes getting the ball back, Clemson retained the football and received new life at the Ohio State 30-yard line. Five plays later running back Travis Etienne scored from eight yards out to make it 16-7.

The third — and easily most egregious and the most costly intervention from the replay officials came late in the third quarter when Lawrence completed a pass to receiver Justyn Ross who was taking a third step as OSU cornerback Jeff Okudah knocked the ball out of his hands and safety Jordan Fuller picked it up and took it into the end zone from 30 or so yards out.

Replay officials overturned the call, calling it an incompletion.

Somehow, Ohio State would have been able to overcome all of this if they had simply scored in the red zone when they had an opportunity.

Three times the Buckeyes made it inside the Clemson 20-yard line and three times Ohio State left with field goals. Those nine points would have looked much better as 17 points in OSU’s 6-point loss.

And despite those struggles in the red zone, Ohio State still took a 23-21 loss in the fourth quarter when on fourth-and-1 from the Clemson 23-yard line, Buckeye head coach Ryan Day dialed up a play-action pass and Fields found receiver Chris Olave in the end zone for the go-ahead score.

Then, with 3:07 remaining in the game, Clemson got their final opportunity — and it took them all of six plays to go 89 yards for a touchdown, leaving the Buckeyes just 1:49 to work with.

Fields completed three passes to Dobbins and another to KJ Hill to get the ball down to the Clemson 31 in short order.

After a pair of Fields rushes, he dropped back on second-and-7 from the Clemson 23-yard line and fired into the end zone where the pass was intercepted by Clemson safety Nolan Turner, ending Ohio State’s hopes.

On the play, Olave thought Fields was breaking into a scramble drill, so he cut off his route, but Fields was simply stepping up into the pocket and there was only one person waiting for the pass and it was Turner.

Lost in the almosts and nearlies, was the fact that JK Dobbins was once again tremendous, rushing for 174 yards on just 18 carries, including rushes of 68 and 64 yards. Dobbins had to leave the game due to a foot injury, but returned in the second half to give the Buckeyes a boost.

During the game he also broke Eddie George’s single-season OSU rushing mark and finished his 2019 season with 2,003 yards rushing. After the game he did not have any confirmation about his upcoming NFL decision.

Justin Fields completed 30-of-46 passes for 320 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. He was sacked four times.

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence threw for 259 yards on 18-of-33 passing with two touchdowns. He also rushed for 107 yards on 13 attempts, scoring on a 67-yard rush to give the Tigers some necessary momentum.

Up next for Clemson is a matchup with No. 1-seed LSU in the College Football Playoffs Championship Game.

Up next for Ohio State will be some painful days and nights wondering “what if…”

Full Box Score

20 Responses

  1. I’m surprised nobody has mentioned the non pass interference call against Clemson in the first half. KJ Hill was being molested to the point the ball bounced off his face mask in the end zone. That would have been a touchdown if not for the blatant interference. How wasn’t first & goal awarded by the refs? Instead that drive stalled at the Clemson 16 yard line, and Ohio State had to settle for a field goal.

  2. I am a Michigan Alumni and I can tell you this game was BS. I have never seen all the questionable calls go in favor of one team. Anyone who claims the officiating had nothing to do with the outcome of this game is simply a Buckeye hater. Ohio State did help itself on many issues. Especially the lack of red zone offense, but this was ridiculous.

  3. The officials in my opinion were sending a message to Ryan Day that his coaching style was too agressive.The first year coach showed a level of fire that Ohio State hasn’t seen in a coach since Woody Hayes. Day is a throwback to an earlier period of college football. Only a team with boundless agression could have managed to damn near win a game with so many adverse calls. On the blocked punt why have the running into call option if it is never used? Clearly it was a no harm hit and a little bit of acting! But the officails at that point were sending the first year coach a message that he was out coaching veteran coaches and who did he think he was? Vince Lombardi? Day is a great coach and the Buckeyes will never be less than champions in my eyes. As close to a winning effort as a team could make and still come up short. I have never enjoyed watching a Buckeye team more in over 60 years of following the Bucks! I say simply Thank You!

  4. Frustration more than anger. I can understand the JK pass in the end zone and, to a large extent, the targeting, though I don’t agree with the rule. What chaps my hide is the overturned TD. Ask yourself this: had he not lost the ball, would that have been an incompletion? I don’t think so and I don’t think anyone else does either. So if it’s a completion and the ball is lost. that’s a fumble! Three steps isn’t a football move? BS.There is no excuse for that, and there is no excuse for the roughing the kicker call. That was clearly inadvertent and he tried to hold up and the kicker did a nice job of “helping”. Big difference between running into and roughing.

    I also don’t understand the JK TD “incompletion”. I thought that once you cross the goal line with control it’s a TD. We see the ball lost after crossing the plane all the time. Isn’t it a dead ball immediately after crossing the plane?

    The fact remains that we also contributed to our own demise. That game should have been put away in the first quarter, so to that extent we did it to ourselves. As I said…frustration.

  5. FWIW, seem reasonable to let the field refs call the game and not the replay folks. They got put there to remedy poor calls not call every play.

  6. Pretty much like Tony said. A couple of stupid penalties that kept Clemson drives alive and turned the momentum, and settling for four FGs, leaving 12 points on the field and an error resulting in an interception at money time. It had nothing to do with bad officiating. What a terrible way to lose. Game ball goes to Dobbins. Flat out embarrassing to lose to Clemson again. Day’s first loss too.

    Clemson can’t possibly keep up with LSU.

    1. sorry “allstar” but you are wrong when you said it had NOTHNG to do with bad officiating–yes OSU stink in the red zone and gave up plays to a great clemson team…BUT the officiating DID have an impact on the game and anyone with eyes and a brain can see that the clemson wr caught the ball and fumbled and that play getting overturned by the sucky replay official cost OSU the game as well…to say sucky calls had no impact is simply false and wrong and DID help change who won this game

      1. Hey Homer, where is Jethro? Crying about the officiating is pathetic. They weren’t ACC officials, lol. You embarrass yourself.

  7. 35-29, TDs not FGs, if the B1G doesn’t step up and say no more mfing southern officals, B12 or west coast only I’m not watching another B1G bowl, I’m tired of the wussies in the B1G office. I have never been more pissed off than this game been watching since early 1970s, will only watch TTUN game. 0-2 South Carolina, 0-3 FSU, 0-4 Clemson, 0-1 Tennessee, 0-1-1 Auburn, 1-3 Alabama. This is BS. The coaches lost this game, horrible red zone calling. At least 1 time on 4th down at around 5 yard line they should have gone for it. Pathetic. This team started off as one of the best, but after Rutgers something changed. They weren’t full speed ahead, just dragging there feet. In the first couple series against Clemson the spark and fire was there, but the horrible play calling in red zone led to P#ssy FGs and a loss. I’m happy beating TTUN, domn’t give a da#n about other games! I’ve had it with losing to gd southern teams!

  8. Their D stepped up 3 times to keep it from getting ugly early…they dialed up a 70 yd QB run before half…and went 95 yds with game on the line (down in the 4th qtr under 3 min).

    They managed to not drop a TD crossing the goal line (JK). They managed not to drop a screen pass that would have gone for a TD (JK). They managed to not throw two INTs.

    All we have to blame is targeting, a punt block that should have never been called, and a fumble TD that shouldn’t have been overturned. Definitely enough to complain about…but when you add it up, they did enough to win.

    Day has closed the coaching gap with Clemson. Hold on to that. We have a top 5 program.

    1. Closed the coaching gap? Are you high? Coaching is why Clemson won. They never got rattled. Dropping TD passes, stupid penalties, miscommunication, that’s a combination of poor discipline and being rattled. OSU was the more talented team, not even close, but they lost by a TD. The refs didn’t help but Dabo and Venables did what they do, find a way to win. Buckeyes earned this loss and they have to live with it. And so do we…

      1. Brian, last time out it was 31-0 and non competitive with OSU rolling out the worst game plan ever (“QB Power Dive on one”). Last night we were much better coached than in 2016.

  9. Ohio State was the better team on the field tonight! Yes, they should have converted more TD’s in the red zone and not field goals. And yes, there were questionable calls like Clemson’s fumble which was overturned and Dobbins’ pass that was ruled incomplete AFTER he crossed the goal line. But the fact is they still scored enough points that should have won them the game. The penalties were catastrophic and FIelds’ interception was the dagger. The targeting call, also aided by the PI directly after, along with the running into the kicker directly resulted in 14 points for Clemson. You can argue whether or not they were the right calls, but they still happened, and those two penalties will forever haunt this team. Those two plays I feel were the most severe in causing the loss.

    1. They didn’t have an answer to our defense until the targeting ejection. They were confounded by the single-high zone spy that our DB’s and coverage LB’s had obviously trained down to the most minute detail. Until one of the pieces (Wade) was removed from the board. Boom! Open lane! First Clemson score of the game. Fire back in Trevor Lawrence’s eyes. Beginning of the end.

      1. Michael Jennings- some of the commenters above are drinking the orange kool aid, it seems… Clem VERY much needed the officials to win, despite being the favored team with a 28 million game win streak. The reason OSU came away with FGs is that Clem ain’t bad, folks! Jeesh. OSU managed a 16-0 lead and extremely dubious officiating swung momentum first (Wade), then preserved the win in an atrocious display (Fuller’s TD). The players did enough to win-period. The guys paid to officiate the game didn’t- period.

        1. i totally agree with longtime fan..some of the above the totally ignore the ref calls that did impact the game are blind…

          1. Pathetic homerism. Sounds like Miami in 2003. Some of you guys need to learn how to deal with reality. They lost and nobody cheated. Ohio State was outcoached.

            1. Who is your REAL team, Rat? It isn’t OSU- troll alert.

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