The Clemson football team came away with a massive victory in the Playstation Fiesta Bowl, but the game really boils down to a tale of two quarterbacks.
“It was the best of times and it was the worst of times.”
Clemson football fell behind 16-0 early on, but the Tigers bounced back and came away with a thrilling 29-23 win over the Ohio State Buckeyes to advance to the National Championship game.
Though many Buckeye fans want to make this game out to be some kind of officiating travesty that went against them in the worst kind of way, the truth is simple and much harder to swallow.
It was a tale of two quarterbacks.
Justin Fields struck gold on a beautifully called and executed fourth-down play early in the fourth quarter to give Ohio State a 23-21 lead. The Tigers couldn’t follow up on the ensuing drive and were forced to punt. Fields and that Buckeye offense took over and drained the clock before ultimately punting the ball away with just 3:07 remaining, pinning Clemson deep in its own territory.
Trevor Lawrence would take over with one last opportunity to potentially give Clemson football the win- on his own 6-yard line, facing an Ohio State defense that had been aggressively pursuing him all night.
Lawrence wasn’t phased.
He led the Tigers on a drive that will not soon be forgotten. He completed an 11-yard pass to Justyn Ross and then followed that up with an 11-yard scramble of his own. Lawrence then rifled a pass in to Amari Rodgers that turned into a 38-yard gain all the way down to the Ohio State 34-yard line.
On the very next play, Lawrence found Travis Etienne on a designed ‘jump pass’ and the Tigers scored with 1:49 remaining, taking a 29-23 lead after the two-point conversion.
Justin Fields had an opportunity to answer, though, and it looked as if he was going to do just that. Fields had plenty of time and it was clear that the Clemson defense had been tired out after being on the field all night.
The Buckeyes marched down to the Clemson 23-yard line and still had a timeout remaining with 0:43 remaining. All Fields had to do was find a way to get his team into the end zone and they were heading to the National Championship.
Instead, after some confusion with WR Chris Olave– who broke off from his route- Fields threw a perfect ball directly to Tiger safety Nolan Turner, who picked it off in the end zone, crushing any chances the Buckeyes had of a game-winning drive.
When we look back at this game, it was nothing short of spectacular, but it was- without a doubt- a tale of two quarterbacks.
Did Olave make the wrong decision? Sure. Were there a few things that may have went against the Buckeyes? Yes. But let’s not pretend that those were ‘made-up calls’ or completely incorrect in nature, either.
Plenty of things went against Clemson football too, but there was a difference.
Trevor Lawrence embraced the adversity and came up with plays necessary to win the game. Justin Fields didn’t and it’s really that simple. This isn’t to discredit Fields because he’s a superb QB with a bright future ahead of him, but it’s to show Ohio State fans that there were plenty of chances, but they couldn’t convert when it matters most.
Fields may have gotten an invitation to New York for the Heisman ceremony, but Trevor Lawrence earned his trip to another National Championship game. Lawrence remains undefeated in his career as a starter, while Fields threw twice as many interceptions in this one game as he had all season.
The Playstation Fiesta Bowl, indeed, was a tale of two quarterbacks. And, even more so, it was a tale of two programs and their ability to come up with the big play when it mattered most.