I don't know about you guys, but I am still in complete awe of what I saw in the Sugar Bowl last night. Unlike seemingly every single national media talking head, I thought there was a good chance that Ohio State won that game — and I said as much in our preview podcast earlier in the week. However, I don't think even the most devote members of Buckeye Nation would have predicted things would play out how they did on Friday night.
Not only did Ohio State emerge victorious to earn a spot in the national title game, but they absolutely dominated the Clemson Tigers. The Buckeyes were seven-point underdogs in the matchup, and won by 21 points after taking a lead in the second quarter and never looking back. Ryan Day got standout performances from many players on his team en route to the 49-28 win, but of course the guy everyone is talking about is Justin Fields.
There was lots of chatter coming into the night of Fields struggling in Ohio State’s bigger matchups of the year against Indiana and Northwestern, and the quarterback clearly took that personally as he came out with a vengeance against Clemson. Fields completed 22 of his 28 pass attempts for 385 yards and six touchdowns with one pick, doing so all while nursing an apparent rib injury suffered in the second quarter. It was one of the most impressive performances of the college football season, and one that deserves another look.
First TD — 8-yard pass to Luke Farrell
Trailing 14-7, a red zone opportunity was set up by a spectacular grab by Garrett Wilson for a pickup of 47 yards as the stud receiver laid out to haul in a catch down the sideline. As this throw into the end zone left Fields’ hands it looked like this ball was going to be intercepted, but Luke Farrell does a great job of boxing out his man and hauling in an impressive TD grab to tie that game at 14 apiece. Fields put this ball where only his tight end could get it, and Farrell does the rest.
Second TD — 17-yards pass to Jeremy Ruckert
Speaking of tight ends, Jeremy Ruckert got himself involved on the next Fields TD pass. This was really a beautifully designed play by Ohio State. Fields rolls out to his left, as does almost all of the motion of the offense. The defense follows suit, but Ruckert, who begins the play disguised as a blocker, leaks out across the middle and winds up wide open down the right sideline. Fields stops in his tracks, turns around, and floats it over to Ruckert for an easy walk-in touchdown for the Buckeyes’ first lead of the game.
Third TD — 9-yard pass to Chris Olave
This play was reminiscent of Fields against Michigan last year when he returned from injury to toss a crazy TD to Wilson, albeit with a slightly less degree of difficulty this time around. After returning from getting absolutely crushed by James Skalski in a hit that got the linebacker ejected for targeting, Fields extended the Buckeyes’ lead with this toss to Olave. The receiver was his usual smooth self, dusting the corner with a double-move and getting his foot down on the sideline for a pretty score.
Fourth TD — 12-yard pass to Jeremy Ruckert
This was one of Fields’ most impressive throws of the night, even if it was only 12 yards. Ruckert gives a nice outside look before running an inside post, and Fields puts the ball on the money between two Clemson defenders for yet another Ohio State touchdown. The Buckeyes coaching staff clearly saw how the Tigers struggled against Notre Dame’s tight ends earlier in the year, and they attacked that hole in the defense. Perfect execution here from both quarterback and receiver.
Fifth TD — 56-yard pass to Chris Olave
Another example of perfect execution across the board. This is a tremendous job by Ohio State’s offensive line to give Fields time to go through his progressions. You could see Olave is his third read here, looking down to Farrell and shallow to Wilson before seeing Olave wide open over the middle. The safety is reading the quarterbacks eyes the whole way, but by the time Fields looks over to Olave it is too late for him to make up ground. The throw is a dime, and the Buckeyes score a big one in an important spot late in the third quarter.
Sixth TD — 45-yard pass to Jameson Williams
The final nail in the coffin in the Sugar Bowl was this beautiful deep ball to Jameson Williams. With Ohio State getting everything they wanted on the ground, the play action gets the safety to bite all the way down in the box. Fields recognizes this immediately, and knows the corner has no chance in one-on-one coverage against potentially the fastest player on the Buckeyes’ roster. Another perfectly thrown deep ball hits Williams right in the bread basket, and Fields capped off a truly gutsy performance with a huge TD.
It’s never a bad night when you throw as many touchdown passes as incomplete passes, especially against one of the top defenses in the country. If Fields can recreate this performance against the Crimson Tide — hopefully in a significantly less painful fashion — the Buckeyes will have a real shot at knocking off Alabama to win the whole damn thing.