Ohio State running back Trey Sermon runs past Clemson safety Lannden Zanders during the first half of the Sugar Bowl NCAA college football game Friday, Jan. 1, 2021, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Fields’ day: No. 3 Ohio State routs No. 2 Clemson 49-28

Fields’ day: No. 3 Ohio State routs No. 2 Clemson 49-28

NEW ORLEANS — Justin Fields threw six touchdown passes to outshine Trevor Lawrence and No. 3 Ohio State avenged last season’s painful College Football Playoff loss to Clemson with a 49-28 victory in the Sugar Bowl semifinal Saturday night.

The Buckeyes (7-0) head to the CFP title game for the first time since the inaugural playoff to face No. 1 Alabama on Jan. 11 at Hard Rock Stadium in South Florida. Ohio State beat the Crimson Tide in the semifinals on the way to the 2014 national championship.

In a matchup of quarterback prodigies from Georgia, Fields might have given the Jacksonville Jaguars something to think about what do to with that first pick in the NFL draft. Lawrence is the presumptive No. 1, but Fields outplayed him on this night, going 22 for 28 for 385 yards. He set a Sugar Bowl record for TD passes and did it playing more than half the game after taking a vicious shot the side that forced him to miss a play and spend time in the medical tent.

Lawrence was 33 for 48 for 400 yards and three total touchdowns in what is expected to be the junior’s final college game. His final pass was intercepted, but Clemson (10-2) went 34-2 in his starts and won a national title when he was a freshman.

The third meeting between Clemson and Ohio State in the playoff, and fourth bowl matchup since the 2013 season, was a game the Buckeyes had been pointing toward ever since a 29-23 loss to Tigers in the Fiesta Bowl last year.

That score was everywhere the Buckeyes turned in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus this year.

A chance for revenge was nearly derailed when the Big Ten cancelled fall football in August because of the pandemic. An abbreviated Big Ten season caused more headaches, with the Buckeyes having three games cancelled because of COVID-19 issues, including their own outbreak.

The playoff committee still liked Ohio State enough to put the Buckeyes in the final four, despite much griping from various parts of the country, including Clemson.

Ohio State coach Ryan Day talked all week about what a great story it would be for the Buckeyes to survive this rollercoaster of a season and still reach their goal.

Clemson took a 7-0 lead on the opening drive and then went up 14-7 with Lawrence and Etienne running for scores.

From there it was all Buckeyes. Fields threw touchdown passes to tight ends Luke Farrell and Jeremy Ruckert on consecutive drives to give Ohio State a 21-14 lead early in the second quarter.

Operating without offensive co-ordinator Tony Elliott, who did not make the trip while in COVID-19 protocols, the Clemson offence couldn’t respond. The Buckeyes kept rolling behind Field, though not without a major scare.

Field scrambled on a third-and-long and took a hard shot to the right side from Clemson linebacker James Skalski that put the Buckeyes star into a fetal position before rolling over onto his back in obvious pain.

The play was reviewed for a targeting foul that resulted in Clemson’s top linebacker being ejected and a first-and-goal for the Buckeyes.

Fields came out for one play and returned to immediately throw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Chris Olave that made it 28-14.

Fields went to the injury tent with Ohio State athletic trainers on Clemson’s next possession, which didn’t last long.

Fields was right back out there on the Buckeyes next drive. He took another hit on a scramble and slowly got up. After each play he moved gingerly, but with Trey Sermon running hard and the Buckeyes providing good protection, Fields continued to carve up the Tigers.

He hit Ruckert for a 12-yard score with 11 seconds left in the half.

A year after blowing 16-0 first-half lead in last year’s excruciating semifinal loss to Clemson, the Buckeyes handed the Tigers their largest halftime deficit (21) since the 2012 Orange Bowl against West Virginia (29 points).

The second half started with Clemson looking like it might have another comeback in it. Fields was intercepted in the Tigers’ end zone and Lawrence came back with an 80-yard touchdown drive to cut it to 35-21.

Nervous time for the Buckeyes? Not for long. Fields threw a perfectly placed bomb to Olave for a 56-yard touchdown pass that made it 42-21 with 4:55 left in the third quarter.

And if there was any doubt, Fields threw another rain-making TD pass to Jameson Williams that officially went into the books as a 46-yarder, but travelled over 50 in the air.

THE TAKEAWAY

Ohio State: Sermon followed up his school-record 331-yard rushing Big Ten championship game with 193 on he ground and another 61 receiving. The Oklahoma transfer is having late-season breakout similar to Ezekiel Elliott’s in 2014.

Clemson: Coach Dabo Swinney complained Ohio State’s six-game schedule was too short to warrant a playoff spot and might even give the Buckeyes an unfair advantage. Yes, he said the Buckeyes were good enough to beat the Tigers, but he placed Ohio State 11th on his coaches’ poll ballot just the same. It was nothing personal, Swinney said, but the Buckeyes sure looked as if they took it that way, beating Clemson for the first time in five bowl meetings.

MISSING

The Buckeyes were without second-leading rusher Master Teague, starting guard Harry Miller and two defensive ends in Tyler Friday and Zach Harrison. Ohio State did not give details of their absences but all four had played in the Big Ten championship two weeks ago.

NEXT

Ohio State: The Buckeyes will make their second appearance in the College Football Playoff national championship game. They beat Oregon to win the 2014 title.

Clemson: The Tigers open next season with a doozy of a nonconference game against Georgia in Charlotte.

__

Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at https://westwoodonepodcasts.com/pods/ap-top-25-college-football-podcast/

___

More AP college football: https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

Ralph D. Russo, The Associated Press

Football

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Whistle Stop Cafe owner Christopher Scott and his sister Melodie are serving sit-down customers in their Mirror diner to protest health restrictions that they say are unfair to restaurants and other small businesses. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Central Alberta restaurant owner defies health restrictions by serving diners

Whistle Stop Cafe owner says pandemic restrictions unfair to restaurants and small businesses

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said in her daily update on Monday that 362 new COVID cases have been identified and 7,200 tests done in the last 24 hours. (File photo)
COVID-19: UK variant may have entered broader community says Alberta health minister

25 cases of two variants identified in Alberta and one not linked to travel

An ice sculpture of a bee with a timely message was created near the Ross Street Patio. It’s party of a Downtown Business Association initiative to draw more people downtown to support local businesses. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).
Ice sculptures created to draw more people to downtown Red Deer

Three sculptures can be seem at various venues

Lab and x-ray technologist Rebecca Walter demonstrates a new digital radiographic X-ray unit funded by an $850,000 donation. The new unit is at the Sylvan Lake Advanced Ambulatory Care Service.
Photo contributed
New Sylvan Lake X-ray unit up and running

Radiographic x-ray unit made possible by $850,000 donation from Sylvan Lake couple

(Black Press file photo)
Police seeking suspects in Bowden armed robbery

Man was beaten and robbed of his wallet

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

FILE - In this Monday, March 11, 2019, file photo, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders speaks during a news briefing at the White House, in Washington. Former White House spokeswoman Sanders is running for Arkansas governor, a source told The Associated Press, late Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci, File)
Ex-Trump spokeswoman Sanders running for Arkansas governor

Ex-Trump spokeswoman Sanders running for Arkansas governor

FILE - In this Jan. 23, 2021, file photo, registered Nurse Shyun Lin, left, gives Roberto Fisher, 72, the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a pop-up vaccination site in the William Reid Apartments in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Coronavirus deaths and cases per day in the U.S. dropped markedly over the past couple of weeks but are still running at alarmingly high levels, and the effort to snuff out COVID-19 is becoming an ever more urgent race between the vaccine and the mutating virus. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, Pool, File)
US virus numbers drop, but race against new strains heats up

US virus numbers drop, but race against new strains heats up

President-elect Joe Biden, right, listens as Janet Yellen, who Biden nominated to serve as Secretary of the Treasury, speaks at The Queen theater, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Janet Yellen wins Senate approval as treasury secretary

Janet Yellen wins Senate approval as treasury secretary

Vice President Mike Pence administers the oath of office to Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D, during a reenactment ceremony in the Old Senate Chamber at the Capitol in Washington, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021. (Samuel Corum/Pool via AP)
Trump impeachment goes to Senate, testing his sway over GOP

Trump impeachment goes to Senate, testing his sway over GOP

FILE - In this Dec. 18, 2020 file photo, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador gives his daily, morning news conference at the presidential palace, Palacio Nacional, in Mexico City. Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador says he has tested positive for COVID-19 and is under medical treatment, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte, File)
Mexican president works from isolation after virus test

Mexican president works from isolation after virus test

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

People arrive to be tested for COVID-19 at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, January 24, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Too soon to know if Canada’s COVID-19 case decline will continue, Tam says

Too soon to know if Canada’s COVID-19 case decline will continue, Tam says

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is administered to a personal support worker at the Ottawa Hospital Tuesday December 15, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canadian provinces push back vaccination plans as Pfizer deliveries grind to a halt

Canadian provinces push back vaccination plans as Pfizer deliveries grind to a halt

Most Read