The Tigers made their return to the college football playoff, taking on the Ohio State Buckeyes for the opportunity to play in the national championship game against Alabama. The Buckeyes came in as slight favorites, but the Tigers put on one of the most dominating performances of the year, getting a 31-0 win and dealing Urban Meyer his first ever shutout.
The game started slowly as the two teams sized each other up. Clemson’s first possession ended with an interception on Deshaun Watson as Mike Williams slipped and gave the Buckeye defender an easy pick. The Tiger defense responded with a good series, with Clelin Ferrell giving the Buckeye offense fits. Ferrell had quite a night and was ultimately named the defensive player of the game. The Tigers responded with a good drive where Williams made a nice catch and run. The Ohio State defense tightened and Clemson settled for a field goal to open the scoring.
Clemson’s kickoff coverage had a couple of lapses that allowed the Buckeyes to start with good field position, but then Tiger defense continued to stifle the Buckeye run game, forcing them away from their strength and into 3rd and long passing situations. I’m sure that is not what Coach Meyer wanted his team to be doing.
Clemson had a nice drive with Williams making his usual impressive catches, and Watson got into the end zone from a yard out to put the Tigers up 10-0. The next few series by both teams didn’t generate much heat. Clemson did have a good drive going, with a good mix of play calls, but Watson threw another interception, floating a long pass to Hunter Renfrow that allowed the athletic Buckeye free safety to come across the field and pick it off. The Tiger defense responded with another good series against the Buckeye offense.
The ensuing Clemson drive was well executed. Mr. Clutch, Renfrow, made a nice catch on 3rd and 2 to keep the drive going. Watson got loose and showed his impressive, instinctive running skills on a 33-yard scamper. The Tigers got into the end zone with an impressive 30-yard catch by CJ Fuller who had a Buckeye defender all over him. After a couple of ineffective possessions by both teams, the half ended with the Tigers up 17-0.
The second half didn’t go any better for the Buckeyes. The Tiger offense had a great opportunity with 1st and goal on the 2-yard line, but went backwards on the first three plays, and then missed a field goal attempt. The defense, however, kept playing lights out against the Ohio State offense.
The Tigers got good field position after the Buckeyes were called for interference on Artavis Scott on a punt. Watson and Wayne Gallman ran well during that series and Watson got into the end zone on a 7-yard run to put the Tigers up 24-0. Ohio State then seemed to decide that the best way to gain yardage on the Tigers was to throw it deep and get pass interference penalties. The Tiger secondary obliged them at first, but then Cordrea Tankersley got an interception to send the Buckeye offense back to the sideline. The Tigers then had a good drive going, with Gallman ripping off a determined run on 3rd and 19 to get the first down. Fuller made another nice catch on 3rd and 5 but the drive later stalled.
Ohio State finally had a good play where Curtis Samuel got loose on an 86-yard run. The Tiger defense then stiffened and kept the Buckeyes from scoring. The Tigers responded with a good drive that ended with a 7-yd run by Gallman to make the score 31-0, and put the final stamp on one of the most dominating games of the year.
I did not expect the game to be a blowout. But the Tiger defense is elite, and elite defenses are what you need to compete for championships. And when the Tiger offense gets into a rhythm, that spells doom for the opposing team. The Tigers thus earned the right to play Alabama in the national championship game for the second year in a row. As always, STS will have detailed analysis of tonight’s game and previews of the upcoming battle with the Crimson Tide. Check back with us for that full coverage, and let us hear your thoughts in the comments below.