GLENDALE, Ariz. — The band Staind could probably provide the best answer to the question about the last time the Ohio State Buckeyes have been dominated in a big game like they were Saturday night by the Clemson Tigers in the Playstation Fiesta Bowl.
It’s been awhile.
Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson ran for two scores and threw for another while the Tigers’ defense absolutely dominated throughout in a 31-0 victory over the Buckeyes. The win propels Clemson to a second straight College Football Championship Game appearance against Alabama on Jan. 9 in Tampa.
The loss puts Ohio State in a different place altogether — wondering about what went wrong.
The Buckeyes (12-2) couldn’t do anything on the ground or through the air. Despite their lack of yardage, Ohio State had chances to put points on the board twice in the first quarter. Following an interception on Watson’s first throw of the night by cornerback Gareon Conley, OSU kicker Tyler Durbin missed a 47-yard field goal attempt.
On the Buckeyes’ next drive, Durbin missed again from 47 yards out.
Ohio State wouldn’t run another play in Clemson territory until they were the beneficiaries of back-to-back pass interference calls on Clemson with under two minutes to go in the third quarter.
The Buckeyes managed just 215 total yards and nine first downs on the night. They were shut out by an opponent for the first time in 295 games, dating back to Michigan’s 20-0 win over OSU on Nov. 20, 1993. It was the first time an Urban Meyer-coached team — whether at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida or Ohio State — has ever been blanked.
“We just didn’t execute very well on offense,” a dejected Meyer said.
The running game struggled against Clemson’s dominant front line, fueled mostly by senior defensive tackle Carlos Watkins and redshirt freshman Clelin Ferrell. Ohio State managed just 88 yards on the ground, with 64 of that total coming on one garbage-time scamper by Curtis Samuel.
The passing game wasn’t any better. Clemson safety Jadar Johnson said in the days leading up to the game that the Tigers had faced much better passers than Buckeyes signal caller J.T. Barrett. Those comments made headlines, but were pretty darn accurate.
Barrett completed 19-of-33 passes, but only for 127 yards. He was picked off twice, both times inside the Clemson 2-yard line.
“The did a good job of being disruptive, the D-line did,” Barrett said. “I mean, there were times I could have done a better job getting the ball out, as far as seeing my reads faster.”
Barrett is a redshirt junior and has earned his degree, which opens up questions about whether he’ll return to Columbus in 2017 or seek another school at which to finish his eligibility.
“I really didn’t give it that much thought, but it will be really hard for me to walk away when we just lost 31-0,” the quarterback said when asked about his pending decision.
Meyer was much less verbose when asked about the future of the Buckeyes’ passing game.
“We will become a good passing team, we will,” he said. “Next year.”
Whether that good passing game includes Barrett next season remains to be seen.
The process of licking their wounds won’t be a long one for the Buckeyes, according to their head coach.
“We’re going to move on quickly,” he said. “Identify things that have to get better and we will. That’s what we do.
“Ohio State is not used to this. I’m not used to this, and we will not get used to this. That’s not going to happen again. So we’ll get things worked out.”
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