Glendale, AZ – Many dreams have died in the cold winter of the Arizona desert, on the poorly kept turf of State Farm Stadium. The most infamous of these were the 18-0 Patriots, but the question in the air tonight was who would advance to face the legendary LSU and Burrow.
Trevor Lawrence down and in pain off of a Shaun Wade (debated) targeting call. Down 16-0, nothing had gone Clemson’s way. JK Dobbins dominated Venables’ unit, and only two goal line stands prevented this from being a 28-0 blowout. A shanked field goal, an anemic offense, the loss of Tee Higgins, and now Trevor Lawrence was down.
Debate the targeting call, take your stance on it. It didn’t matter: the sleeping giant from the Blue Ridge Mountains was wide awake, ready to pounce.
Lawrence was only shaken up, and the ugly drive was finished by an impressive juke-and-run by Etienne for eight yards and dignity. 16-7, three minutes to play in the half.
The defense that Day’s men had shredded between the twenties clamped shut, delivering a three-and-out and seventy seconds for Lawrence.
A great block by John Simpson here, a nice juke there to shake off a defensive back, and Clemson’s leading rusher of the game (and sole 100 yard rusher) ran 67 yards to pay dirt. Touchdown – Trevor Lawrence. A 16-point deficit that felt like 36 was snapped into a two-point deficit.
Midway through the third quarter, number 9 was called and delivered. The cross-slip-screen had been set up all game, Etienne capitalized and raced 53-yards to give Clemson its first lead of the night, 21-16.
In the middle of a period of offensive stagnation, a controversial-by-region call occurred. Star cornerback Jeffrey Okudah appeared to strip Justyn Ross of the football and take it to the house. Upon further review, it was ruled an incomplete pass to the dismay of those North of the Mason Dixon and the delight to those below.
Ohio State went for the jugular. Previously opting to go for field goals, they scored on a 4th-and-1 play action play, verticals down the seam. 23-21, twelve minutes to go.
Down two points after swapping scoreless drives, Clemson had three minutes to drive 94 yards. Lawrence tto Ross for 11, Lawrence rush for 11. Lawrence pass to Rodgers for 38. Fittingly, a Lawrence touchdown pass down the field to Etienne to take a 27-23 lead with 109 seconds left.
Lawrence rolls right, throws across his body, nails Tee Higgins in the back of the end zone to stretch the lead to 29-23.
Some said there was too much time left for Fields, and it appeared that way. Just like the first drive of the game, Fields and company marched right outside the red zone.
Fields picked on Nolan Turner one too many times. Perceived as the ‘weak link’, he was targeted throughout the game with success. But the two-star Alabama player so reminiscent of Swinney had other plans, and he started by snatching Buckeye Nation’s dreams of glory – intercepting the five-star transfer quarterback in the end zone.
One more play. The seconds hung in the air, media and players alike waiting to rush the field after the kneel. Outscoring the Buckeyes 29-7, coming from the brink of termination – the dam of these emotions burst with eight seconds on the clock.
The opportunity to play in one more game. One more chance at a ring. One more chance to prove the doubters wrong. One more display of gut and will. Another game in hostile territory, against another group of Tigers seemingly destined for glory. One more duel for the ages.