GLENDALE, Ariz. – It was not good. It was bad. It was ugly.
Except, of course, for Clemson. For the Tigers, it was good, it was great, it was beautiful.
No. 3 Ohio State’s quest for another national championship came crashing down when No. 2 Clemson dominated the Buckeyes 31-0 in a College Football Playoff semifinal at the Fiesta Bowl on Saturday night.
Heisman Trophy runner-up Deshaun Watson completed 19 of 33 passes for 259 yards and a touchdown and ran for two more TDs to lead Clemson (13-1) into a rematch with No. 1 Alabama in the College Football Playoff Championship game.
The Tigers rolled up 470 yards total offense, the most allowed by Ohio State in a game this season. OSU (11-2) had a season low in total yards (215) and rushing yards (88). Clemson’s defense had 11 tackles for losses and three sacks.
“I expected a much better performance. I didn’t expect this,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said.
“We got beat and we’re going to move on quickly. We’ll identify things that happened and get better. Ohio State is not used to this, I’m not used to this, we will not get used to this. That’s not going to happen,” he said.
Quarterback J.T. Barrett, who was 19 of 33 for 127 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions, said, “Unfortunate things just kept on continuing to happen. We didn’t help our defense at all.
“This was unexpected. We didn’t see this coming by any means. We didn’t come to play,” he said. “They did a good job of being disruptive. We just didn’t execute on offense, we didn’t execute in anything on offense.”
The shutout was the first against Ohio State since a 28-0 loss to Michigan in Ann Arbor in 1993. It was the first time in the 194 games Meyer has been a college head coach that he had a team shut out.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said, “What a night and what a journey. Our defense was indescribable. They (Ohio State) are a great team, but our guys were just ready tonight.”
If one sequence illustrated Ohio State’s struggles, it was in the fourth quarter when Curtis Samuel broke loose for a 64-yard run deep into Clemson territory. But three plays later the Buckeyes were in a fourth down and 27 yards to go situation and Barrett threw an interception.
Meyer said he did not get what he expected on Saturday night. “I thought we were going to go compete for the national championship in 10 days or whatever it is. I really did.
“We had a bunch of good players, a bunch of good guys. My anticipation is to get back here next year and take a good swing at it again. But we’ve got a lot of hard work to do,” he said.
Clemson jumped out to a 17-0 halftime lead and the way it was playing defense that probably would have been enough. But they added two more scores and began to look ahead to their rematch with Alabama, which beat the Tigers 45-40 in last year’s national championship game.