For the Ohio State Buckeyes, New Year’s Eve could have been an all night party. Not only during (and throughout) their National Semifinal, but following the game, when the party would have led into 2017 and until next fall. In case you were busy at your own party, that’s not what happened. At all. In fact, it was the complete opposite. The Buckeyes were outplayed and outcoached (at least on offense) and for the first time in head coach Urban Meyer’s coaching career, his team was shutout, 31-0, by the Clemson Tigers.
Call it the debacle in the desert, the disaster in the desert, or any other name you want, it was all of those, and more.
Ohio State’s first three possessions started with great field position: at their own 30-yard line and at Clemson’s 30-yard line twice, and they still came away with nothing. The Buckeyes’ offense struggled all game. After kicker Tyler Durbin missed two consecutive 47-yard field goals in the Ohio State’s second and third possessions of the game, the offense stalled. It may have just been six points, but those two misses were huge momentum killers.
Quarterback J.T. Barrett struggled all season, but his struggles and year-long inconsistencies all but peaked Saturday night. The redshirt junior completed 19-of-33 passes for just 127 yards and two interceptions. On basically all of his throws that were downfield, he either overthrew or underthrew his target. Just how bad was No. 16? The offense’s two biggest plays of the game came on two defensive pass interference plays in the fourth quarter, when the game was all but in the bag already.
Barrett struggled and the offensive play-calling was questionable, but Ohio State’s biggest problem in the shutout outside of not being able to throw the ball downfield was their offensive line. They were not only dominated in the trenches, but they hardly ever gave their quarterback time in the pocket or opened holes for the run game. The line allowed three sacks and 11 tackles for loss. Plenty of fans may have been wondering throughout the game why running back Mike Weber had just five carries for 24 yards and H-back Curtis Samuel recorded just six carries for 67 yards, many of which were when the game was all but over, but it’s hard to run the ball when your offensive line isn’t able to block much of anything.
Ohio State’s defense allowed 31 points, but they were superb for much of the game. The Silver Bullets gave up a handful of big plays, but considering the fact that they were on the field for almost 36 minutes due to the Buckeyes not being able to move the ball on offense, the defense was clearly tired down the stretch. With Ohio State’s offense not being able to put points on the scoreboard, let alone first downs, the defense was forced to shut down Clemson’s high-powered offense led by star quarterback Deshaun Watson. They did a great job, but that task is all but impossible for any college football team.
Linebacker Raekwon McMillan (15 tackles, one sack, two tackles for loss), Chris Worley (10 tackles), Malik Hooker (seven tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss, one interception), Gareon Conley (six tackles, one interception), and Sam Hubbard (five tackles, 0.5 sacks, one tackle for loss) highlighted the Silver Bullets’ impressive game on defense.
They were shutout in an embarrassing effort, but let’s be honest, the Buckeyes weren’t supposed to be in this game tonight. The youngest team in the FBS, many expected the scarlet and gray to lose a game or two (or even more) during the regular season. But, here they were, against Clemson in the National Semifinal. The Tigers were clearly the better team tonight. While Barrett struggled immensely throwing the ball, especially the deep ball, given the fact that he was pressured for much of the game and the fact that he didn’t have many deep threats on the outside, there’s a reason for his struggles as well.
The shutout loss set plenty of records, including Meyer’s first time being shutout:
- Their biggest margin of defeat since they lost to Penn State, 63-14, in 1994.
- The first time they have been shutout since 1993.
- The first time the Buckeyes have been shutout in a bowl game since 1920.
Ohio State may have been shutout and embarrassed Saturday night, but they have a bright future. Be positive, Buckeye Nation. I’ll just leave these tweets here:
Reminder: the Buckeyes were the youngest team in the country, this was a rebuilding year for Ohio State, and they *still* made the Playoff.
— Josh Poloha (@JorshP) January 1, 2017
Ohio State lost 16 (!) starters, 12 of which were drafted, and *still* made the Playoff. Let that sink in for a second.
— Josh Poloha (@JorshP) January 1, 2017
The Buckeyes’ rebuilding year was better than 99 percent of any other college football team’s best season in recent memory. Let thank sink in.