Ohio State gets dominated (and shutout) by Clemson, 31-0

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

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:

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.

  • I get it. All of it. But that was embarrassing regardless. I’m not a Queen of Hearts type, but off with the heads of the offensive coaching staff. Pathetic effort.

  • JM85

    I hope they look for a new offensive coordinator. This offense hasn’t been the same since Herman left.

  • CBiscuit

    Yep it’s the youngest team in football, but the talent we have isn’t getting utilized and developed on the offensive side of the ball. The offensive coordinators need to be replaced. The game plan and prep have been lacking. Play calling…Dear lord…

    The O line was manhandled…and we were out coached and outplayed pure and simple. Our WR development is abysmal and JT’s development has been stilted.

    Ultimately though I think JT is not the answer and it is time to have a legit open competition. Some young talent waiting for their turn. Will Urban allow that and see that and coaching changes as the tough but right calls to make is the question?

    As for the D, it’ll be tough to lose Fickell…plus likely Hooker and Raekwon in the draft. I think the Silver Bullets will be ok.

    Tough loss but hats off to a better Clemson team.

  • NankirPhelge

    A few weeks ago, SI touted the Big Ten as better than the SEC. So far this bowl season, we’re 2-5, with our biggest gun getting blown out. We’ll need two upsets tomorrow (Penn St. and Iowa) and a win by Wisconsin just to break even.

    BTW, I hate the idea of the NFL kicking the New Year’s Day bowls back to Monday. TV should have made the NFL play on Saturday.

  • tsm

    Once it became obvious the Buckeyes could not succeed on the ground and had to pass to get back in the game (early 3rd quarter) Burrow should have been inserted as he is a much better passer. I realize that Meyer would never do this, as he is extremely loyal to his veterans, and especially JT. A few completed deep balls and slants would have made a huge difference. i disagree that JT never had time to throw. While not a lot, there certainly were a number of times that he had sufficient time in the pocket. No way JT should be under center next year.

  • Saggy

    Don’t put too much stock in Bowl records. It’s not like the #1 team in the Big Ten plays the #1 team in the SEC, and so on.

    You have things like Michigan going to Miami to play Florida State (a basic home game for the Seminoles), unranked Iowa going to Tampa to play Florida (another home game) in the Outback Bowl, unranked Northwestern against 23rd ranked Pitt, and others.

    I am more dismayed by the Buckeyes result (though it was totally expected) because they represented the class of the conference. And, no – Michigan wouldn’t have done any better.

  • Saggy

    I turned it off – happily – after the first quarter. The Buckeyes have never reminded me more of the Browns. With absolutely ZERO deep threat it was easy for Clemson to load up.


    Were I an OSU fan, the thing I’d be concerned about is guys like Samuel, Conley, Hooker, McMillan, etc. leaving for the NFL. I know the recruiting has been great at OSU, but being a young team this year only works for next year if those guys stay.

  • CBiscuit

    Couple might. Most will prob go. New guys will step up. Not trying to be cocky, but that’s seriously one of the least concerns. Urban’s teams dominate under systems, and the offensive system has been sputtering since Tom Hermann left…when we had an embarrassment of talent last year even.


    My point wasn’t to say there isn’t talent waiting. But it’s mostly young, unproven talent. OSU won’t regress, but what I was saying is that they may not take a huge leap forward either if a bunch of the best players leave again.

  • CBiscuit

    Yeah, I hear that, and the loss will be felt for sure. Nothing can ever compare to the talent exodus of last year though. Insane loss of starters. Crazy thing is Malik Hooker, a 1st round stud, was only a starter this year. Someone else will step up in this talent pipeline. I’ll miss him, Raekwon, and Samuels (who I think will be gone too). But we can deal with only losing three studs this year! And bye bye OC Chris Beck…that was huge!