NEW ORLEANS (WIS) - For days, there was a lot of discussion about No. 3 Ohio State and whether or not they belonged in the College Football Playoff with a 6-0 record.
Justin Fields and the Buckeyes silenced the doubters with a dominant Sugar Bowl performance and a 49-28 win over No. 2 Clemson.
“Obviously not our night,” said Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney. “Incredibly disappointed in how we played but super proud of our fight in the second half. Obviously, the game got away from us. You know, our guys continued to compete all the way down to the last play and I’m really proud of that.”
The Tigers (10-2) opened the scoring with a drive that lasted nearly three minutes. Trevor Lawrence’s 2-yard option run would cap the 8-play drive to make it 7-0.
The Buckeyes tied it up by leaning on Trey Sermon. The Ohio State running back came up with a 34-yard reception and followed that with a 32-yard touchdown run to tie the game 7-7.
Sermon had 31 carries for 193 yards and a score.
Clemson responded again in the quarter with another fast drive that spanned 75 yards. This time, it was Travis Etienne finishing off the drive with a 3-yard run. That run made it 14-7 with 5:01 remaining in the period.
Ohio State (7-0) tied it up again late in the quarter. Fields led the Buckeyes down the field 75 yards and found Luke Farrell in the end zone to make it 14-14.
Fields got hot in the second quarter. Not long into the period, the former Georgia quarterback tossed his second touchdown pass of the night to Jeremy Ruckert. The 17-yard pass pushed the Buckeyes ahead 21-14 and gave the Big Ten champs their first lead of the night.
With Clemson struggling to find answers defensively, things got worse for the Tigers’ defense with just under six minutes left in the half. James Skalski was ejected for targeting and hitting Fields in the ribs with the crown of his helmet.
Despite the injury, Fields would toss two more touchdown passes in the quarter giving Ohio State a 35-14 lead at the half.
OSU put up 394 yards in the half.
Clemson needed something good to happen before things got out of hand and Mike Jones made it happen. The Tigers’ sophomore linebacker picked off Fields in the end zone to give Clemson the ball back. The Tigers capitalized on the takeaway with Lawrence firing his first touchdown pass of the night to Cornell Powell to finish off the drive to cut the lead to 35-21.
Lawrence was 33-of-48 for 400 yards and two touchdowns.
However, Fields was unfazed. He tossed his fifth touchdown pass of the night on a 56-yard bomb to Chris Olave extending the lead to 42-21.
Fields, who was named the Sugar Bowl Offensive MVP, was 22-of-28 passing for 385 yards and six touchdowns.
The Tigers and Buckeyes each tacked on one more touchdown each in the fourth quarter.
Ohio State will now face No. 1 Alabama in the national title game.
Clemson is now 0-3 all-time in the Sugar Bowl.