As it’s known by now by anyone who watches or follows football that Ohio State lost to Clemson 29-23 and the narrative of the game was the officiating and the controversy of a few calls that were made. I took some time to process the game and not start typing right away just because quite frankly I was mad and angry about the loss and felt it wasn’t fair or just what happened. As I now reflect I still believe it was the most sickening Ohio State loss I have seen just because the victory was right there and anyone who watched the game could see who the better team was. While I believe there was injustice in the officiating and who eventually won the game, it’s also true that Ohio State missed a lot of chances to put the game away. From what I’ve heard people tend to either believe the officials took the game away from Ohio State with bad calls, or that Ohio State lost because of missed opportunities of their own. I’ll dive deeper into the topic below, but I believe both can be true and believe both go hand in hand as to why Ohio State lost this game.
I want to get into the narrative after the game and what I heard and what I believe to be the truth. I heard some networks like ESPN call this a hard fought game between two evenly matched teams which quite frankly is false. If someone watched that game and saw the missed opportunities by Ohio State and the bad calls by the officials it’s not a stretch to say Ohio State could have blown Clemson out. Now the reality is that’s not what ended up playing out, but there is a list of about 10 things that include poor execution by Ohio State and poor calls by the officials. While it’s true that if just one of those things went Ohio State’s way they would have won, the game wouldn’t have even been close had half of those things went Ohio State’s way, and it’s hard to say how lopsided the game would have been if they all went the Buckeyes way. The interesting thing is that everything went right for Clemson in this game, and they still almost lost and would have lost had Chris Olave finished his route. What nobody talks about is what would have happened had everything went Ohio State’s way, and that’s why Ohio State was the much better team. If everything goes Ohio State’s way in that game they would have killed Clemson, and if they played 10 times I believe Ohio State would win 9 of them, with what we watched play out being the one scenario where Clemson would win.
While fans can move on quickly because they watch football for their own enjoyment, the real crime here is that the coaches and players for Ohio State didn’t get what they deserved. Without getting into the specifics just yet, Ohio State came into this game with a great game-plan by the coaches on both sides of the ball, and the players just had to execute. I haven’t heard a lot of people talk about this or give Ryan Day and those coaches the recognition they deserve for calling a great game. Day showed he belonged on that stage, and quite frankly out-coached Dabo Swinney and Brent Venables all game long. He showed a lot of creativity and drew up specific plays that would work against Clemson. There were a few great calls by Day that weren’t executed well, like the two touchdowns specifically that JK dobbins dropped. The real killer on a great call was the screen pass Dobbins dropped in the redzone. It was a perfectly timed call and all Dobbins had to do was make the catch to have a walk in touchdown, and he dropped it. Along those lines, I’ve heard that Ohio State lost because they kept kicking field goals instead of scoring touchdowns. While the score surely should have been 24-0 as opposed to 16-0, there was a play that changed the game, and it wasn’t Ohio State kicking field goals.
Without getting into specifics, I’m talking about the targeting call on Shawn Wade where he got thrown out of the game. That’s what changed the game, and if Ohio State gets the ball up 16-0 with 5 minutes to go until halftime, I refuse to believe that kicking those field goals would have lost them the game. The reality is that Clemson was shut out by Ohio State’s defense at full strength, and one of their best players had to be thrown out in order for them to get momentum and score points. If Ohio State gets any kind of points there before half Clemson has no momentum and is basically dead. Instead, the call swung the game and the score at half was 16-14 Ohio State. Even if the officials were following the rules, that’s simply not a hit you can throw a guy out for, and if that is the rule then the rule is bad and needs fixed. It has to be one of those reasons if not both, and a player in a playoff game should not be thrown out unless it’s a horrible hit. A flag was also never thrown, meaning the officials didn’t see it as targeting, but Trevor Lawrence laid there on the ground so they reviewed for targeting and threw him out. Yes, I believe Lawrence laid there on purpose acting hurt, because he only missed the very next play then was right back on the field with zero trips to the medical tent. If Lawrence gets right up after the hit targeting wouldn’t have been called.
When the score was 16-0 Ohio State showed that they were calling a great game on both sides of the ball and Clemson couldn’t score. Ohio State was shutting down an offense that most people deemed unstoppable. Ohio State did everything they should have done in order to win this game, and it somehow didn’t happen. Ohio State shut down Clemson’s star receivers all night, and Travis Etienne couldn’t run the ball and only had 36 yards rushing. On the other side of the ball, Ohio State was moving the ball at will and JK Dobbins was running all over the Clemson defense. Dobbins had 18 carries for 174 yards, an average of 9.7 yards per carry. The crazier stat is that at one point he had 7 carries for around 160 yards that included two huge runs. If you told any Ohio State fan that this was gonna happen they would have thought Ohio State steamrolled Clemson. Then in the second half he started dealing with an ankle injury, and while he came back and was effective it was obvious that he wasn’t the same player. While he dropped two touchdowns, I really felt bad for Dobbins especially after the game, because he ran hard all night and gave everything he had on that field, just like most of the players on Ohio State. They came out as the hungrier team and it was obvious, and the injustice of that team losing is the real crime.
Along those lines, what’s been talked about at length is the forced fumble for a touchdown that the Ohio State defense provided only for it to be taken away by the officials. With the touchdown, Ohio State would have taken a 23-21 lead. Since the touchdown got taken away from Ohio State the score remained 21-16. Many lead officials after the game said the touchdown should have stood. Regardless of anything else that happened during the game, if the right call was made Ohio State would have won the game. Instead of the score being 23-21 and Clemson scoring the go ahead touchdown, they would have been down 30-21 with less than 3 minutes left and being on their own 6 yard line. I saw people say that Ohio State had to make a play to win the game, but the reality is the Ohio State defense made a play to win the game and the officials took it away. The officials should never be a topic after a game, and if they are it means they aren’t doing a good job. The reality is that not one thing went the Buckeyes way whether it was their own doing or the officials, and if one did the final outcome would have been different. There were many times where Ohio State came so close to putting the game away, and it just never happened. It would have happened had the touchdown stood.
Fans aren’t personally affected by the outcome of a game to the extent players and coaches on the actual team are, and it’s not close. I get upset for the players and the coaches specifically just because they don’t deserve what they got, and they deserved to win that game. It’s not fair to them and it’s unjust because they should have walked off that field as winners. For a fan it is just a football game, but for them it’s their livelihood and what they worked hard for got taken away from them. A loss is just a loss, but I view this as bigger than football because of the lack of integrity and truthfulness involved in this win being taken away from the team that earned it. As a person whose faith is important to him and doing what’s right I won’t stand for it, even if it’s just a sport. Doing what’s right and having integrity is important to me, and it’s obvious that the officiating from that game contained neither one of those, doing things that were blatantly wrong while having no integrity to the rules of football. Nobody talks about it, and if there aren’t harsher consequences to such behavior it will continue to go on, because nobody is regulating to make sure officials do what’s right and fair, and when officials don’t do that they need punished. It felt as though the officials had it out for Ohio State, yet the officials themselves have never admitted their mistake. If any official isn’t doing his job right and with integrity he needs fired, and if their was harsher punishment for calls ruining games they wouldn’t happen so much if at all.
At the end of the day Ohio State can’t control the officials, and apparently they were expected to win despite horrible officiating. An interesting thing I’ve thought about is how the outcome to this game almost felt outside of Ohio State’s control unless they blew Clemson out. There is more respect to be had with the way Ohio State lost in comparison with how Clemson won. Nobody is really talking about Clemson and nobody cares that they won. People care about the fact the better team lost who they also feel had the victory taken away. While Ohio State deserved a shot to play LSU for the national title, the story of these playoffs will be the Ohio State team that lost controversially. Many people still believe Ohio State had the best team and I am one of them. The best team doesn’t always win the national title, and whether Clemson Or LSU wins the title many people are gonna wonder what would have happened had Ohio State been playing LSU and not Clemson. There is no more respectable way to lose a game than the way Ohio State lost to Clemson. Even though this was a heartbreaking loss the coaches and players have no reason to hang their heads, knowing they gave it their all and came up short for a variety of reasons. Some of those reasons being out of the Buckeyes control and some being reasons Ohio State could have prevented.
The reality of sports is that sometimes a team loses a championship type game when they don’t deserve it, and unfortunately this is one of those instances. Ohio State fans can be excited about the future for what they saw out of Ryan Day and how well he coached all year and during the loss to Clemson, knowing they got their guy and have one of the best young coaches in college football if not the best. Ryan Day will win a national title at Ohio State sooner than later, and the future is bright with him as an elite coach and recruiter. This loss paves the way for an angry Ohio State team next year, and what more could a coach and fan base ask for? You’ve seen how good Day can make Ohio State without extra motivation, so imagine how good this team can be feeling every day like something was taken away that was rightfully theirs. It makes for an interesting storyline going into the season and will be good to see how this loss shapes the future of Ohio State football.