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What happened to Ohio State’s offense in the Fiesta Bowl? Something Meyer will need to figure out

OSU coach Urban Meyer leaves the field following the Buckeyes’ 31-0 overtime loss to Clemson on Dec. 31. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Photo Editor

GLENDALE, Ariz — The defense made two red zone stops, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson threw two picks and Ohio State was given good field position on two of its first three possessions. But the No. 3 Buckeyes simply had no answer for the Clemson defense.

Redshirt junior cornerback Gareon Conley intercepted Watson on Clemson’s second play from scrimmage. After seven plays for 12 yards, senior kicker Tyler Durbin missed a 47-yard field goal. That was just the beginning.

Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Parris Campbell returned a kickoff to the Clemson 42-yard line after the Tigers took a 3-0 lead. After another three-and-out, Durbin missed a second field goal.

Whenever OSU gained 10-plus yards on a play, forced a turnover or got a stop, the offense was never able to string positive plays together. Through 60 minutes, the Buckeyes gained 215 yards and only 88 on the ground.

“Ohio State is not used to this,” OSU coach Urban Meyer said. “I’m not used to this, and we will not get used to this. That’s not going to happen again.”

No. 3 Clemson (13-1) handed OSU its first shutout loss since 1993, 31-0. The Buckeyes finish the season 11-2.

OSU entered the game averaging 258.3 rushing yards per game and 5.5 yards per carry, each ranking in the top 15 in the country. But the inability of the running game wasn’t just one player or one systematic malfunction. The trio of redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett, redshirt freshman running back Mike Weber and junior H-back Curtis Samuel couldn’t buy yardage on the ground.

Like Michigan and Penn State which also had success against OSU’s offensive line, Clemson had 11 tackles for loss and three sacks. Freshman left guard Michael Jordan injured his ankle early in the game, and was replaced by redshirt sophomore guard Demetrius Knox who hadn’t played all season. Jordan eventually returned to the game, but it didn’t matter.

Defensive linemen Carlos Watkins, Clelin Ferrell and Christian Wilkins constantly pressured Barrett in the backfield and completely eliminated Samuel from impacting the game. Linebackers Ben Boulware and Kaleb Joseph were all over the field, terrorizing the OSU offense who had no answers for just about anybody on the Clemson defense.

“It’s a hard one to end on,” said redshirt senior center Pat Elflein. “You win and lose with your boys.”

Samuel had been OSU’s go-to player on offense all season, but Clemson had an answer for him. Any time the junior from Brooklyn, New York, tried to hit the edge and get past defenders, the Tigers’ defense met him before he could start.

Aside from one 64-yard run when the outcome was already certain, Samuel had five carries for 3 yards and nine receptions for 43 yards.

“I didn’t make enough plays out there for my team to win this a game or keep it a close game,” Samuel said. “It kind of sucks to go out there and play like that.”

Weber only had five carries for 24 yards and a fumble after what seemed to be OSU’s first two consecutive plays for more than 8 yards.

If there was one theme from OSU’s season, it was its struggles in the passing game. 19-for-33 passing for 127 yards and two interceptions with no touchdowns in the biggest game of the year put a nice bow on top of a season that Meyer promised to be more efficient in the passing game.

Meyer said that OSU got away from the game plan in the first half, calling passes on 21 of 27 plays. When asked about a possible coaching change on offense, he will “take a hard look at things.”

Now with the 2016 season in the rear-view mirror, Meyer and the players will attempt to cope with one of the most devastating losses in program history and correct those offensive problems for next year.


“Our units were messed up,” Barrett said. “We were not nine units strong. It’s real simple.”


  1. Urban rightfully states that this debacle will not happen again. Let us truly hope so. One very explicit component of this offensive disaster is the present dual offensive coordinators who might as well given Clemson our offensive game plan and a singular offensive coordinator hired in their place. We need a young Tom Herman who will mold this offense in the image that Urban wants. These two incumbents have had more than ample time to put together an offensive machine that would be the envy of all of college football. Get this done Urban as quickly as possible.

  2. There has been inconsistency with the offense since Tom Herman left the OC position. Sometimes I think JT believes all being written about him. What I see isn’t the leader I expect from the OSU QB. The play was “Below the Line” Saturday and it didn’t look like people were looking for answers, but accepting what was happening. I seen leadership from the defense (McMillian) but not from my QB.

    • I agree wholeheartedly. JT Barrett should not be the OSU quarterback. He can’t complete a pass more than 7 yards down the field. He’s inaccurate and he’s not that great a runner compared to others like Braxton Miller. Barret only gains yards when they were big holes. He’s not allusive but more importantly defenses stack the box because they don’t feel he can throw it down the field and obviously neither does anyone else. Look at when they won the national championship and how much of their offense was down field passing Now look at them and nothing is more than screens flares and quarterback draws and nothing down the field . For God sake get a quarterback that can throw. Look at all the other universities that have strong passing games and yet OSU is mediocre.

  3. The young Buckeyes weren’t exactly helped this year nor last- (when they really had the experience and best talent) by dismal playcalling and QB coaching +an often inept offensive line. Urban is now under the gun in Columbus to replace his QB coach Beck, under whom JT Barrett had actually regressed as a passer; and he needs to either replace Warriner a OC, at best demoting him to OL coach only with no more roie in play calling.

  4. Clemson controlled both lines of scrimmage. Game over. Barrett was always under the gun. When there were open receivers, he missed them. Two missed FGs was a bad omen. A great year, ending on a sour note, will leave a bitter taste. The BIG is not showing well in bowls. 2-5 is pretty sad.

    • Ok. Clemson controlled line on defense but not on offense. OSU did fine on defense but when the offense kept giving the ball back to Clemson, expect some points on the board. The more time ball is with the offense, the less Clemson can score. Clemson gets less than 31 points if OSU offense played ok. OSU defense will be great next year. OSU offense will be better. It’s up to Meyer to deterime how much better.

  5. I am not a Buckeye fan but have a lot of respect for Coach Meyer. Ohio State did not belong in the playoff. They lost to a team that won the Big Ten championship no matter that Penn State lost early and badly to Michigan, it was a much better team at the end of the season. Michigan did not belong in the playoff either despite their protestations to the contrary and Ohio State was lucky to win that game with more favorable calls from the referees than Michigan got. Penn State was rightly ranked at #5 despite being pasted by Michigan early but Ohio State should have come below Penn State in the rankings. BTW I am not a Penn State fan.

    What I was most disappointed was the lack of fight from the Buckeyes when they fell behind, especially from the offense. The OSU defense displayed much more character. Is it because the offense is young? That was the most embarrassing part of the game and an embarrassment to the Big ten.

    Florida State and Clemson have better team speed and better defense than Ohio State and Michigan and that showed in both games. The Big Ten needs to recruit better athletes at every position. Malik Hooker is a monster and blows away Jabril Peppers hands down and should have been in the the Heisman group of 5

  6. The truth of the matter is that the Big 10 does not have the athletes that are in the ACC or SEC. I am a Buckeye fan and have watched many games on TV and live. I was at the Fiesta Bowl and it was evident from play one that Clemson’s defense was much more athletic than OSU’s offense. If you do not believe this next time there is a Big 10 game on one channel and an ACC or SEC game on another flip back and forth. If it doesn’t seem like the Big 10 game is in slow motion compared to the ACC or SEC game there is something wrong with your TV. The anomaly being the National Championship team with all the draft choices, which should have been back to back, but that is a coaching problem that has not yet been addressed.

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