Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
Head Official: Land Clark
GLENDALE – (Special to Digital Sports Desk by Sports Xchange) – The title rematch is reality. Clemson would not have it any other way.Deshaun Watson passed for 259 yards and a touchdown and ran for two scores in a dominating 31-0 victory over Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium on Saturday, setting up a second straight meeting between Clemson and Alabama in the College Football Playoff national championship game.
“Losing in the national championship is a crappy feeling,” Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware said. “It resonates with you all year. You don’t ever really lose that memory. That edge and that memory kind of fueled us all year.
“Washington is a great team, but I knew if we won this game and got back to the game, we’d honestly want to play Alabama. Just another opportunity to go up there and win. They beat us fair and square last year.”
Watson, the game’s offensive MVP, completed 23 of 36 passes with two interceptions and rushed for 57 yards. He had 405 yards passing and 478 yards total offense in the 45-40 loss to Alabama in the 2015 national title game. The rematch is Jan. 9 in Tampa, Fla.
Ohio State was shut out for the first time since a 28-0 loss at Michigan on Nov. 20, 1993. Urban Meyer suffered his first shutout in 194 games as a head coach.
“It’s a special moment, a special time to be a Tiger,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “We made a few mistakes in the first half, but we really controlled the game from start to finish.
“They exhausted and dominated the moment that was in front of them.”
Watson scored on a 1-yard run in the first quarter and threw a 30-yard touchdown pass late the second quarter to give No. 2 Clemson (13-1) a 17-0 halftime lead.
Waston put the game out of reach on a 7-yard touchdown run with 2:06 left in the third quarter, and Wayne Gallman finished the scoring on a 7-yard run in the fourth quarter.
Gallman had 18 carries for 85 yards rushing and Mike Williams, projected to be the first wide receiver taken in the 2017 NFL Draft, had six catches for 96 yards.
Gillman’s score was Clemson’s school-record 73rd touchdown of the season.
Ohio State (11-2) missed 47-yard field goal attempts in the first quarter, on its second and third possessions, and never found an offensive rhythm while finishing with a season-low 215 yards total offense, including a sesaon-low 88 yards rushing. The Buckeyes had 111 total yards through three quarters.
Quarterback J.T. Barrett completed 19 of 33 passes for 127 yards and two interceptions. H-back Curtis Samuel, the focal point of the Ohio State offense, had six carries for 67 yards and nine receptions for 43 yards.
“Ohio State is not used to this,” Meyer said. “I’m not used to this, and we will not get used to this. That’s not going to happen again. So we’ll get things worked out.
“Expected a much better performance. We will become a good passing team, we will. Next year.”
The Tigers were credited with only three sacks, two by defensive tackle Carlos Watkins and one by defensive end Clelin Ferrell, but they pressured Barrett from the first series without blitzing or sending extra rushers.
“They did a good job of being disruptive, their D-line did,” said Barrett, who was held to negative-2 yards rushing on 11 carries.
Clemson’s 470 total yards were the most against Ohio State this season. Wisconsin had 450 in an overtime loss on Oct. 15.
Watson threw two interceptions in the first half, but Ohio State capitalized on neither and Clemson took a 17-0 lead into halftime.
The Buckeyes had not trailed by more than 17 points at halftime since Wisconsin had a 21-3 lead in a 31-18 victory on Oct. 16, 2010.
“I just go out there and play ball and don’t worry about mistakes,” Watson said. “The great ones make mistakes, too.”
NOTES: Ohio State G Michael Jordan was injured on the second series. Jordan was the first true freshman offensive lineman to start the Buckeyes’ regular-season opener since Orlando Pace in 1994. … Clemson won the previous two meetings, both in bowl games. The Tigers won the 2014 Orange Bowl 40-35 when QB Tajh Boyd had 505 yards in total offense and accounted for all six Clemson touchdowns, five by passing. … Clemson (69) and Ohio State (67) trailed only Alabama (76) in victories during the past six years. … Ohio State and Clemson are two of 11 current FBS schools with at least six straight 10-victory seasons. Clemson reached that plateau this year. Ohio State did it from 2005 to 2010. … Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell has been named the head coach at Cincinnati and will begin his duties on Sunday, ending a 21-year association as a player and coach with the Buckeyes.