Led by superstar quarterback Justin Fields, Ohio State is back in the College Football Playoff National Championship after the No. 3 Buckeyes upended Dabo Swinney, Trevor Lawrence and the ACC-champion Clemson Tigers, 49-28, in the Sugar Bowl on Friday night.
Ohio State’s victory earned it a matchup with No. 1 Alabama at Hard Rock Stadium near Miami on Jan. 11 at 8 p.m ET. And the win put to rest any doubt that the Buckeyes belonged in the playoff after going undefeated in only six games prior to Friday’s semifinal showdown.
Fields out-dueled Lawrence (the presumptive No. 1 pick in April’s NFL Draft) on the biggest stage by completing 22 of his 28 passes for 385 yards and six touchdowns, a new Sugar Bowl record.
Ohio State fell behind 7-0 and then again 14-7, but four consecutive touchdown tosses from Fields gave the Buckeyes a 35-14 halftime lead. Clemson cut the deficit to 35-21 before two more Fields touchdowns salted the game away, including his 56-yard bomb to wide receiver Chris Olave.
With Ohio State leading 21-14 in the second quarter, Fields scrambled up the middle and received a massive hit to his side from Clemson linebacker James Skalski. Fields stayed down for a few minutes after the play and seemed to be in some discomfort for the remainder of the game. Skalski was ejected for targeting because he led with the crown of his helmet.
In his postgame press conference, Fields was asked about the hit and his decision to continue playing, even when his ribs hurt with every throw.
“My body is pretty beat up right now, but you know, I’m happy and my teammates are happy,” he said. “This is a feeling like no other, so I know my body is going to be hurting tomorrow morning but it’s worth it for this win and for my teammates. So that’s what pushed me.”
During the game, Fields sported two wristbands that said “Humble Over Hype,” which is a nonprofit organization “seeking to create humility in generation after generation through the spiritual and moral development of athletes.” It’s guided by 1 Peter 5:6: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time.”
In the hours after his gutsy performance, Fields took to Twitter to give glory to God and to set his sights on Alabama.
All Glory to the Man above ! Love my brothers .. on to the next one ! #GoBucks 🌰
— Justin Fields (@justnfields) January 2, 2021
Fields has mentioned his faith before, perhaps most notably after Ohio State blew a 16-point lead and lost to Clemson, 29-23, in the College Football Playoff semifinals a year ago.
Fields thanked God and promised that Ohio State would be back. He also mentioned the Bible verse Ephesians 1:11, which says, “In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will…”
I thank God for an amazing year as a Buckeye. Thank you Buckeye nation for your support. We’ll be back!
Eph 1:11 His will! pic.twitter.com/ZUadVXJk8R
— Justin Fields (@justnfields) December 29, 2019
Fields spoke further about that loss in last year’s semifinals, the emotional pain that came with it and the tests of faith he’s endured in an October 2020 article for Cleveland.com.
Ohio State trailed Clemson 29-23 a year ago but were driving in the game’s final minute. An errant Fields pass over the middle was intercepted in the end zone, sending Ohio State back to Columbus and Clemson to the championship game. The pain of that fateful pass stayed with Fields but led him to a place of renewed determination and trust in God.
“God works in mysterious ways,” he said in the article. “Sometimes you may not see it clearly. He’s always doing it for a reason, trying to teach us a lesson.”
Fields continued later, “You don’t question it at all. Usually when bad things happen there’s a reason behind it, a lesson behind it. You might not know what’s happening, but you have faith that you’re stronger than the trial or tribulation you’re going through.”
Fields’ 2020 season seemed to be over before it began when the Big Ten Conference announced in August that there would be no fall sports this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fields wanted to play and spearheaded a player-driven movement for the Big Ten to reconsider the decision. He even appeared on Good Morning America and started an online petition.
Thanks in large part to his efforts, the Big Ten did reconsider and approved an eight-game season on September 16. And even with an additional three games canceled due to the virus, the Buckeyes made it back to the Big Ten championship game, secured a victory over Northwestern, and earned the No. 3 seed in the playoffs.
Now as Fields prepares for Alabama, hoping to cap off his season of redemption with a national championship, he will once again look to his faith.
“I feel like I was gifted by God and He’s given me a lot of talent,” Fields told Cleveland.com. “It’s up to me to just use that skill.”
– NEW PODCAST: Joel Penton – Inspirational Speaker, former Ohio State football player
– Lessons in Selflessness: The story of legendary Alabama fullback Tarrant Lynch
– Faith in God drove Ohio State’s own ‘Rudy’ to Rose Bowl moment
– MAGAZINE: Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence has his identity secured
– Ohio State wrestling coach receives eternal victory through unimaginable tragedy